In the critically ill surgical patient a variety of therapeutic maneuvers is required to maintain a "healthy gut." Provision of adequate amounts of glutamine to the gastrointestinal mucosa appears to be just one of these maneuvers. Other methods utilized to protect the gut from becoming a wound include: (a) minimizing additional systemic insults (such as hypotension, sepsis, multiple operative procedures); (b) aggressive pulmonary care; (c) the judicious use of antibiotics; and (d) aggressive enteral or parenteral feedings. The concept that the gut is an organ of quiescence following surgical stress merits reconsideration. The intestinal tract plays a central role in interorgan glutamine metabolism and is a key regulator of nitrogen handling following surgical stress. Critically ill patients are susceptible to developing gut-origin sepsis, the incidence of which will be diminished by instituting measures and providing treatments which support intestinal structure, function, and metabolism. Provision of glutamine-enriched diets to such patients may be one of these therapies.