This month naturopath Andrèa Wardle looks at GLUTAMINE, a nutrient that should be an essential component to any spring detox programme. Andrèa is an Australian trained naturopath practising Functional Naturopathic Medicine.
When most of us think of detoxification the emphasis is laid on minimising the ‘toxic load’ from external sources by changing eating habits. However equal emphasis should be placed on supporting the liver's capacity to detoxify and eliminate toxins and on the health of the digestive tract as part of the process. Some even consider it to be more important.
It is ideal to target both the cleansing and rebuilding the digestive tract. Detoxification ultimately starts in the digestive tract and then moves to the liver. By including the digestive tract in the detoxification process, the benefits of the cleansing process may remain for longer and ultimately be considerably more far reaching.
Glutamine is an essential amino acid – the building blocks of protein, functioning as a “fuel”, or major source of energy for the cells of the intestinal wall from the stomach through to the lower bowel.
It is vital to heal a damaged digestive tract  which may be an underlying cause of many conditions such as: IBS, gastric ulcers, inflammatory bowel disorders (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) through to acute or chronic inflammatory conditions such a hay fever, sinusitis, joint pains and arthritis, acne roseacea, eczema, psoriasis and recurrent colds and flu.
Glutamine is also the primary ‘fuel’ for the liver cells (hepatocytes) and therefore has an important role in the overall health of the liver and its capability to package and rid toxins from the body.
Sixty percent of the immune system is based in the digestive tract and relies heavily on the functioning of the GALT - gut-associated lymphoid tissue - which is fundamental in distinguishing ‘friend’ from ‘foe’ in the foods we eat and the microbes in the digestive tract. The functioning of the GALT is dependent on the integrity of the intestinal wall so by optimising its stability you are working to strengthen your whole immune system.
Glutamine is also an integral part of the powerful antioxidant glutathione which has impact on every cell and therefore system in the body. Low levels of glutathione have been implicated in accelerated ageing, chronic inflammation, low energy production, allergies, liver damage and male infertility.
Glutamine is present in milligram amounts in :
• Beans • Cottage cheese • Dairy products • Ham • Legumes • Most meats, fish and poultry • Ricotta cheese • Rolled oats • Whey protein
To optimise the benefits of glutamine, such as in a digestive system repair, gram amounts of this important nutrient may be required and high quality, therapeutic grade supplementation is recommended to achieve the results quickly and efficiently.
In periods when catabolism (‘breakdown’) exceeds anabolism (‘rebuild’) in the body such chronic stress, strenuous exercise, injury, post surgery, cancer, and severe burns the body is unable to produce sufficient quantities and supplementation is recommended . As glutamine is primarily synthesised and stored in skeletal muscle this is just another reason to optimise both the quality and quantity of the muscle mass.
 Liska D, Bland JS., Digestion and Excretion; Integrative Medicine Journal; Vol. 5, No. 6; Dec 2006/Jan 2007
 Osiecki H. The Nutrient Bible 7th Edn. Bio Concepts Publishing: Australia; 2006
 Brahn L, Cohen M. Herbs and Natural Substances. An evidence based guide. 2nd Edn. Churchill Livingstone: Australia; 2007