The intestine and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) are essential components of whole body immune defense, protecting the body from foreign antigens and pathogens, while allowing tolerance to commensal bacteria and dietary antigens. The requirement for protein to support the immune system is well established. Less is known regarding the immune modifying properties of individual amino acids, particularly on the GALT. Both oral and parenteral feeding studies have established convincing evidence that not only the total protein intake, but the availability of specific dietary amino acids (in particular glutamine, glutamate, and arginine, and perhaps methionine, cysteine and threonine) are essential to optimizing the immune functions of the intestine and the proximal resident immune cells. These amino acids each have unique properties that include, maintaining the integrity, growth and function of the intestine, as well as normalizing inflammatory cytokine secretion and improving T-lymphocyte numbers, specific T cell functions, and the secretion of IgA by lamina propria cells. Our understanding of this area has come from studies that have supplemented single amino acids to a mixed protein diet and measuring the effect on specific immune parameters. Future studies should be designed using amino acid mixtures that target a number of specific functions of GALT in order to optimize immune function in domestic animals and humans during critical periods of development and various disease states.