The neurons in our nervous systems pass messages and perform all their activities with the help of Neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Serotonin and AcetylCholine. These neurotransmitters are synthesized in our body with the help of amino-acids and enzymes. When neurotransmitters are in short supply they can lead to apathy and depression (Serotonin shortage) and when in excess they can lead to psychosis, mood-disorders (Schizophrenia due to excess dopamine).
Glutamine is an amino acid that forms the basic raw material required for the synthesis of excitatory neurotransmitters like Glutamate and Aspartate and importantly for the synthesis of an inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid). Glutamine holds a special importance in medical biochemistry because it can be both essential and a non-essential amino-acid. Non-Essential Amino-acids are synthesized within our body from other amino-acids, whereas, essential amino-acids need to be supplemented from our diets. Glutamine pools deplete rapidly when we are under physiological, physical or mental stress and in such cases Glutamine must be supplied from our diet. In normal conditions, the body can meet its glutamine needs with the Glutamine stores present in body.
Glutamine is essential for proper biochemical functions at both the cellular and organ-system levels. It takes part in protein synthesis and formation of other neurotransmitters (mentioned above) and nitrogenous bases like Adenine and Thiamine (the building blocks of DNA). At the renal system Glutamine is responsible for the removal of toxic waste products like AMMONIA and others, all of which are harmful when their levels are not under balance.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino-acid found in the body and it can easily cross the Blood-Brain Barrier. The most important functions have been discussed below:
Glutamine and Gut-Health
Malabsorption is a symptom of many diseases. IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is a common disorder of the Gut affecting as many as 60% individuals at least once in their lifetimes. Glutamine is necessary for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal cells and intestinal epithelium by promoting “tight” junction between the cells. Glutamine can thus prevent the “Leaky Gut” syndrome and provide the most important solution, Mechanistically. Glutamine, thus, becomes very essential in treating the side-effects of chemotherapy, the added benefit of being able to regulate the Nitrogen imbalance all over the body makes Glutamine inevitable during stressful times.
Glutamine reduces Inflammation
Though the exact mechanism of action is not known, Glutamine has provided relief to Chronically diseased patients of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s diseases. By reducing inflammation and regulation a number of genes (p53 and others), it is believed that Glutamine reduces the activity of STAT protein and other pro-inflammatory substances known as Interleukins.
Glutamine and Muscle Strength
Glutamine forms an important post-workout supplement because it increases the muscle-strength and also shortens the time required for recovery post workout. With an added advantage of Nitrogen balance (by Ammonia and other waste products removal) – Glutamine provides for an end-to-end supplement solution. It also prevents the depletion of Branched Chain Amino acids(BCAA’s) which further promote recovery. All these effects are compounded by an increase in the Growth hormone levels which improves muscle bulk and density.
Glutamine regulates Apoptosis
Apoptosis is a physiological (normal) programmed cell-death process in which older cells die and reusable products are recycled. Glutamine is involved in all processes of cell-cycle, including cellular respiration(It synthesizes NADPH and Other enzymes). Glutamine becomes an essential component for normal cell-growth but more so, in cancerous cells which are growing rapidly. Rapid growth requires increased glucose and glutamine supply. Researchers are positive that regulating the supply of glutamine to the cancer-cells can help reduce cancer-proliferation.
Glutamine prevents Fatty Disease of the Liver
Obese individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles, can have a build-up of fat around their liver and kidneys known as Fatty Liver. L-Glutamine prevents the progression of Fatty Liver to more severe states by preventing Steatosis (excretion of fat into the stools leading to micronutrient deficiencies) and also lipid peroxidation. (A biochemical process which can increase free-radical production and worsen Fatty Disease.)