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Supplements for the Gluten Free Athlete: Glutamine


Here’s a shocker-I have a fitness background. In the fitness world, there is something that is affectionately referred to as “bro-science.”

Interestingly enough, there is actually a definition for “bro-science” at

Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.

There has been much debate surrounding glutamine in the weight training world. It was touted as a recovery booster/fat mobilizer/muscle sparing/ all that and a bag o’ chips for many moons, and turns out that the research doesn’t support that position. (Gleeson, M. Dosing and efficacy of glutamine supplementation in human exercise and sport training J Nutr. 2008 Oct;138(10):2045S-2049S among others.)

Fight bro science

There are many good bros and female bros (bras?) out there fighting the good fight and protecting the world against the proliferation of bro-science. A few are Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, Leigh Peele, and Cassandra Forsythe, as well as my buddy JC Deen. There are many others of course-but these are a few I reference regularly and have in my Google Reader.

Ok, so what does this have to do with celiac disease, living gluten free, or glutamine supplementation?

Glutamine and gut health

Although glutamine may have limited benefit from a sports performance/physique enhancement perspective, it may be much more useful for gut health.

First of all, what is glutamine? Glutamine is an amino acid. It is considered conditionally essential (meaning there may be times when the body cannot produce enough, and it must be ingested through the diet.) The gut tissue has been found to absorb up to 65-76% of ingested glutamine.

Also, glutamine is used for fuel by the cells in your body that fight disease and infection. When plasma glutamine levels are lowered, this can contribute to suppresion of the immune system. In short, glutamine helps reduce inflammation, improve immunity, promote repair, and assist in production of other important factors in the gut.

I have to note that in looking through the scientific research, I have found studies that support these statements, and other studies where no significant difference has been shown. As always, this is a case of buyer beware-educate yourself, discuss it with your doctor or health care practitioner, and make an informed decision. It will not hurt you, but it may not help either. There has been quite a bit of supporting evidence that it is beneficial for gut health.

Some of you may be thinking:

But glutamine is an amino acid found in gliadin-and a reaction to gliadin is what is examined when gluten intolerance is being tested.

Dr. Stephen Wangen in his book Healthier Without Wheat: A New Understanding of Wheat Allergies, Celiac Disease, and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance clarifies

Do not be confused by the fact that gliadins contain glutamine. This does not mean that glutamine is a problem for people who are gluten intolerant, nor does it mean that glutamine should be avoided. In fact the opposite is true…

Two forms of glutamine

Note: Glutamine can be found in two forms, and this is particulary important to note if you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. There is L-glutamine, which is the free form amino acid, and glutamine peptides. Glutamine peptides are often sourced from wheat, and can cause a reaction in those with sensitivity. Avoid glutamine peptides, and if you choose to supplement look for L-glutamine.

Dr. Wangen states that due to the fact that the small intestine uses glutamine as a primary energy source, providing extra L-glutamine can assist in speeding the healing of the digestive tract. He recommends a dose of 3 grams (3,000 mg) split into 3 doses throughout the day.

Shari Lieberman also discussed L-glutamine supplementation in her book The Gluten Connection: How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health–And What You Can Do to Take Control Now. She recommended 500 mg-3 grams of L-glutamine.

There also have been studies of non-celiac endurance athletes which have shown protective immune system qualities when the training load is high. (L. Castell, The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition Volume 13, Issues 7-8, July-August 1997, Pages 738-742 )

So what does this mean to the celiac or gluten intolerant athlete?

It means that supplementing with L-glutamine may be a worthwhile expense. If you are training hard, your immune system and gut can use all the help it can get with recovery. It can help with antioxidant control of free radicals produced in exercise. By maximizing your gut health, you are maximizing absorption and therefore fuel.

What’s your opinion? Have you taken L-glutamine? Leave your feedback in the comments!


18 comments on “Supplements for the Gluten Free Athlete: Glutamine

  1. Wow, absolutely top-notch article, Erin! Very impressive. I have taken L-glutamine before, but had some digestive issues with it. I need to try some again. I know my doctor (who treats me for gluten intolerance) does believe it has value. I’ve read many proponents of it on the celiac listserv (per their own physicians).


    • Thanks very much Shirley! L-glutamine certainly appears to have some positive benefits-of course my first thought is to double check with your supplement manufacturer-my experiences with many companies has taught me that they may be unaware of cross contamination issues. (Although I feel certain you have already done that.) Recently I have found that much better though. Also splitting doses throughout the day may help. Let me know how you make out!

  2. Jon Fernandes

    hehe this is funny because when i got glutened last week, one of the ingredients to my “Glutening cocktail” i took was glutamine.

    Erin, what is do you think is a reasonable amount one should be taking daily for gut health? I got some glutamine powder lying around and 1 teaspoon is around 5 grams. I’m thinking i should add it to my daily intake of supplements.

    • Hey Jon,
      I hope you are feeling better now!
      The dosages recommended are up to about 3 grams in divided doses. Given your training status and size though, I’d hazard a guess that 5 grams in divided doses would be fine. I throw mine in my pre-wo drink (along with .5 scoop of protein, 14 grams of gatorade and 2.5 g creatine mono-because I train at dark:30 and need to get something in me) and in my post workout shake with the rest of my protein and creatine.

  3. Verdie Bickell

    Fantastic information in your posting, I watched this report on the tv last week about this same thing and since I am getting married next month and the timing couldn’t have been better! thanks for the ideas!

  4. Great article with scientific backing 🙂

    Very helpful, I am currently working on trying things to help alleviate my medical problems. Glutamine is something I am going to try and hope it helps me move toward feeling better. I am desperate, it’s getting to the point where I can barely workout 🙁

  5. Wow thanks for the quick response! I have used quite a bit of this stuff over the last month 🙁 looks like I need to switch brands asap! Can you recommend anything that is gluten free, and has L-glutamine?

    • Hi Jeff,
      Check out the gluten free protein powder reviews and see if anything sounds good. I would also recommend getting L-glutamine separately in powder form to add to your shakes. 5g is a good bit and rarely found in that amount in a shake, plus it’s cheap and tasteless and easy to add yourself. Gaspari Nutrition is releasing their new Myofusion Probiotic soon also, which is gluten free. I tasted the chocolate flavor and it’s very good!

  6. Hi I came across this while researching a particular protein powder I have been using

    I was wondering – is it gluten free? I am about to start a elimination diet and I am wondering if it is safe to keep taking it? It has L-Glutamine, which sounds like it will HELP if I do in fact have a gluten intolerance?

    • Hi Jeff,
      I looked at the product you linked, and that is definitely NOT gluten free. I’m not sure which ingredient, but the allergen statement on the nutrition facts label states that it contains wheat ingredients, and therefore gluten. L-glutamine in and of itself is fine, but this particular protein powder would not be safe for you. 🙁

  7. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 12 years ago and had the symptoms 14 years before they had a name for it but just recently a chiropractor neurologist suggested I go gluten free and see what happens. Low and behold I am amazed at the outcome. I finally feel normal after only 5 weeks gluten free, To think I gave upp half my life being physically and mentally dysfunctional, all for gluten.

    I knew about L-glutamine and added it to my supplement intake just recently. I had tested negative for Vitamin D and B12 before going on the gluten free diet. Do you think any of the 10 doctors I recently seen had an light bulb go off that something was wrong ??? No It took a chiropractor to say “hey there has got to be a problem here” Let’s try this and see if I’m right. All my symptoms held true to celiac disease. I am not going back on gluten products just to verify it. I’m not giving my life back to gluten. I can’t understand why humans ever started eating it in the first place since according to my research the human body does not digest the gladin protein at all. Who knew!

    We are bombarded with wheat and it has been promoted as something we NEED in our diet. I never even questioned it because of the way it is suppose to be so “healthy”. Your article is great. I knew a lot about L-glutamine but did not know there were 2 sources. Thank you for sharing that important information, especially for people who are gluten intolerant.

    • Abbie,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s all too common that many doctors don’t see the whole picture. Wheat is certainly not “the staff of life” for many of us. So glad you found the article helpful.

      Take care!

  8. So basicaly if the glutamine is sourced from grains such as barley or rye are still okay to consume.? Does this mean mean other free form aminos such as lycine luecine arginine ect..are okay to consume regardless of source? Includeing bcaa suppliments ect…?very curious to know the science behind it

  9. My nutricionist recommended L-Glutamine to me for 30 days (5 grams per day). The first days I feel a little uncomfortable and I was producing so much gases (funny at least). This happened just in the fisrt days (firsts 10 days actually), so you can insist. But I can tell I have 30 woderfull days, both physically and psychologically. It’s really worth it.

  10. I’ve been wanting to add L-glutamine as a supplement but am having a hard time finding something that is strictly GF. The ones I’ve found are still made in a facility that handles wheat and I’m not taking chances.

    Any brand names for a straight-up L-glutamine supplement that is for sure GF?

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