When it comes to reading labels on horse feed and supplements, L-glutamine is an ingredient that performance horse owners may automatically skip over in favor of better known ingredients such as certain vitamins, minerals, or possibly herbs.
However, as the most abundant and versatile amino acid (aka, building block of protein) found in the body, L-glutamine is especially important when it comes to a horse’s metabolism, digestive tract, internal pH balance, as well as nitrogen exchange between bodily tissues. With that said, L-glutamine is definitely a nutrient we should be paying attention to.
It should be noted that equine supplement labels may also use the broader term, glutamine, in some instances, but they are virtually the same thing, and therefore, can are often used interchangeably.
L-glutamine and muscle health
L-glutamine is produced in the muscles and is the most abundant free amino acid found in the body, making up 60% of muscle mass. In fact, it’s the most important antioxidant molecule found in muscle cells. It is especially important during times of stress, as it provides nitrogen and carbon (aka, “fuel”) to many different types of cells and plays a part in the production of certain chemicals in the body, as well as glucose (sugar).
Like us, horses are able to produce their own L-glutamine, but during times of stress, illness, or intensive training, supplementation can definitely be beneficial.
L-glutamine and the horse immune system
Since L-glutamine is a precursor for glutathione--a vital antioxidant that protects the immune system cells from damage--it’s an important part of the horse’s immune response as well. In fact, the rate at which L-glutamine is used by immune cells is similar or greater than the rate of glucose usage. Additionally, studies have shown that L-glutamine is an essential nutrient for lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) proliferation and cytokine (proteins which help to fight off pathogens) production.
L-glutamine and gut health for horses
L-glutamine is also of special importance when it comes to digestive health, as it aids in rebuilding and repairing tissue as well as reducing inflammation within the horse digestive system. The intestinal lining uses L-glutamine to create a strong surface for digestion and nutrient absorption, and studies in people have shown that both the small and large intestine can metabolize large amounts of glutamine supplied by the diet or from the bloodstream.
Because of L-glutamine’s well-documented effects on gut health, it’s commonly included in high quality probiotics for horses. In fact, it’s one of the leading ingredients in all of Fullbucket’s probiotic products. For example, one 10 gram scoop of Equine Probiotic Granules has a guaranteed analysis of 12% L-glutamine and one dose of our Equine Probiotic Paste contains 2500 mg of L-glutamine.
When paired with large numbers of the beneficial bacteria in probiotics, the addition of glutamine for horses may have an even greater positive effect on gut health, which is important in both preventing and treating a variety of GI-related issues.
- Cruzat, V. et al. (2018). Glutamine: Metabolism and Immune Function, Supplementation and Clinical Translation. Nutrients.