Can Glutamine Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

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Glutamine is one of the most misunderstood amino acids, but also one that may be necessary for healthy hair growth. In this article, I’m going to discuss the implications of glutamine deficiency, including whether it can be responsible for hair loss.

First, I’ll discuss what glutamine is and the role in plays in the body.

Next, I’ll discuss the implications of a glutamine deficiency, including symptoms and how a lack of proper glutamine may contribute to hair loss.

Last, I’ll show you exactly what I recommend if you want to increase your glutamine intake and regrow your hair.

What Is Glutamine?

The skeletal structure of glutamine
The skeletal structure of glutamine.

Glutamine (L-Glutamine, Gln, or Q) is an alpha-amino acid that plays a role in many of the body’s biochemical functions. These functions include protein synthesis, lipid (fat) synthesis, cellular energy (alongside glucose), and regulation of acid-base balance in the kidneys.

Glutamine is considered a nonessential amino acid, but one that can become essential if tissues are growing or being repaired. This is common during injuries and growth.

For humans, glutamine is obtained from the catabolism of proteins in food. In some individuals, supplementation with glutamine may be necessary. However, it’s also a supplement taken by many athletes (particularly bodybuilders and gymnasts).

Amino Acids: A Necessity for Health Hair

Amino acids, including glutamine, are organic compounds that play a key role in general health and well being. Some, such as essential amino acids, can only be absorbed directly. Others, like glutamine, can be synthesized from other compounds (such as protein).

Amino acids also play a role in hair growth.

In fact, keratin (the main component of hair) is made up of a few different amino acids (including cysteine, arginine, and lysine).

With these amino acids, keratin is able to build a strong structure that penetrates the hair follicles.

(Learn more about amino acids and the role they play in healthy hair production.)

Glutamine: A Cause or Prevention of Hair Loss?

For years, the role of glutamine in hair loss has been debated. Is its supplementation beneficial, or can it actually cause harm?

The answer, of course, is all things in moderation.

Glutamine is an important nutrient. Without a proper nutrient base, our bodies can be thrown out of whack and react accordingly.

Improper levels of glutamine can occur due to stress, injury, illness, or aging.

In this way, most individuals will find themselves ‘deficient’ in glutamine at one point in their life or another.

Glutamine and Hair Loss: The Role It Plays

Hair is made up of many amino acids including cysteine, lysine, and arginine. However, even amino acids that aren’t part of the hair’s structure can play a role in the hair growth process.

One of these is glutamine, and here’s how it works.

Glutamine is metabolized by the body, and then delivered to various areas throughout. It helps to synthesize proteins (necessary for the body’s functioning), cellular energy, and even regulation of the acid-base within the kidney.

However, it can also help to deliver sulfur to the scalp which is necessary for health hair growth.

Healthy levels of glutamine can prevent further hair loss and even help regrow hair
Healthy levels of glutamine can prevent further hair loss and even help regrow hair.

Keratin is the main component of hair, and it contains large amounts of cysteine. Cysetine is high in sulfur, and therefore plays a crucial role in healthy hair.

Symptoms of Glutamine Deficiency

As an essential nutrient, a deficiency can lead to a number of less-than-pleasant symptoms. These include:

  • Low muscle mass
  • Poor wound healing
  • Slow muscle recovery (post workout)
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Sugar or alcohol cravings

While these symptoms may seem unusual, it’s important to understand that glutamine fills many roles in the human body. There’s no one area of the body that’s not effected by a deficiency.

Risks of Glutamine Supplementation

Before you begin supplementation, it’s best to speak with your primary care physician. Some individuals should be wary of supplementing with glutamine.

In patients with psychiatric disorders or history of seizures, glutamine can cause adverse effects. Similarly, individuals with kidney or liver disease, Reye’s syndrome, or those with low-functioning kidneys should avoid glutamine supplements.

If you’re currently taking any medications (either prescription or over the counter), speak with your doctor or a pharmacist to learn of possible reactions.

If you’re nursing or pregnant, speak with your doctor before supplementing.

How to Treat Glutamine Deficiency

If you suspect you have glutamine deficiency, it’s important to consult with your physician. However, there are also a few things you can do yourself to reduce symptoms.

Use a Glutamine Supplement

Glutamine supplements come in two major forms – capsules and powder. If you suspect a glutamine deficiency, this can be one of the easier ways to handle your condition.

So, are capsules or powder best?

Opinions differ, and there’s no scientific data to back up either side. Essentially, you’ll want to choose the supplement that you’re most likely to take on a consistent basis.

Important! Glutamine should only be taken with cold or room temperature liquids. Hot liquid can destroy glutamine.

To take your glutamine supplement, you can take on an empty stomach or after eating. If you notice any stomach upset when taking on an empty stomach, take after eating and compare symptoms.

The typical dose is 5g to 10g per day (taken in three separate doses throughout the day).

Increase Your Dietary Intake

If you’d like to boost glutamine levels naturally, boosting your dietary intake is the best way to do so.

Glutamine is found in many high-protein foods. This is because they tend to contain glutamate and glutamic acid (both of which will be synthesized into glutamine within the body).

To increase glutamine levels within the body, I recommend you eat more:

  • Bone broth (my personal favourite)
  • Meat (beef, pork, poultry)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans and legumes
  • Raw vegetables (parsley, spinach, cabbage)
Bone broth provides plenty of collagen and other nutrients and minerals that are essential for hair growth
Bone broth provides plenty of essential nutrients, including collagen and sulfur. Learn more about collagen for hair here.

The best thing is that many of these foods can be easily added into your regular diet.

Overall, I suggest animal proteins when looking to increase glutamine naturally. However, as the list shows, there are various plant proteins that can also be used.

Conclusion

There are many factors that play a role in hair loss. However, deficiency in essential vitamins and amino acids can speed the process of hair loss and may even prevent regrowth.

This is why I strongly recommend you get your diet under control and ensure that you’re receiving all proper nutrients before moving forward in treating your hair loss.