The Top 10 Best Food Sources of Glutamine

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Top 10 Best Food Sources of Glutamine

Amino acids are critical players in nearly every metabolic function within the body.  One of the most critical amino acids is L-glutamine which is by far the most abundant free amino acid in the body.  It accounts for over 60% of the free amino acids in blood, brain, organs, and muscle tissue (1).  This article goes over the benefits of L-glutamine and the top 10 best food sources of glutamine.

This critical amino acid is necessary for a number of different functions in our body and boosting our circulating levels of L-glutamine can help a number of different health conditions and improve our overall quality of life.

Glutamine plays a very important role in cardiovascular function by supplying a key energy source for endothelial cells that line blood vessels.  Additionally, glutamine regulates nitric oxide synthesis by these endothelial cells (2, 3, 4).  This is critical for maintaining blood vessel tone and reducing inflammation in the blood vessel walls.

Glutamine Improves Neurological Function:

Glutamine is also a very important player in healthy neurological function and has been shown to improve mood, concentration, & memory (5, 6, 7) .  Glutamine easily crosses over the blood-brain barrier where it is converted into L-glutamic acid.  Glutamic acid is essential for cerebral function.

Glutamic acid is unique in that it can be converted into an energy source for neuronal cells when blood sugar is low. This characteristic is thought to be responsible for glutamine’s ability to damper sugar and alcohol cravings.

Glutamine is also a critical part of our digestive system.  It is the primary nutrient for the cells of the intestinal lining where it helps regulate cellular reproduction.  Through this mechanism, glutamine helps prevent and rebuild a leaky gut, which is common in people with inflammatory and auto-immune conditions (8, 9, 10) .   For this reason glutamine supplementation has been shown to be very effective in individuals with ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, & irritable bowel syndrome (11, 12).

Glutamine Improves the Small Intestine:

Glutamine also helps regulate cells absorb water across the junction between the small intestine and blood stream.  This is a very important part of keeping the body from losing fluid and becoming dehydrated.  When water is not absorbed back into the body diarrhea is the result.  Diarrhea can be disastrous because we lose both water and other vital nutrients.  Glutamine has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of diarrhea (13, 14)

Finally, glutamine plays a very important role in both cellular and systematic detoxification processes.  The lymphatic system maintains fluid and protein balance in the body, carries immune cells, and filters out toxins that are stored in tissues .

Glutamine is a key energy source for lymphatic cells allowing them to better remove toxic debris (15).   Additionally, glutamine acts as a transport molecule to carry ammonia out of major tissues including the brain where it is shipped to the liver for conversion into urea.

Reduces Food Sensitivity Reactions:

A 2004 study found that L-glutamine benefits the body by regulating IgA immune response (16). IgA attacks bad bacteria and viruses to keep to prevent infections.  Secretory IgA (sIgA) is an anti-body that regulates the mucosal membranes of the intestines, respiratory, urinary and reproductive tracts.

Poorly regulated sIgA responses are associated with food sensitivities and allergies.  Glutamine plays an important role in regulating and modulating sIgA to keep the immune system strong and reduce food sensitivity reactions.

Another study published in the journal of Clinical Immunology found that glutamine normalizes the effects of both the Th1 and TH2 immune response that stimulates inflammatory cytokines (17).  This demonstrates the ability of L-glutamine to balance and modulate the immune system to reduce inflammatory activity and promote an anti-inflammatory environment.

Best Food Sources of Glutamine:

L-glutamine is synthesized by the body from glutamic acid or glutamate. It is known as a conditionally essential amino acid, because it is used by the body in large amounts.  You can find it in a wide variety of both plant and animal foods, however, animal foods are the richest sources.

Individuals that have compromised digestive function and low stomach acid production, will have trouble breaking down protein they consume and absorbing amino acids from food.  In these cases, it is highly advised for these individuals to not rely on food alone to support their L-glutamine needs.  Easily absorbable supplements are widely available and can make a very big difference for these individuals.


Top 10 Food Sources of L-Glutamine

1) Bone Broth and Organic Bone Broth Collagen Protein

2) Grass-fed Whey Protein

3) Grass-fed Raw Dairy

4) Grass-fed beef/Bison

5) Spirulina

6) Cabbage

7) Asparagus

8) Broccoli

9) Venison

10)  Organic poultry  

Does Glutamine Supplementation Feed Cancer

Many cancer cells use glutamine as a fuel source and so there is speculation that supplemental glutamine could feed cancer.  However, this is merely myth as all the reports on glutamine show that it helps to foster an improved immune response.  Studies have even shown that it helps to improve the ability to recover from various cancer treatments by reducing muscle loss and improving gut and immune barrier function (18).

Glutamine itself is the most abundant amino acid in the body and cancers that feed off of glutamine are able to get the glutamine they need without the consumption of any food at all.  In fact, even doing a water fast won’t fully starve glutamine feeding cancer cells.  There are certain glutamine blocking drugs that have shown effective on these forms of cancer but dietary restriction is not an effective strategy.

As a clinician, I personally use glutamine rich foods and supplements and recommend them for a wide variety of my clients due to its ability to support gut and immune system health and ability to reduce cravings.  Try it out and see how your body responds to it.

Consuming These Glutamine Rich Foods

It is ideal to consume at least 2 servings from this group daily.   Raw dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats are also very high in L-glutamine.  This includes grass-fed, non-denatured whey protein powder which is considered the most bioavailable form from an animal source.  Using an ample amount of this form of whey protein in a shake with coconut milk, berries, & cinnamon everyday is a fantastic way to naturally boost L-glutamine levels.

Some individuals, especially those with leaky gut and auto-immunity have immune reactivity to whey protein.  This can include grass-fed, non-denatured whey.  If you notice that you have cramping, bloating, increased pain, brain fog, skin reactions, low-energy, sleeplessness, sinusitis or lowered immunity when consuming whey than discontinue immediately.


Sauerkraut and Fermented Cabbage

Cabbage is considered the most dense vegetable form of L-glutamine and red cabbage is the most anti-oxidant rich form of cabbage. An amazing way of bringing in the high quality nutrition from red cabbage is through juicing or shredding and fermenting it.

Red cabbage sauerkraut made with apple cider vinegar may be one of the most bioavailable ways to consume L-glutamine due to the deep fermentation processes that create an abundance of enzymes and good bacteria that allow amino acids and other nutrients to be better absorbed and utilized within the body.

Fermented Foods, Top 10 Best Fermented Foods to Heal Your Gut

Histamine Intolerance

I recommend for most of my clients to eat fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi daily.  Even having a tablespoon of these each day can make a big difference.  However, for individuals who struggle with small intestinal issues including bacterial or yeast overgrowth and histamine intolerance, it is often best to avoid fermented foods until these conditions reduce.

If you have struggled with worsening symptoms after consuming bone broth, vinegar or fermented foods you most likely have issues with your histamine metabolism.  There are many things you can do to improve the histamine response and I go over those in this article.


L-Glutamine Supplementation:

Most people tolerate L-glutamine supplementation very well (1). However, some individuals are unable to metabolize it effectively and can have an excess build-up of glutamate in the brain.  This can cause anxiety and irritablity.  These individuals are typically not methylating well and often deficient in zinc, magnesium, riboflavin, B6, folate and B12.  This reaction is rare but can happen if you are supplementing with heavy doses of L-glutamine while deficient in these B vitamins.

The best dosage for healing leaky gut is to start with about 3-5 grams daily and if you feel good (no increased anxiety or irritability) you can increase your dosage to 5-10+ grams.  I have seen great clinical results using 20+ grams daily for certain individuals.

You want to make sure you have a purified version of L-glutamine that has been clinically tested.  It is always adviseable to consult a trained functional nutritionist or functional medicine doctor before taking more than 5 grams daily.   This is what I use with my clients here


Additional Info on L-Glutamine:

L-glutamine is SO POWERFUL for healing the gut as well as the endothelial lining of the arteries, urinary tract, respiratory tract, etc and stabilizing a highly reactive immune system.  This is why it is one of my go to supplements with auto-immune cases and individuals suffering from damaged arteries, UTI’s, ulcers, leaky gut, painful urination, allergies and sinusitis, etc.

My favorite product to support the strength and healing of the mucousal membranes (gut lining, urinary tract lining, respiratory lining, reproductive lining) is Gut Repair.  This product features four specialized ingredients including L-glutamine (in lower dosage than the product above) for enhanced gastrointestinal support.


Sources For This Article Include:

1. Ziegler TR, Benfell K, Smith RJ, Young LS, Brown E, Ferrari-Baliviera E, Lowe DK, Wilmore DW. Safety and metabolic effects of L-glutamines administration in humans.  JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1990 Jul-Aug;14(4 Suppl):137S-146S.  PMID:  2119459
2. Mansour A, Mohajeri-Tehrani MR, Qorbani M, Heshmat R, Larijani B, Hosseini S. Effect of glutamines supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes.  2015 Jan;31(1):119-26. 2014 Jun 23.  PMID:  25466655
3. Bryk J, Ochoa JB, Correia MI, Munera-Seeley V, Popovic PJ. Effect of citrulline and glutamines on nitric oxide production in RAW 264.7 cells in an arginine-depleted environment.  JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2008 Jul-Aug;32(4):377-83.  PMID:  18596308
4. Arnal JF, Münzel T, Venema RC, James NL, Bai CL, Mitch WE, Harrison DG.Interactionsbetween arginine and glutamines change endothelial NO production. An effect independent of NO synthase substrate availability.  J Clin Invest. 1995 Jun;95(6):2565-72.  PMID:  7539455
5. Young LS, Bye R, Scheltinga M, Ziegler TR, Jacobs DO, Wilmore DW. Patients receiving glutamine-supplemented intravenous feedings report an improvement in mood.  JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1993 Sep-Oct;17(5):422-7.  PMID:  8289407
6. Albrecht J, Sidoryk-Węgrzynowicz M, Zielińska M, Aschner M. Roles of glutamine in neurotransmission.  Neuron Glia Biol. 2010 Nov;6(4):263-76.  PMID:  22018046
7. Albrecht J, Sonnewald U, Waagepetersen HS, Schousboe A. Glutamine in the central nervous system: function and dysfunction.  Front Biosci. 2007 Jan 1;12:332-43. PMID: 17127302
8. Dos Santos RG, Viana ML, Generoso SV, et al. Glutamine supplementation decreases intestinal permeability and preserves gut mucosa integrity in an experimental mouse model. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010 JulAug;34(4):408-13. [PMID: 20631386]
9. Li N, Neu J. Glutamines deprivation alters intestinal tight junctions via a PI3-K/ Akt mediated pathway in Caco-2 cells. J Nutr. 2009 Apr;139(4):710-14. [PMID:19211824]
10. Tian J, Hao L, Chandra P, et al. Dietary glutamines and oral antibiotics each improve indexes of gut barrier function in rat short bowel syndrome. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2009 Feb;296(2):G348-55. [PMID: 19095767]
11. Xu RY, Wan YP, Zhou YQ, Lu LP, Chen ZQ, Wu YJ, Cai W. Glutamines-supplemented parenteral nutrition and probiotics in four adult autoimmune enteropathy patients.  Gut Liver. 2014 May;8(3):324-8.   PMID: 24827631
12. Fujita T, Sakurai K. Efficacy of glutamines-enriched enteral nutrition in an experimental model of mucosal ulcerative colitis.  Br J Surg. 1995 Jun;82(6):749-51.  PMID: 7627502
13. Yalçin SS, Yurdakök K, Tezcan I, Oner L. Effect of glutamine supplementation on diarrhea, interleukin-8 and secretory immunoglobulin A in children with acute diarrhea.  J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2004 May;38(5):494-501.  PMID:  15097437
14. Kucuktulu E, Guner A, Kahraman I, Topbas M, Kucuktulu U. The protective effects of glutamines on radiation-induced diarrhea.  Support Care Cancer. 2013 Apr;21(4):1071-5. PMID: 23064902
15. Newsholme P. Why is L-glutamines metabolism important to cells of the immune system in health, postinjury, surgery or infection?  J Nutr. 2001 Sep;131(9 Suppl):2515S-22S; discussion 2523S-4S. Review.  PMID: 11533304
16. Lai YN, Yeh SL, Lin MT, Shang HF, Yeh CL, Chen WJ. Glutamines supplementation enhances mucosal immunity in rats with Gut-Derived sepsis.  2004 Mar;20(3):286-91.  PMID: 14990270
17. Chang WK, Yang KD, Shaio MF. Effect of glutamines on Th1 and Th2 cytokine responses of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells.  Clin Immunol. 1999 Dec;93(3):294-301.  PMID:  10600341
18. Yoshida S, Kaibara A, Ishibashi N, and Shirouzu K. Glutamine supplementation in cancer patients. Nutrition. 2001 Sep; 17(9): 766-8. PMID: 11527675

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  1. this is a great great article!! i have elimniated gluten for 4 weeks and if eel fantastic and including more of these in my diet.

  2. Hi Dr Jockers…
    My natuopatthic oncologist advised patients with hormonal cancers not to consume L-Glutamine. Would appreciate your opinion on this.

  3. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I’ve watched the “Truth about Cancer” series recently and Dr. Blaylock made a connection between the glutamine and the glutamate as brain exitotoxin that makes some brain cells fire to death.
    Also he was saying that glutamin/glutamate is number one fuel for cancer cells and sugars being number two. I haven’t checked his references as yet.
    Do you have any comments in regard to the above?
    Thank you very much

    1. I disagree with this. The research is behind L-glutamine as a great support to our health. In individuals who have fast cancer growth, the danger is that L-glutamine can be converted into sugar through gluconeogensis. So it is a sugar converter in individuals with alterted and distorted mitochondrial metabolism. For individuals who do not respond well to it neurologically, it is due to an inability to convert glutamic acid to GABA. This process depends upon B vitamins (especially B6), zinc and taurine. Many people are deficient in these.

      Additionally, if an individual has glutamic acid decarboxylase (an enzyme) antibodies, the body destroys the enzyme that converts glutamic acid to GABA. These are the things a good clinician watches out for and that is why we begin slowly and work our way up with L-glutamine.

      1. Is there a way to know if someone is not converting glutamic acid to GABA aside from watching for anxiety or irritability symptoms?

  4. Hi, I have had chronic sinusitis for 12 months and antibiotics wont fix it. I am 56 years old and have never had sinusitis before so I am thinking it might stem from gut issues. Should I take an oral L-Glutamine supplement product or should i just eat more foods that are rich in glutamic acid or glutamate so that my body can synthesize them into L-Glutamine?

    Cheers & thanks

  5. I have read that glutamine interacts with epilepsy medication I would like your feedback on this Doses taken are 1000 mg of Levetiracetam and 400 mg of lamotrigine

    1. It may Robert. I don’t have experience and have not seen specific research involving these medications with L-glutamine. But I don’t use glutamine with epileptic individuals.

  6. Hi drjockers,
    I have a 35 y/o brother who was diagnosed with hirschsprung’s disease and have undergone numerous surgery where parts of his intestines were cut off, he regularly feels week and the lab says some nutrients and minerals are defficient, by the way he eats through his mouth normally but the problem we think is he’s not absorbing those nutrients from food well. Please give as your thoughts and suggestions on these. Thank you in advance

  7. Hi Dr. Jockers, I have seen a hair sample test result showing high levels of glutamine for myself and my husband, while all other tested amino acids were in normal range. I was curious and looked into it online, which is how I came across your article… but I also came across information indicating excess glutamine levels can be problematic causing things like headaches, back/muscle/joint pains, runny nose, dry mouth, dizziness/fatigue, stomach pain etc… I am asking your take on this because I follow much of your work and have been eating a Keto diet along with intermittent fasting for several months now (referring to your research often)… however both my husband and I have a number of these ‘symptoms’ and coming across the info on excess glutamine after seeing our levels marked ‘high’ made me quite curious. If so, is there a way to decrease our levels back into a more normal/adequate range? I would be grateful to hear your response. Thank you.

      1. Wow, I just checked out the article you referenced. Great information! Thank you so much for your time, the information you share, and your reply! Improving GABA sounds like it could make some great impacts on quality of life! Thanks again, and God bless!

  8. What can I help for venous disease?? Would this help for this as well?? And is there anything to reverse that and strengthen your veins in your legs??

  9. HiDr Jockers,

    My 4 year old son have multiple food allergies, can I give him L-glutamine supplements to improve/eliminate his leaky gut?

    Thank you in advance 🙏

  10. Hey there,
    Just diagnosed with Eosinphilitis Esophagitis
    Help !!!
    Going for allergy testing next.
    Severe esophagus, stomach and small intestines inflammation which the Gastroscopy biopsy results showed.
    Can only tolerate organic baby food, and cold pressed green juice at this time.

  11. Dear Dr. Jockers

    I was detected several polyps (10) in the gallbladder, the largest is 8mm. Can the polyps be cured without removing the gallbladder?

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