Glutamine is an amino acid (a building block for proteins), found naturally in the body. It contains an α-amino group (which is in the protonated −NH3+ form under biological conditions), an α-carboxylic acid group (which is in the deprotonated −COO− form under biological conditions), and a side chain amide which replaces the side chain hydroxyl of glutamic acid with an amine functional group, classifying it as a charge neutral, polar (at physiological pH) amino acid.
Glutamine is used to counter some of the side effects of medical treatments. For example, it is used for side effects of cancerchemotherapy including diarrhea, pain and swelling inside the mouth (mucositis), nerve pain (neuropathy), and muscle and joint pains caused by the cancer drug Taxol. Glutamine is also used to protect the immune system and digestive system in people undergoing radiochemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus. Additionally, glutamine is used for improving recovery after bone marrow transplant or bowel surgery, increasing well-being in people who have suffered traumatic injuries, and preventing infections in critically ill people.
Some people use glutamine for digestive system conditions such as stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. It is also used for depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and enhancing exercise performance.
People who have HIV (AIDS) sometimes use glutamine to prevent weight loss (HIV wasting).
Glutamine is also used for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a urinary condition called cystinuria, sickle cell anemia, and for alcohol withdrawal support.
Glutamine powder can be ordered through most wholesale drug suppliers. Glutamine for commercial use is made by a fermentation process using bacteria that produce glutamine.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Glutamine is produced in the muscles and is distributed by the blood to the organs that need it. Glutamine might help gut function, the immune system, and other essential processes in the body, especially in times of stress. It is also important for providing "fuel" (nitrogen and carbon) to many different cells in the body. Glutamine is needed to make other chemicals in the body such as other amino acids and glucose (sugar).
After surgery or traumatic injury, nitrogen is necessary to repair the wounds and keep the vital organs functioning. About one third of this nitrogen comes from glutamine.
If the body uses more glutamine than the muscles can make (i.e., during times of stress), muscle wasting can occur. This can occur in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking glutamine supplements might keep the glutamine stores up.
Some types of chemotherapy can reduce the levels of glutamine in the body. Glutamine treatment is thought to help prevent chemotherapy-related damage by maintaining the life of the affected tissues.