L-Glutamine - Benefits, Side-Effects, Supplements, Powder and Caps

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L-Glutamine - Benefits, Positive Side-Effects, Supplements, Powder & Capsules
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L-Glutamine - Benefits, Side-Effects, Supplements, Powder - Page 4

Strengthens the Immune System
Glutamine is the primary source of energy for the various cells of the immune system, including T cells and macrophages.  Strenuous exercise, viral and bacterial infections, and stress and trauma in general cause glutamine depletion that starves the immune cells.  They decline in number and/or show diminished activity.  Up to 40 gm of glutamine a day can be used to sustain the immune system of AIDS patients or cancer patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation.  More typical doses, such as 2-5 mg/day, should be sufficient for healthy people.  Athletes may want to increase their dosage on an as-needed basis if they tend to succumb to infections after heavy exercise such as marathon running.

In addition, glutamine is a substrate for glutathione, a tripeptide amino acid that acts as one of our master antioxidants and also helps enhance the immune function.  Though large doses of glutamine stimulate the immune response even under heavy stress, it is important to reduce stress as much as possible.  Stress hormones may interfere with glutamine metabolism in the immune cells.  This is where relaxation and DHEA supplementation might prove to be very helpful in addition to glutamine.

Maintains Muscle Mass
Glutamine is one of the favorite supplements of bodybuilders and others who exercise a lot.  In its role as a carbon donor, glutamine is "muscle food," helping to replenish glycogen.  But, the function of glutamine as a nitrogen-donor might be even more important.  Strenuous exercise such as weight lifting causes micro-injuries to the muscle tissue.  By donating nitrogen, glutamine helps build proteins and repair the muscle as well as help build up more muscle.  Part of its muscle-building action may be due to its ability to induce the release of growth hormone.  Serious fitness fans take glutamine both before and after workout.  Taking 2-3 gm after workout is particularly recommended.  Long-term users of anti-inflammatory steroids tend to suffer from muscle atrophy among other side effects.  The concomitant use of glutamine has been shown to prevent most of this muscle loss.

But, muscle isn't the only tissue where protein is being synthesized.  Glutamine serves the anabolic (tissue-building) needs of the whole body.  Since it can very easily donate nitrogen, it functions as a "nitrogen shuttle," delivering nitrogen wherever it is needed.

Very ill patients suffer both a decrease in glutamine levels and muscle loss.  One way to counteract this is to add glutamine to their diet, or, if they can no longer consume food, to the I-V drip that delivers parenteral nutrition.  The use of glutamine has been documented to aid the survival of severely ill surgical and burn patients.  It also speeds up wound and burn healing, and improves recovery in general.

Helps the Heart
It has recently been discovered that glutamine is an important source of fuel for the heart muscle.  It is converted to glutamate, which then enters the Krebs cycle to produce ATP - our energy molecule.  This is yet another reason why glutamine is so important during exercise by increasing endurance.  In heart patients, glutamate infusions can be used during heart surgery to ensure a better outcome.

The action of the heart is under considerable control of the nervous system and the pathways involved in the neural control of cardiovascular function happen to rely on glutamate and GABA.  If the brain has a faulty glutamine / glutamate / GABA metabolism, we can expect the development of cardiovascular dysfunction as well.  In addition, glutamine serves as a substrate for the synthesis of a special type of beta-endorphin, glycyl-l-glutamine.  This dipeptide appears to be important for the regulation of blood pressure and prevention of cardiorespiratory depression.  Glycyl-l-glutamine is also important for the immune response, since it enhances the activity of natural killer (NK) cells.

Combats Low Blood Sugar by Raising Serum Glucose
Glutamine can enter the Krebs cycle and serve as a non-carbohydrate source of energy.  In fact, this is the main way it usually contributes to the production of energy.  However, if blood sugar is low, glutamine is readily catabolized (broken down) in the liver to provide more glucose.  Together with alanine, glycine, serine and threonine, glutamine is an important "gluconeogenic" amino acid - in fact, the primary one.  This production of glucose from glutamine takes place mainly in the liver.  Recently, it has been discovered that the kidneys can contribute as much as 25% to whole-body glucose production, a phenomenon that occurs only during hypoglycemia.  Actually this is not surprising, since the kidneys are especially equipped to process glutamine due to its importance in the detoxification of ammonia.

Providing abundant glutamine through diet and supplementation means that less muscle tissue (if any) will be broken down to provide glucose.  This is of great importance to people on calorie-restricted diets whose problem is losing muscle mass more so than fatty tissue.  Since it is the metabolically active muscle mass that helps keep us slender (not to mention strong and fit), extra glutamine may help dieters lose girth around the waist while preserving muscle mass.

Considering the support of glutamine in combating hypoglycemia, it is no wonder that alternative medicine recommends it for the purpose of eliminating sugar cravings and alcohol cravings (many alcoholics appear to suffer from hypoglycemia).

Diabetics, however, need to exercise caution since they have an abnormal glutamine metabolism.  A much higher percentage of their glutamine is broken down for the production of glucose by the liver and the kidneys - a process called glutamine gluconeogenesis.  This increased production of glucose from glutamine (and also from alanine, an amino acid in the same family) is probably related to the diabetes-related excess levels of the serum glucose-raising pancreatic hormone called glucagon.  This excessive breakdown of glutamine into glucose in diabetes occurs without any supplementation since muscle and fatty tissues release so much glutamine in response to the endocrine pathology.

Diabetics also show other enzymatic abnormalities in relation to glutamine including poor function of the retinal glia (glia are cells that have various supportive functions in the nervous system including detoxifying ammonia through the production of glutamine).  Thus, the diabetic retina is prone to damage through glutamate excitotoxicity since the glia are not converting enough glutamate to glutamine.  The use of high doses of antioxidants, including vitamin E and various polyphenols should be beneficial as well as supplementation with taurine.  Taurine is the one amino acid that seems to be very helpful to diabetics and is virtually side effect free also.

Effects on Cancer -- Including Breast and Mesothelioma
We have already said that glutamine is heavily used by all rapidly dividing cells.  This includes many types of tumors.  Thus, it would seem plausible to argue that this is certainly the amino acid that cancer patients should avoid.

In reality, however, glutamine is frequently used as an adjuvant treatment of advanced mesothelioma cancer.  In a study published in US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, survival rates increased.  It has been shown to prolong survival by slowing down catabolic wasting.  In addition, since low immune function is a hallmark of cancer, glutamine is considered beneficial for the depleted immune system.  It helps preserve intestinal function as well.  Both clinical practice and animal studies suggest that glutamine can be given to cancer patients without stimulating tumor growth or metastasis.  Nevertheless, the use of any amino acids in cancer remains controversial, and patients are urged to consult with their physicians first.

 The most fascinating findings regarding glutamine and cancer, however, suggest that glutamine may be another weapon against breast cancer.  In one animal study, rats implanted with breast cancer were given glutamine at the dose of 1g/kg/day.  Their tumor growth was 40% less than in the control group.  The natural killer cells in glutamine-supplemented rats showed 2.5 times greater activity.  In addition, there was a 25% rise in glutathione levels and a decrease in inflammatory prostaglandins.  Inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2) have been found to fuel tumor growth.  Glutamine can also be used as adjuvant therapy with chemotherapy such as methotrexate.  Glutamine lowers the toxicity of methotrexate augmenting its effectiveness against inflammatory breast cancer.  In the words of the authors, "No toxicity of oral glutamine was detected.  No patient showed any sign of chemotherapy-related toxicity."  This is an extraordinary statement since the biggest problem with chemotherapy is its toxicity.  The glutamine dose used in conjunction with methotrexate was .5g/kg/day.

One interesting clinical application of high doses of glutamine (30 gm/day) is as adjuvant therapy for sickle cell anemia.  In alternative medicine, glutamine is also used as part of the treatment for AIDS.

On another note worth mentioning, Nigella Sativa has been shown to help extensively with mesothelioma cancer.  250+ studies strongly suggest that this herb can be supportive for the treatment of mesothelioma cancer.


Dose - Pg 1 | Pg 2 | Pg 3 | Pg 5 | Conclusion/References

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