Glutamine vs. Glutathione: Understanding the Differences
Glutamine is an amino acid, and glutathione is a tripeptide made up of three amino acids—L-glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. Glutamine, also known as L-glutamine, is the most abundant amino acid in the body and has many roles, including supporting the immune and digestive systems and protein synthesis. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative damage. Both glutamine and glutathione can be obtained in the diet or through supplements.
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What is glutathione?
Glutathione is commonly referred to as a “master antioxidant.” Glutathione detoxifies and protects cells from metabolic damage, drug byproducts, and environmental toxins. Glutathione levels fall with aging and poor health. Chronic exposure to chemical toxins, pollution, radiation, repeat or chronic infections, heavy metal exposure, DNA damage, oxidative stress, and chronic alcohol consumption can all deplete glutathione.
In addition to protecting your cells from oxidative damage, glutathione helps your body regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.1 Glutathione supports your immune function and is essential for both innate and adaptive immunity.2
Supplementing glutathione is thought to have many important health benefits, including the following:
- Detoxifying chemicals, pollutants, and drugs
- Lowering inflammation
- Neutralizing free radicals
- Protecting your body from oxidative stress
- Regulating cell division and death
- Supporting DNA production and repair
- Supporting immune function
What foods are high in glutathione?
The following foods are high in glutathione: 3
- Green beans
- Green tea
- Pomegranate juice
What is glutamine?
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid naturally found in the body. Cells use it as a source of energy and to make DNA. Like with glutathione, your body produces glutamine, and glutamine levels decrease with aging, stress, inflammation, and during times of increased demand, making it a conditionally essential amino acid. Glutamine levels are high in rapidly dividing cells such as the kidney, muscle, liver, and small intestine.4
The enzyme glutamine synthetase produces almost 90% of glutamine in the body, with muscle producing roughly 70% of this.5
- Source of energy for intestinal cells
- Preserves gut barrier
- Maintains nitrogen balance when the body is under stress
- Supports immune function
- Maintains acid-base balance
Glutamine is an important energy source for the intestinal and immune cells that protect you from gut bacteria. By helping cells to maintain a barrier between your intestines and the rest of the body, glutamine protects your body from harmful bacteria and toxins. 7,8
While some athletes supplement with glutamate to improve muscle strength and bulk, little evidence supports this use. However, supplementing with glutamate may reduce muscle fatigue and post-exercise soreness.9,10
What foods are high in glutamine?
Foods that are high in glutamine include the following:11
- White rice
Overall, meat and dairy are your best sources of dietary glutamine.
Is glutamine better than glutathione?
Glutamine is not better than glutathione, it is a different amino acid with different roles in the body. Glutamine provides cellular energy and supports immune and digestive function. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects all cells in the body from oxidative stress and damage from free radicals, which are natural byproducts of cellular metabolism.
Can I take glutathione and L-glutamine together?
Yes, glutamine and the three amino acids that your body uses to make glutathione are found in meats and other sources of protein. If you plan to supplement with glutamine and glutathione check with your doctor to verify that higher doses will not interfere with any medications you take.
What is the relationship between glutamine and glutathione?
Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid that is produced in the body, especially by muscle tissue, and supports intestinal and immune function, among other things. Glutathione is a tripeptide made up of L-glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine that is also produced in the body and neutralizes free radicals, and supports immune function. Glutamine is a precursor for glutathione production.
Does glutamine produce glutathione?
Increased glutamine uptake increases cancer cell growth by providing the extra carbon and nitrogen they need to grow. This led researchers to investigate the relationship between glutamine and glutathione. They found that glutamine is essential for synthesizing and excreting glutathione and that a significant amount of extracellular glutathione comes from glutamine.12
Glutamine vs Glutathione
Both glutamine and glutathione are essential for overall health. Supplementing glutamine supports intestinal health and immune function. Supplementing with glutathione provides your body with this powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and helps protect cells from damage.
Learn more about buying Glutathione injections online.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
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2. Ghezzi P. Role of glutathione in immunity and inflammation in the lung. Int J Gen Med. 2011 Jan 25;4:105-13. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S15618. PMID: 21403800; PMCID: PMC3048347.
3. Minich DM, Brown BI. A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2073. doi:10.3390/nu11092073
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10. Lehmkuhl M, Malone M, Justice B, Trone G, Pistilli E, Vinci D, Haff EE, Kilgore JL, Haff GG. The effects of 8 weeks of creatine monohydrate and glutamine supplementation on body composition and performance measures. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug;17(3):425-38. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0425:teowoc>2.0.co;2. PMID: 12930166.
11. Lenders CM, Liu S, Wilmore DW, Sampson L, Dougherty LW, Spiegelman D, Willett WC. Evaluation of a novel food composition database that includes glutamine and other amino acids derived from gene sequencing data. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec;63(12):1433-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.110. Epub 2009 Sep 16. PMID: 19756030; PMCID: PMC3249386.
12. Sappington DR, Siegel ER, Hiatt G, Desai A, Penney RB, Jamshidi-Parsian A, Griffin RJ, Boysen G. Glutamine drives glutathione synthesis and contributes to radiation sensitivity of A549 and H460 lung cancer cell lines. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Apr;1860(4):836-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2016.01.021. Epub 2016 Jan 26. PMID: 26825773; PMCID: PMC4768472.