L-Glutamine is an amino acid that’s been liked with reducing cravings for alcohol in people who have dependance issues.
A quick search online will show articles claiming that L-Glutamine is a treatment for alcoholism and can even be used as a hangover remedy.
But does this amino acid really have such powerful properties?
In this article, we aim to take a closer look at the relationship between L-Glutamine and alcohol to see whether it has any benefits for those trying to quit drinking.
What is L-Glutamine?
L-Glutamine (also just called glutamine) is a non-essential amino acid. What does this mean?
Well, your muscles and liver can produce and release more if required. Therefore, being deficient in glutamine is not an issue.
In fact, Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body and is present in most things you eat.(1)
It’s used by your body to produce proteins for muscle building and regulating metabolic processes and supporting immune health.
There are some instances when the requirement for glutamine increases, such as during periods of high physical stress. But even in these cases, healthy individuals will not require glutamine supplementation.
Glutamine is the precursor for glutamate which is your nervous system’s main excitatory neurotransmitter. And it’s this aspect which has been associated with alcohol withdrawal.
In summary, L-Glutamine is an amino acid used by the body in many ways to keep the body functioning. It is one of 11 non-essential amino acids meaning that your body can produce more if required.
L-Glutamine and alcohol
Alcohol is a nervous system depressant meaning it slows down the neuronal connections in your brain. At small doses, this can cause a sense of euphoria, calm and even make you feel sleepy.
In chronic alcohol use, alcohol is continually suppressing the excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain and glutamate receptors are known to be one of the many targets.(2)
Studies have shown that during alcohol withdrawal, you get a rebound phenomenon when glutamate receptors snap back into action. As a result, this is thought to be responsible for withdrawal symptoms such as shakes, anxiety and headache to mention a few.(3)
The theory is that as a result of this rebound effect, glutamine is used up to produce more glutamate to deal with the extra demand.
But is this backed by science and does taking L-glutamine supplements reduce cravings?
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Does L-Glutamine reduce cravings
A more recent study in 2011 showed that supplementation with glutamine phenylalanine and L-glutamine hydroxytriptophan reduced cravings in their 20 test subjects.(6) This was a small study that showed only showed small differences.
Overall, there is no good evidence that glutamine is a treatment option for alcohol withdrawal. Any benefits reported are anecdotal at best and not backed by research.
Is it a treatment for alcoholism?
Glutamine supplementation is not a treatment for alcohol withdrawal. It is not recommended by any of the US health guidelines.
L-Glutamine and hangovers
Hangovers are caused by several factors including dehydration, inflammation and poor sleep quality. The combination of damaging effects of alcohol results in typical hangover symptoms.
L-Glutamine supplements are unlikely to counteract these effects. There are no research studies that have looked at glutamine supplements for hangover prevention either.
Are there any side-effects?
L-Glutamine is well-tolerated as its a natural amino acid that is essential for life. There are supplements online with high doses of L-Glutamine which could cause gastrointestinal side-effects including abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
That brings us to the end of our look into L-Glutamine and alcohol. The claims that it helps reduce cravings and could be a treatment for alcohol withdrawl are based on weak studies from over 50 years ago.
It is not a recommened treatment for alcohol withdrawl or hangovers.
It’s always best to discuss with your physician if you’re looking for help stopping drinking as they can provide proper advice and support you through your journey.