L-Glutamine: The Craving Fighter!

L-Glutamine is an amino acid that is quite prevalent in the body naturally. Sir Hans Krebs, a pioneer in glutamine research, stated once that “most amino acids have multiple functions, but glutamine appears to be the most versatile.” Let’s look at what L-Glutamine is, and what it does with regard to the body.

“L-Glutamine is an amino acid, and amino acids are small molecules used by the human body to construct proteins. L-Glutamine is part of many of the proteins our bodies produce, including proteins in muscles, immune cells and the protective lining of the intestines.

Under normal circumstances, the body is capable of manufacturing all the L-Glutamine it needs to create these proteins. When the body is under stress from illness or even vigorous exercise, muscle tissue releases L-Glutamine to meet immediate demands in other parts of the body.

Some nutritionists believe that the body’s demand for glutamine may exceed its ability to produce it when the body is under stress for a long period of time, as in HIV infection. One study presented at the 1989 world AIDS conference suggested that the glutamine levels in people with AIDS are 30 per cent lower than they are in both HIV-negative people and those who are newly infected.”1

Under these circumstances (stress or exercise,) supplementing L-Glutamine would therefore be recommended. Stress can also come in many forms. In one of my natural health classes, my instructor, Dr. Dennis Frerking said, “There are three forms of stress: structural, emotional or spiritual.” Any of these types of stress can deplete the body’s nutrients and lead to disease (dis – ease,) that is, a lack of “ease” in the body. That can be one definition of disease. And, in fact, many recent studies indicate the importance of stress with relation to disease. Supplementing L-Glutamine can benefit immune response.

“Glutamine is an important component of many of the proteins in human white cells. Ensuring the body has adequate levels of glutamine at its disposal may also help it to maintain its levels of immune cells. One small study of patients who had undergone bone marrow transplants and were being fed intravenously showed higher levels of CD4+ and CD8+ cells during recovery in those given glutamine. Several studies have shown that people recovering from serious illnesses and operations have fewer infections when they’re given supplements of glutamine. It is not clear what sort of effect glutamine would have on the immune system of an HIV-positive person.”2

This is not to suggest that L-Glutamine is a “cure” for HIV infection. Simply that L-Glutamine helps support the immune system. Therefore, it is beneficial in maintaining good health.

One of the main reasons to consider L-Glutamine supplementation, however, is “closer to the heart” of those on diets! That is, it’s ability to relieve symptoms of craving. L-Glutamine appears to act on the brain directly to naturally suppress and relieve cravings.

“Glutamic acid, with the help of vitamin B6 and manganese, is also a precursor of gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamic acid helps transport potassium into the spinal fluid and is itself an excitatory neurotransmitter. (gaba, however, is inhibitory.) Glutamic acid thus has been used in the treatment of fatigue, parkinsonism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, and alcoholism. Supplemented as L-Glutamine, it penetrates the blood-brain barrier and can be used as a brain fuel. Research has shown that L-Glutamine, in a dose of 500 mg. four times daily, decreases the craving for alcohol. This amino acid is now commonly used in alcoholism clinics. L-Glutamine also seems to reduce the craving for sugar and carbohydrates and so may be helpful for some people in dealing with obesity or sugar abuse. It may also help in the healing of ulcers.”3

So we see that L-Glutamine is extremely useful in fighting cravings, especially those related to carbohydrate and sugar! This is a major reason to consider L-Glutamine if you are burdened with uncontrollable desire for carbohydrates. In one study, on a college campus, two groups of students were allowed free access to vending machines with high sugar foods. One group was given L-Glutamine while the other was given a placebo. The placebo group consumed four times as much sweets as the L-Glutamine group.

L-Glutamine has been used, with great success, in fighting other types of cravings and addictions. In a controlled study a group of Alcoholics were supplemented with L-Glutamine without their knowledge (L-Glutamine is odorless.) A reduction in alcohol consumption was seen in 77% of the cases.

“The amino acid (protein building block) glutamine appears to blunt the craving for alcohol in human research studies. Take 200 mg glutamine in tablet or capsule form 5 times daily for 6 weeks. If effective, your response should be improvement of sleep, lessened anxiety, and a reduced desire to drink.”4

Supplementation with L-Glutamine is recommended to suppress cravings while dieting, or while fighting any uncontrolled urge. L-Glutamine is the “craving fighter!”

1 and 2 “L-Glutamine” Michael Smith, Associate Dean of Research, The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, January 2000

3 “Staying Healthy with Nutrition, The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine”, Elson M. Haas, M.D., Celestial Arts.

4 “The Doctor’s Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals,” Mary Dan Eades, M.D., Dell Publishing Group, May 1994.

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