By Karen Appold

Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids that your body produces. Glutamine helps your digestive, immune and nervous systems to function normally, and also helps to regulate cell growth and eliminate waste through the kidney and liver.

Glutamine is stored mostly in your muscles and lungs, where the majority of it is produced. When you experience extreme stress, such as sickness, injury, surgery, infections, cancer treatment, heavy exercise or dieting, your body may have difficulty making enough glutamine. Consequently, you may not have enough glutamine in your body.

Important for GI health

Glutamine helps to protect the gastrointestinal tract lining, called the mucosa. Because of this role, some medical experts suspect that being deficient in glutamine could contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in particular Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions can cause weight loss, muscle mass loss, abdominal cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea and bleeding.

People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have damage to their small or large intestinal lining. This can cause inflammation, infection and holes in the mucosa. Glutamine might help to treat IBD because it helps to heal cells in the intestines and reduces diarrhea associated with it, although more research is needed to confirm this. For improving overall digestive health, consider adding glutamine to your diet and observing the results.

Dietary and Supplement Sources

Animal and plant proteins contain glutamine. Examples include beef, poultry, pork, fish, milk, eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, raw spinach, raw parsley and cabbage.

You can enhance your diet with glutamine supplements, usually in the form of L-glutamine. They are available in tablet, powder, capsule or liquid forms. You can also take glutamine as part of a protein supplement. Keep in mind that heat destroys glutamine. Most adults age 18 and older can safely take one to three 500 milligram doses per day.

Karen Appold is a medical writer based in Royersford, PA.