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The Many Benefits Of Glutamine

The Many Benefits Of GlutamineReasons for taking l- glutamine:

Growth hormone release -- more muscle / less fat Stronger immune system Blood sugar control More agile brain Healthier intestines (particularly if you are a frequent NSAID -- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs user) If you are under heavy stress (including strenuous exercise) or recovering from injury or other trauma Helpful as adjunct therapy in the treatment of addictions such as alcoholism Especially popular with bodybuilders, and with those who wish to perk up their physical and mental energy. And-it tastes good . . . it has a mild sweet taste. L-glutamine is an amino acid which can be used for energy in the brain. It is recommended for growth hormone release, muscle building, alcoholism, hypoglycemia and fatigue. It is also used by athletes to improve exercise endurance. The powder we offer contains no fillers. It is well tolerated by the most highly allergic individuals. There are no tablet binders, coatings, or colorings. It is free of the most common allergens such as corn, soy, yeast, rice, barley, wheat, lactose (milk sugar) and all milk, citrus, fish and egg products. No added flavorings, sugars, salt, artificial sweeteners, colorings, preservatives, or salicylates.

Beneficial Effects of Glutamine

Glutamine has been one of the most intensively studied nutrients in the field of nutrition support in recent years. Animal studies show that glutamine is effective against catabolic stress. Glutamine supplementation was shown to improve organ function, survival, or both in most published studies. These studies also have supported the concept that glutamine is a critical nutrient for the gut mucosa and immune cells.

Recent molecular and protein chemistry studies are beginning to define the basic mechanism involved in glutamine action in the gut, liver, and other cells and organs. Double-blind prospective clinical investigations to date suggest that glutamine-enriched diets are generally safe and effective in catabolic patients. Intravenous glutamine has been shown to increase plasma glutamine levels; exert protein anabolic effects; improve gut structure and function; and reduce important indices of disease, including infection rates and length of hospital stay in selected patient subgroups.

Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the human body. In catabolic stress situations, such as after surgical operations or trauma and during sepsis, glutamine is rapidly transported to organs and to blood cells. This results in an intracellular depletion of glutamine in the muscles and the ensuing catabolic wasting effect. Increasing evidence suggests that glutamine is a crucial substrate for immunocompetent cells. Glutamine depletion decreases the proliferation of lymphocytes, possibly by arresting a critical phase of the cells' growth cycle.

Glutamine is a precursor for the synthesis of glutathione and stimulates the formation of heat- shock proteins. Moreover, there are suggestions that glutamine plays a crucial role in the stimulation of intracellular protein synthesis. Experimental studies revealed that glutamine deficiency causes a necrotizing enterocolitis -- an inflammation of the small intestine and colon leading to cell death -- increases the mortality of animals subjected to bacterial stress.

A clinical human study involving bone-marrow transplant patients demonstrated, after supplementation with glutamine, a decrease in the incidence of infections and a shortening of hospital stay. In critically ill patients, parenteral glutamine reduced nitrogen loss and caused a reduction of the mortality rate. In surgical patients, glutamine evoked an improvement of several immunological parameters. Moreover, glutamine exerted a nutritional (tropic) effect on the intestinal mucosa, decreased the intestinal permeability, and thus may prevent the translocation of bacteria.

In conclusion, glutamine is an important metabolic substrate of rapidly proliferating cells. It influences the cellular hydration (molecular water content) state and has multiple effects on the immune system, intestinal function, and protein metabolism. In several disease states, glutamine may become an indispensable nutrient supplement. Catabolic wasting patients should consider supplementing with 2000 mg of glutamine a day.

In the brain, glutamine is a substrate for the production of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters (glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, popularly known as GABA). Glutamine is also an important source of energy for the nervous system. If the brain is not receiving enough glucose, it compensates by increasing glutamine metabolism for energy-hence the popular perception of glutamine as "brain food" and its use as a pick-me-up. Glutamine users often report more energy, less fatigue and better mood.

Glutamine also plays a part in maintaining proper blood glucose levels and the right pH range. The body has an exquisite mechanism for maintaining pH homeostasis. If the pH of the blood is too acidic, more glutamine is directed to the kidneys, where a certain type of glutamine results in the release of bicarbonate ions to correct acidosis. If the pH is too alkaline, more glutamine is sent to the liver, where a different kind of metabolism releases hydrogen ions to correct alkalosis.

And there is still more. Due to its dependence on sodium transport, glutamine is one of the amino acids that control the volume of water in the cells, and the osmotic pressure (osmoregulation) in various tissues. Glutamine also plays a vital part in the control of blood sugar. It helps prevent hypoglycemia , since it is easily converted to glucose when blood sugar is low. In addition, glutamine regulates the expression of certain genes, including those that govern certain protective enzymes, and helps regulate the biosynthesis of DNA and RNA. Recently it has been discovered that glutamine is important for the cardiovascular system as well.

Thus, to say that glutamine is important for our health is an understatement. In view of its multiple functions, it is no surprise that glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the serum, muscle, and cerebrospinal fluid. It constitutes 50% of all amino acids in the serum, and more than 60% of free amino acids within the body.

Glutamine is plentiful in both animal and plant protein. The typical American diet provides between 3.5 g and 7 g of glutamine; more is synthesized according to need. Even so, heavy stress, such as strenuous exercise, infectious disease, surgery, burn injury or other acute trauma leads to glutamine depletion with consequent immune dysfunction, intestinal problems and muscle wasting. Consequently, it has been proposed that glutamine should be classified as a "conditionally essential amino acid." During exceptionally severe stress, supplementing with glutamine (in the hospital setting, doses as high as 20-40 g may be used) can be a matter of life or death.

Benefits for the Liver and the Intestines

People who use glutamine virtually ensure superior health of their intestinal lining. They need not worry about the "leaky gut syndrome" and all its troublesome consequences, including allergies, the "leaking out" of pathogens, and possible arthritis. In fact, when it was first discovered, glutamine used to be called "intestinal permeability factor." It is by far the most important nutrient for intestinal health.

The importance of glutamine for the intestines is enormous-glutamine is the chief source of energy for the cells of the intestinal lining. Most glutamine in the diet (and also most dietary glutamate and aspartate) is metabolized by the intestines, both to serve as intestinal fuel and also to produce glutathione, nitric oxide, polyamines, nucleotides and the amino acids alanine, citrulline and proline, making these available to the rest of the body. Glutamine also maintains the structural integrity of the intestinal lining, supporting its quick turnover.

Those who use NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) such as ibuprofen and indomethacin may have a special need for supplemental glutamine. Fortunately, sufficient glutamine can undo the damage caused by NSAIDs, maintaining permeability at a healthy level. For heavy NSAID users, supplementing with glutamine can spell the difference between healthy gastrointestinal tract versus ulcers and the "leaky gut syndrome."

Besides treating the "leaky gut syndrome" and ulcers, glutamine can also be used to treat colitis, Crohn's disease and diarrhea, in doses of up to 20 g/day. The soothing intestinal effect of glutamine taken as powder dissolved in water makes itself known quite soon after ingestion (by the way, the taste is quite pleasant, slightly sweet, so there is no need to mask it with juice). Even a small dose, such as 2-3 gm, can quickly calm that "queasy" feeling. In high doses, glutamine also alleviates the devastating damage to the gastrointestinal tract that results from chemotherapy.

Likewise, glutamine protects the liver from the ravages of chemotherapy toxicity. But even under normal conditions, glutamine is beneficial for the liver, since it cleanses the liver of the waste products of fat metabolism, and helps prevent fatty buildup. It can aid in the treatment of early-stage cirrhosis. Once liver damage is advanced, however, glutamine cannot help since the liver can no longer metabolize it properly. People who take glutamine tend to have a healthier liver and healthier intestines, and thus better digestion and absorption of nutrients. That alone should be reason enough to add this super amino to your supplement regimen. But this is just the beginning of its benefits.

Dose

Recommended dose is 5 gm (1 heaping teaspoon of powder) on an empty stomach before sleep and/or exercise (except in special cases mentioned throughout this article). Also, some people take it after exercise for recovery and repair.

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 actually 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. 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 IV 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, 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 the natural killer (NK) cells.

Combats Hypoglycemia 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 the blood sugar is low (hypoglycemia), 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, however, 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 great 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 can help dieters lose girth around the waist while preserving muscle mass.

Considering the effectiveness of glutamine in combating hypoglycemia, it is no wonder that alternative medicine recommends it for the purpose of eliminating sugar cravings, and alcohol cravings in the fight against alcoholism (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. True, this excessive breakdown of glutamine into glucose in diabetes occurs without any supplementation, since the muscle and the fatty tissue 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. While a plausible argument could be made for the benefits of glutamine even for diabetics-sparing of muscle mass, improved intestinal function, enhanced immune response-caution must be urged. A diabetic considering taking any amino acids should discuss the matter with his/her physician. 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.

Effects on Cancer, Including Breast Cancer

We have already said that glutamine is heavily used by all rapidly dividing cells. This includes many types of tumors. Thus is 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 cancer. 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.


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