Therapeutic considerations of L-glutamine: a review of the literature

Altern Med Rev. 1999 Aug;4(4):239-48.


The most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream, L-glutamine fulfills a number of biochemical needs. It operates as a nitrogen shuttle, taking up excess ammonia and forming urea. It can contribute to the production of other amino acids, glucose, nucleotides, protein, and glutathione. Glutamine is primarily formed and stored in skeletal muscle and lungs, and is the principal metabolic fuel for small intestine enterocytes, lymphocytes, macrophages, and fibroblasts. Supplemental use of glutamine, either in oral, enteral, or parenteral form, increases intestinal villous height, stimulates gut mucosal cellular proliferation, and maintains mucosal integrity. It also prevents intestinal hyperpermeability and bacterial translocation, which may be involved in sepsis and the development of multiple organ failure. L-glutamine use has been found to be of great importance in the treatment of trauma and surgery patients, and has been shown to decrease the incidence of infection in these patients. Cancer patients often develop muscle glutamine depletion, due to uptake by tumors and chronic protein catabolism. Glutamine may be helpful in offsetting this depletion; however, it may also stimulate the growth of some tumors. The use of glutamine with cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy seems to prevent gut and oral toxic side-effects, and may even increase the effectiveness of some chemotherapy drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Digestive System / drug effects
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena
  • Glutamine / pharmacology*
  • Glutamine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Wound Healing / drug effects
  • Wounds and Injuries / drug therapy


  • Glutamine