Brain food that heals the gut, maintains muscle mass and fortifies immunity.
The fall always reminds me of my experience over twenty years ago when I was writing my first book, Beyond Pritikin (Bantam, 1988).
Back then (in the mid 1980s), I worked with an extraordinarily fast computer whiz, Chris, who transcribed my handwritten manuscript. Because of Chris’ schedule we often had to work through the night.
Chris was so capable and helpful, that I agreed to stay up and work alongside her. I marveled at Chris’ consistent mental focus—even after a full day of “regular” work with her 9 to 5 job.
What was Chris’ energy secret?
She kept herself going through the night by taking a scoop of a special amino acid every three hours which she told me provided her with an alternative fuel source for the brain.
This powdered amino acid that she mixed in cold water—known as l-glutamine—was recommended to her by a nutritional biochemist who told her the drink would keep her brain alert and tummy trim.
I never forgot about Chris’ instant brain and “tummy” food.
So I was not surprised years later to learn of more breakthrough discoveries about the many therapeutic values of glutamine, officially classified a “nonessential” amino acid.
Healing with Glutamine
From my review of the literature, glutamine appears more to be an essential nonessential amino acid. It has the ability to cross the brain/blood barrier and is a remedy for recovering alcoholics and sugarholics. It aids concentration and memory.
Glutamine also has more far reaching effects, it…
- Fights cancer
- Reduces the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation
- Slows down the aging process
- Nourishes and protects the liver from acetaminophen damage
- Boosts the immune system
- Prevents muscle breakdown
- Heals the stomach and intestines
It is indirectly related to the antioxidant family because it functions as an anti-inflammatory precursor for glutathione, the key free-radical scavenger of the body. Glutamine works faster than most other therapies for a multitude of conditions.
While research has proven glutamine’s effects on Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, I have seen firsthand how it can heal leaky gut syndrome in a three week period of time—another one of its major claims to fame.
Glutamine helps maintain the proper permeability of the small intestine. Without it, the villi become too porous. Molecules enter the system that normally would be too large to breach the intestinal wall. That results in substances being allowed into the bloodstream that can cause allergic reactions and other problematic responses.
On the other hand, glutamine helps the lining allow the proper nutrients into the body while barring the entry of allergens. Along with allergens, when your GI tract is damaged or stressed, microbes and the toxins they secrete can also find their way through the intestinal walls and lead to infection.
Here too, glutamine helps keep these nasty substances out by aiding and creating a barrier that protects the body. In addition, the cells of the intestinal walls responsible for choosing which nutrients are permitted into the body are fueled by glutamine.
Researchers have found that besides feeding the cells in the intestines and putting up barriers to pathogens, glutamine helps boost the growth of probiotics, which in turn also help defend the intestinal walls against pathogenic invasion. When researchers gave glutamine to people with ulcerative colitis, they found that it reduced intestinal inflammation and their probiotic bacteria flourished as well.
Adding Glutamine to Your Diet
Glutamine works best one or two hours before or after meals because digestive acids destroy its activity. It is found in many food sources but can become easily denatured and therefore inactivated when cooked.
So while eggs, meat, chicken and fish are the highest sources, the glutamine these foods contain is biochemically unavailable unless of course you consume these foods in the raw state which is inadvisable due to obvious reasons including bacteria and parasite contamination.
So here’s a clear case where whole food sources may not be enough for therapeutic benefits.
That’s where supplementing with Glutamine powder comes in handy.
Taken between meals as a healing aid for the GI tract or as Chris’ original “brain and tummy food” to keep blood sugar steady, glutamine can be consumed in the amounts of 1,500 to 3,000 mg daily in divided doses.
It’s best to mix the powder in cold water. The recommended daily dosage can considerably increase to protect the body from the devastating effects of a variety of stressful assaults. Much higher doses (from 20,000 to 40,000 mg) have been administered following surgery or radiation and chemotherapy.
In times of stress such as trauma, fever, illness, chemotherapy or even dieting, the body cannot make as much glutamine as it needs, so supplementation is absolutely essential.
It’s time that glutamine becomes reclassified as a conditionally essential amino acid because it is critical when the body is under stress or fending off dis-ease. It is a wonderful catalyst that helps the body heal itself at pennies per day!
Gittleman, Ann Louise. The Gut Flush Plan. New York: Avery, 2009.
Shabert, Judy, and Nancy Ehrlich. The Ultimate Nutrient, Glutamine. New York: Avery, 1994.