Glutamine Deficiency: Know The Symptoms and How to Treat It

AminoAcidProducts | August 02, 2019 | Health

What is L-glutamine?

L-glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning our body naturally creates them. It’s one of the most abundant amino acids in the body and can cross the blood-brain barrier directly.

This amino acid’s primary purpose is to biosynthesize protein. Its function includes supporting vitamin absorption, proper digestion, strengthens the immune system and promotes cognitive activity. It’s especially important during tissue development in infants and recovery of damaged tissues.

L-glutamine is usually produced by the muscle tissues, accounting for 90% of glutamines released in the body. The brain and lungs also produced them but in small amounts.


L-Glutamine Deficiency

L-glutamine is a vital amino acid that our body needs to function properly. If glutamine level decreases, it can cause adverse effects on our overall health condition. Not getting enough L-glutamine regularly will weaken the immune system and cause poor vitamin absorption. Therefore, not only you’ll be prone to infections and diseases, but your body will not also receive enough nutrients to function properly.


L-glutamine is stored in the lung and muscle tissues. Because it’s naturally produced by the body and the most abundant free amino acid in the human blood, glutamine deficiency is somehow rare. This type of amino acid deficiency commonly occurs to people undergoing intense workouts and suffering from injury or trauma, which muscle tissues decrease by 50%. They may likely experience symptoms like fatigue and frequent feelings of tiredness.

Emotional or mental stress also causes glutamine to decrease. When a person is under mental pressure, it causes the body to release higher levels of cortisol. This type of hormone eventually causes glutamine production to decrease.


Some of the symptoms of glutamine deficiency are as follows:

  1. Anxiety and unusual feelings of sadness
  2. Increased susceptibility to infections
  3. Poor post-workout recovery
  4. Abnormal weight loss
  5. Bowel problems
  6. Poor recovery from injury

Anxiety and unusual feelings of sadness

Nutrition deficiency, in general, can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression. Glutamine, in particular, regulates and maintains proper functioning of the brain and one of few amino acids that can cross the brain-blood barrier directly. Glutamine deficiency is a very rare disorder but some health experts believed that individuals suffering from depression may indicate lower glutamine levels in their brain.

Though scientifically inconclusive, some health professionals suggest the intake of glutamine supplements in the treatment of anxiety and depression. However, it’s still highly advisable to contact a mental health professional before you use any glutamine supplementary products.

Increased susceptibility to infections

One of the primary functions of glutamine is to regulate the immune system. However, if it doesn’t receive enough supply of glutamine, it will lead an individual more prone to diseases and infections. In periods of high stress and intense exercise, cortisol released in the body increases and in turn reduces glutamine levels.

Individuals experiencing chronic disorders and immune system disorders caused by certain medical procedures or chemotherapy may have a higher risk of developing an infection.

Poor post-workout recovery

In every performance enhancer or sports drink, we will always find glutamine in its ingredients and there’s a good reason for that. The body uses a huge amount of glutamine as one of its energy source during intense exercise. Thus, athletes and gym-goers require foods or drinks with high levels of glutamine to recover.

Lower glutamine levels have a significant impact on individuals engaged in sports and regular physical exercise. Intense physical workout causes the body to undergo stress. And because most glutamine is stored in muscle tissues, it causes the energy levels to drop. This symptom is also commonly observed in people who consistently exercise excessively and with overtraining syndrome.

Abnormal weight loss

This symptom usually occurs to people with a pre-existing medical condition such as gastrointestinal infections like inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease. Also, people suffering from HIV-AIDS may also experience muscle mass and weight loss due to glutamine deficiency.

The Medical Center of the University of Maryland suggests that consuming glutamine supplements may help in vitamin absorption, thus, preventing unusual weight loss.

Bowel problems

L-glutamine helps regulate and maintain proper functioning of the digestive system. Thus, lower levels of glutamine supplied to the body can cause a negative impact on the gastrointestinal system. Glutamine usually interacts with the cells located in the gastrointestinal tracts. When the glutamine level decreases it leads to reduced cell activity within the digestive system. Gastrointestinal problems caused by low glutamine include inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, or diarrhea.

It will also cause energy levels to drop because without the digestive system functioning properly, glucose won’t be properly converted as well.

Poor recovery from injury

When glutamine decreases, the body will also lose its effectivity on absorbing nutrients and will have a significant impact on wound healing and injury recovery.

In one study, it shows that glutamine from an external source like dietary supplements and high-protein foods can improve injury recovery.  They observed that two to three doses of 0.3 to 0.5g/kg/d increases the amount of the villi compounds in the gut which includes ileum and jejunum. These two compounds are essential in wound and injury recovery.



Glutamine deficiency is an uncommon disorder and doesn’t cause any adverse health conditions. This is because it’s naturally produced in the body, particularly in the muscle tissues.

However, this particular type of amino acid deficiency commonly occurs to athletes and people with active physical lifestyles. Glutamine is primarily created in the muscle tissues and when a person undergoes intense physical activity, the body loses a significant amount of glutamine.

Treatment for glutamine deficiency is basically simple; you can get them through protein-rich food sources or dietary supplements.

We can find glutamine food sources in most protein-rich foods such as:

  1. Dairy products
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish
  4. Beef
  5. Chicken
  6. Fermented foods
  7.   Specific vegetables like cabbage, celery, spinach, carrots, parsley, and beans.

Other sources are found in dietary supplements like:

  1. Optimum Nutrition L-glutamine
  2. Now supplements
  3. Now Sports L-glutamine powder
  4. Evlution Nutrition L-glutamine
  5. Body Fortress 100% pure glutamine powder
  6. Pure Encapsulation L-glutamine
  7. Bulk Supplements
  8. Kaged Muscle L-glutamine
  9. Nutricost

Glutamine dietary supplements are not known to cause any adverse side effects or health conditions since our body produces them. However, like any other food supplements or medications, it’s much safer to ask a health professional or doctor before using them.

Glutamine deficiency may weaken the immune system.

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