Glutamine is an amino acid (a building block for proteins), found naturally in the body.
Glutamine is taken by mouth to counter some of the side effects of medical treatments. For example, it is used for side effects of cancer chemotherapy or HIV treatment including diarrhea. It is also used to reduce other side effects of cancer chemotherapy such as nerve pain, swelling inside the mouth (mucositis), loss of some white blood cells, and muscle and joint pains caused by the cancer drug Taxol. Glutamine is also used to protect the immune system and digestive system in people undergoing radiochemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus. Additionally, glutamine is used for improving recovery after bone marrow transplant or bowel surgery, increasing well-being in people who have suffered traumatic injuries, and preventing infections in critically ill people or people following burns.
Some people take glutamine by mouth for digestive system conditions such as diarrhea, inflammation of the pancreas, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease, and in people with problems absorbing nutrients because they have HIV or had part of their intestines removed. It is also used for depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, weight loss, and enhancing exercise performance.
People who have HIV (AIDS) sometimes take glutamine by mouth to prevent weight loss (HIV wasting). It is also used to promote muscle strength in people with cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy.
Glutamine is also used for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a urinary condition called cystinuria, sickle cell anemia, and for alcohol withdrawal support. In premature or very small newborns, glutamine is used to prevent death or illness.
Glutamine is given intravenously (by IV) for improving recovery after bone marrow transplant, surgery or burns. It is also used to prevent side effects of cancer chemotherapy such as pain and swelling inside the mouth (mucositis) and for preventing infections in critically ill people. In very small newborns, glutamine is used to prevent death or illness.
Glutamine powder can be ordered through most wholesale drug suppliers. Glutamine for commercial use is made by a fermentation process using bacteria that produce glutamine.
How it works
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Glutamine is produced in the muscles and is distributed by the blood to the organs that need it. Glutamine might help gut function, the immune system, and other essential processes in the body, especially in times of stress. It is also important for providing "fuel" (nitrogen and carbon) to many different cells in the body. Glutamine is needed to make other chemicals in the body such as other amino acids and glucose (sugar).
After surgery or traumatic injury, nitrogen is necessary to repair the wounds and keep the vital organs functioning. About one third of this nitrogen comes from glutamine.
If the body uses more glutamine than the muscles can make (i.e., during times of stress), muscle wasting can occur. This can occur in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking glutamine supplements might keep the glutamine stores up.
Some types of chemotherapy can reduce the levels of glutamine in the body. Glutamine treatment is thought to help prevent chemotherapy-related damage by maintaining the life of the affected tissues.
Administering glutamine through a feeding tube seems to reduce infections, shorten hospital stays, and improve wound healing in people with severe burns but no lung injury. Administering glutamine through a feeding tube also seems to shorten hospital stays and reduce the risk of infections in people with severe burns and lung injury. Administering glutamine intravenously (by IV) seems to decrease the risk of some infections in people with severe burns. But it does not seem to decrease the risk of death.
Although not all results are consistent, most research shows that glutamine keeps bacteria from moving out of the intestine and infecting other parts of the body after major injuries. Glutamine might also reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections in people who are critically ill. Glutamine seems to prevent hospital-acquired infections better when given intravenously (by IV) rather than by a feeding tube. Overall, glutamine does not seem to reduce the risk of death in critically ill people.
Taking glutamine by mouth seems to help HIV/AIDS patients absorb food better and gain weight. Doses of 40 grams per day seem to produce the best effect.
Giving glutamine intravenously (by IV) along with intravenous nutrition seems to improve immune function and reduce complications related to infections after surgery, especially major abdominal surgery. Giving glutamine by IV along with intravenous nutrition might also reduce the risk of infection and improve recovery after bone marrow transplants. However, not all people who receive bone marrow transplants seem to benefit. It's possible that glutamine works best in people receiving bone marrow transplants for blood tissue cancers but not solid tumors.
Glutamine is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in doses up to 40 grams daily, and when used intravenously (by IV) in doses up to 600 milligrams per kilogram of weight daily.
Children: Glutamine isPOSSBILY SAFEwhen taken by mouth appropriately. Children aged 3 to 18 years should not be given doses that are larger than 0.7 grams per kg of weight daily. Not enough information is known about the safety of higher doses in children. Glutamine is also POSSIBLY SAFE for children when used intravenously (by IV) in doses up to 400 milligrams per kilogram of weight daily.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of glutamine during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bone marrow transplants: Giving glutamine intravenously (by IV) might increase the risk of mouth ulcers or death in people receiving bone marrow transplant. Until more is known, avoid giving glutamine by IV to these patients. Swishing glutamine in the mouth and then swallowing might be beneficial for these patients.
Cirrhosis: Glutamine could make this condition worse. People with this condition should avoid glutamine supplements.
Severe liver disease with difficulty thinking or confusion (hepatic encephalopathy): Glutamine could make this condition worse. Do not use it.
Mania, a mental disorder: Glutamine might cause some mental changes in people with mania. Avoid use.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) sensitivity (also known as "Chinese restaurant syndrome"): If you are sensitive to MSG, you might also be sensitive to glutamine, because the body converts glutamine to glutamate.
Seizures: There is some concern that glutamine might increase the likelihood of seizures in some people. Avoid use.
Lactulose helps decrease ammonia in the body. Glutamine is changed into ammonia in the body. Taking glutamine along with lactulose might decrease the effectiveness of lactulose.Medications for cancer (Chemotherapy)
There is some concern that glutamine might decrease the effectiveness of some medications for cancer (chemotherapy). But it is too soon to know if this interaction occurs.Medications used to prevent seizures (Anticonvulsants)
Medications used to prevent seizures affect chemicals in the brain. Glutamine may also affect chemicals in the brain. By affecting chemicals in the brain, glutamine may decrease the effectiveness of medications used to prevent seizures.Some medications used to prevent seizures include phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), and others.