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Glutamine vs. Glutathione: Understanding the Differences

Jun 13, 2023
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.

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
meats are high in glutathione

What foods are high in glutathione?

The following foods are high in glutathione: 3

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Green tea
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Meats
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Spinach
  • Whey
Glutamine vs. Glutathione: Understanding the Differences

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
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • 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

high protein foods

What foods are high in glutamine?

Foods that are high in glutamine include the following:11

  • Milk
  • Beef
  • White rice
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

Overall, meat and dairy are your best sources of dietary glutamine.

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.


Understanding the distinct roles and benefits of glutamine and glutathione is key for anyone looking to enhance their wellness regime, especially in terms of antioxidant support and overall health. For those specifically seeking the antioxidant benefits associated with enhanced detoxification and immune function, considering glutathione supplementation could be a beneficial step. To explore high-quality options and buy glutathione, Invigor Medical offers a range of products tailored to meet your health and wellness needs. For more information, visit their website.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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.

Glutamine vs. Glutathione: Understanding the Differences

Leann Poston, M.D.

Dr. Leann Poston is a licensed physician in the state of Ohio who holds an M.B.A. and an M. Ed. She is a full-time medical communications writer and educator who writes and researches for Invigor Medical. Dr. Poston lives in the Midwest with her family. She enjoys traveling and hiking. She is an avid technology aficionado and loves trying new things.


  • Kern JK, Geier DA, Adams JB, Garver CR, Audhya T, Geier MR. A clinical trial of glutathione supplementation in autism spectrum disorders. Med Sci Monit. 2011 Dec;17(12):CR677-82. doi: 10.12659/msm.882125. PMID: 22129897; PMCID: PMC3628138.
  • 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.
  • Minich DM, Brown BI. A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2073. doi:10.3390/nu11092073
  • Tsujimoto T, Yamamoto Y, Wasa M, Takenaka Y, Nakahara S, Takagi T, Tsugane M, Hayashi N, Maeda K, Inohara H, Uejima E, Ito T. L-glutamine decreases the severity of mucositis induced by chemoradiotherapy in patients with locally advanced head and neck cancer: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Oncol Rep. 2015 Jan;33(1):33-9. doi: 10.3892/or.2014.3564. Epub 2014 Oct 23. PMID: 25351453; PMCID: PMC4254677.
  • He Y, Hakvoort TBM, Köhler SE, Vermeulen JLM, de Waart DR, de Theije C, Ten Have GAM, van Eijk HMH, Kunne C, Labruyere WT, Houten SM, Sokolovic M, Ruijter JM, Deutz NEP, Lamers WH. Glutamine synthetase in muscle is required for glutamine production during fasting and extrahepatic ammonia detoxification. J Biol Chem. 2010 Mar 26;285(13):9516-9524. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.092429. Epub 2010 Jan 11. PMID: 20064933; PMCID: PMC2843202.
  • Gleeson, M.  Dosing and Efficacy of Glutamine Supplementation in Human Exercise and Sport Training. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 138, Issue 10, 2045S – 2049S
  • Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;5(Suppl 1-M7):47-54. doi: 10.2174/1875044301205010047. PMID: 25810794; PMCID: PMC4369670.
  • Wang B, Wu G, Zhou Z, Dai Z, Sun Y, Ji Y, Li W, Wang W, Liu C, Han F, Wu Z. Glutamine and intestinal barrier function. Amino Acids. 2015 Oct;47(10):2143-54. doi: 10.1007/s00726-014-1773-4. Epub 2014 Jun 26. PMID: 24965526.
  • Legault Z, Bagnall N, Kimmerly DS. The Influence of Oral L-Glutamine Supplementation on Muscle Strength Recovery and Soreness Following Unilateral Knee Extension Eccentric Exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Oct;25(5):417-26. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0209. Epub 2015 Mar 26. PMID: 25811544.
  • 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. PMID: 12930166.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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