As the structural units or building blocks used to make proteins, amino acids are necessary for efficient functioning of the body. Some amino acids such as glutamine can be made by the body. Among its many functions, glutamine also serves as a precursor to glutathione — GSH — , which is considered one of the body’s powerful antioxidant molecules. Antioxidants slow or prevent damage to cells by carcinogens, cancer-causing agents. Supplements may boost your body’s supply of this cell protector.
Glutamine is found in the body in higher quantities than any other amino acid. It has a vital role in removing the waste product ammonia from the body. It has also been found to bolster the immune system and help to ward off infections in surgery patients.
The body can manufacture the glutamine it requires, and the body’s glutamine stores only prove inadequate when you are subjected to extremely stressful circumstances. These include severe injury, surgery, infections and excessive exercise. Some dietary sources of glutamine include meats, dairy products, spinach and cabbage. When additional glutamine is required, supplements are available, either alone or in a protein supplement.
One of the byproducts of energy production in the body is the manufacture of harmful molecules that can damage the cells. Glutathione plays a protective role by nullifying the effect of these molecules. It is also involved in processing both medications and carcinogens, and is necessary for DNA and protein production.
Glutathione deficiency results in a state referred to as oxidative stress. This occurs when the body’s production of oxidants is not balanced by its defense by antioxidants. This is an undesirable situation because the body may then begin to lose the battle over cell damage, resulting in a variety of possible illnesses, including some pulmonary problems and liver damage. The amount of glutathione in the body decreases naturally with age. You can get glutathione from fruits and vegetables, with avocado, walnuts and asparagus being among the richest sources.
Glutamine supplements are available as powders, capsules, tablets or liquids. The standard is 500 milligram tablets or capsules. Adult dosage of 1500 milligrams per day is considered safe, although daily dosages of up to 14 grams appear to have no adverse effects. Glutamine is heat sensitive, so your supplements should be taken with cold or room temperature fluids. Glutathione supplements range from 50 to 600 milligrams per day, and do not appear to have any side effects. A 1992 European study indicated that oral glutathione supplements may be ineffective because the glutathione is broken down by intestinal and liver enzymes.
Glutamine and glutathione
Because it plays a role in glutathione production, it has been suggested that glutamine supplements may increase the amount of glutathione in the body. A study by Valencia et al. of Oxford Brooks University in the United Kingdom reported that orally administered glutamine increased the amount of glutamine in the blood but not the amount of glutathione, indicating that glutamine availability may not be the rate limiting factor in glutathione synthesis. Whether you are choosing glutathione or its precursor glutamine as a supplement, consult your doctor before you begin the regimen.