Glutamate vs. Glutamine
I am often asked “What is the difference between gluten, glutamate and L-glutamine?” The following is a post I made on the Coping with Epilepsy forum when this topic came up during one of their discussions. Hopefully this will clear things up. As usual, I covered a few extra items in my response pertaining to the development and perpetuation of seizures.
Gluten vs. Glutamate (glutamic acid) vs. Glutamine
© DogtorJ.com 2010
I get this question regularly. It looks like Bernard and Robin have answered it but I thought I would throw in my 200 cents worth. :)
As Bernard posted, glutamic acid is an amino acid as is it neurologically inactive sibling, glutamine. Glutamic acid is found in most foods but very abundantly in gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye), soy/legumes/peanuts, dairy products, nuts, seeds, meats and the gluten-grain substitutes (quinoa, amaranth, tapioca as well as the non-gluten grains millet, flax and sorghum).
Glutamate is converted to glutamine by cells lining the intestinal tract, which in turn is used by the villi to maintain their health and integrity. This conversion is also made by the liver and kidneys, which is fortuitous because many of the foods rich in glutamic acid – namely gluten grains, casein (from dairy), and soy – are also three of the four foods that damage the villi and their ability to make this conversion. Corn is the fourth food, which is not unusually high in glutamic acid but IS an inducer of villous atrophy of the small intestine and IS neurotoxic, the latter being one of the hot topics in the autism community right now. Corn gluten meal is a “natural herbicide” (kills other plants!) and a major generator of fat, which is formed to store TOXINS as well as excessive calories.
Glutamic acid is the principal neurotransmitter as posted above. MSG (monosodium glutamate), whose parent protein is glutamic acid, is used as a flavor enhancer due to it neurostimulating effect on the taste buds. When it reaches the brain, it induces migraines, seizures, the “MSG rush”, and lowers the pain threshold (e.g. people with fibromyalgia or other chronic pain syndromes).
The “revelation” is that the food sources of glutamic acid can do the very same thing. they simply take longer to reach the brain. It takes a half hour or less for MSG to reach the brain but it takes 4-6 hours for “bound glutamate in food” to get there. This the CLASSIC meal-to-seizure interval in un-medicated individuals. This is paralleled by the “insomniac” who wakes up like a shot at 1-2 AM, 4-6 hours after dinner/dessert.
Gluten is approximately 25% glutamic acid by weight and casein is 20% glutamate by chemical structure. Soy is richer than both and almost as rich as their sum. They used to make MSG from soy and from kelp. These are the worst foods because they not only contain high levels of glutamate but also induce villous atrophy, causing malabsorption of essential nutrients and reduced conversion of glutamate to glutamine. Their lectins are also incredibly inflammatory to neurons just as they are to joints, kidneys, the liver, skin and every other tissue of the sensitized individual.
People ask me about meats and the answer is “Meats don’t do all of the other harm so they only need to be limited in the worst of the worst cases whose neurons are seriously compromised by the previous ill effects of the “big 4″ – gluten, casein, soy and corn. This is also true of nuts, seeds, and the gluten grain substitutes. I had a case recently of a woman who did quite well on The GARD (diet) but did not completely stop seizing until she gave up her cashew fetish. She will be able to go back tom eating them in the future once her neurons return to normal.
It is “interesting” that some of the new anticonvulsants work by blocking glutamate. This should not be a surprise. The glial cells that control the level of glutamate at the synapse are the targets of numerous pleomorphic bacteria and viruses, some of the latter being embedded in the very DNA. Yes, idiopathic epilepsy runs very consistently though certain breeds of dogs and is one of the myriad of genetic viruses in their DNA (side-by-side with all of the cancer-producing ones). The field of epigenetics is a fascinating one.
The GARD – The Glutamate & Aspartate Restricted Diet – continues to halt seizures in dogs and people as well as help treat a myriad of neurological disorders when applied properly. The latter is the key. Some individuals require an extreme degree of vigilance. Think “peanut allergy” when attempting to grasp the sensitivity that some develop to these lectins. I just wrote a piece on “secondary food intolerance”, which is the term I use to describe the lectins of the “big 4″ we acquire when we eat the meat of animals consuming them (especially wheat, soy and corn). This is not covering my derriere…this is now proven fact.
There are many factors in the development of this “syndrome” we call epilepsy. One component is clearly a genetic virus. There are other acquired viruses and pleomorphic bacteria that can be involved along with food lectins, malabsorption/malnutrition, free radicals from chemicals/pollutants, vaccines, seasonal variants, fluorescent lights/computer graphics/etc. and more. But when we identify these things and remove them, we can undermine the syndrome and miracles can happen. I no longer put any limitations on what this body can do, only what WE can do for our body.
I hope this helps,
John (Dogtor J)
Follow-up Questions from Facebook:
“What is the difference between glutamate, glutamic acid, and glutamine? The latter is supposed to be good for helping to heal IBD and other large intestine afflictions, or so I’ve been told. Thanks! Love your site and this FB page!”
“I’ve been wanting to work that out. L glutamine is supposed to help with gut lining health/healing leaky gut is it not? So I have wondered the same thing. Would also like to find out how L-Glutamine is metabolized, and if its contraindicated for a dog that has liver problems ( and fed on GARD diet) and IBD. Maybe Dogtor J could advise us??”
Hi M. and N.,
Great questions, and…I just wrote an article on that last week. :) It can be found here: http://dogtorj.com/?page_id=3631 .
L-glutamine is an amino acid that the intestinal lining uses to heal and repair. It is also converted to glutamate (glutamic acid) as needed by the body.
So…the question becomes “Should a person suffering from an ‘excitotoxin’-related disorder take L-glutamine?” According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a specialist in this area, this should be done with caution if at all. http://bit.ly/d126AO
Therefore, the best course of action is to avoid the foods that damage the intestinal tract’s ability to convert glutamate to glutamine and vice versa. We know what they are: Gluten grains, dairy, soy and corn. We should then eat foods naturally rich in glutamine – beef, fish, poultry, EGGS, raw cabbage, beets – while avoiding specific glutamine supplementation, which could cause problems.