The supplement aisle can be incredibly overwhelming. New, hard-to-pronounce pills, powders, tinctures, and gels dominate the health and wellness industry’s vocabulary. One we’ve been increasingly seeing more of, however, is L-glutamine. But, like any supplement, before you incorporate it into your diet, it’s important to get the facts from the experts (and, of course, consult your own physician). It’s why we tapped Dr. Niket Sonpal, a board-certified NYC internist and gastroenterologist, and Kelly LeVeque, a holistic nutritionist, to get the low-down on this new buzzy supplement. Here’s what they had to say.
What is L-glutamine?
“L-glutamine, or just glutamine, is an amino acid. Essential amino acids can only be acquired through food, while nonessential ones, like L-glutamine, are produced by the body,” says Dr. Sonpal.
Kelly LeVeque adds, “It’s also an energy source for your epithelial cells and immune cells.”
What are the benefits of L-glutamine?
“A lot of times people use L-glutamine because it increases the support of your immune system and decreases intestinal permeability. It’s often supplemented when someone has leaky gut or an intestinal autoimmune disease like Crohn’s or celiac disease,” LeVeque explains.
Dr. Sonpal agrees. “L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. It’s an important nutrient for a healthy digestive tract because of its ability to maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall.” He adds, “From a psychological standpoint, it is also known as the calming amino acid since it’s very effective at reducing anxiety, as well as sugar and alcohol cravings. It can help with brain aging—a study conducted at the New York University School of Medicine showed that even mild traumatic brain injury caused brain atrophy, and most of this damage was due to the disrupted glutamine-glutamate cycle and an abnormal increase in glutamate levels. Glutamine is key to boosting your brain health.”
“From a psychological standpoint, it is also known as the calming amino acid since it’s very effective at reducing anxiety, as well as sugar and alcohol cravings.”
What is the best way to consume it?
“There is no specific data that states taking one form over another is better. L-glutamine is the important form, which is produced naturally in the body and found in many foods. It is estimated that a typical diet contains three to six grams per day. Ideally, natural consumption over supplement is preferred, but pill vs. powder is mostly about taste and personal preference,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
What foods are high in L-glutamine?
“Meat, seafood, milk, nuts, eggs, cabbage, beans, garden asparagus, yogurt, ricotta cheese, chicken, spinach, tofu, and bone broth,” says Dr. Sonpal.
Can you get enough L-glutamine from your diet?
Dr. Sonpal believes so: “It’s a conditionally essential amino acid, which means your body produces enough of it under normal circumstances. If you are eating a proper, balanced diet and getting a sufficient amount of foods high in L-glutamine, then you should be able to get enough from your diet.”
Is there anyone who shouldn’t take L-glutamine?
“While L-glutamine supplementation is usually considered safe for most people, there are some who should avoid it,” Dr. Sonpal warns. “People with kidney disease, liver disease, or Reye’s syndrome, a severe condition that can cause swelling of the liver and brain, should avoid taking L-glutamine supplements.”
[Editor’s Note: As ever, we are not doctors or medical know-it-alls. And everybody is different, so make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new.]
Photo: Acrylic Pill Sculpture, Jonathan Adler
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