Expert Q&A

Glutamine: Can It Help Peripheral Neuropathy?

Can glutamine help with neuropathy due to chemotherapy?

-James from Kentucky

An often painful side effect of chemotherapy, peripheral neuropathy affects the nerve endings in the extremities. Research has shown that supplementation with glutamine may be effective in reducing peripheral neuropathy associated with chemotherapy.

Cancer is doubly harmful, being both traumatic and stressful for the body. Glutamine is a common non-essential amino acid found throughout the body. It becomes conditionally essential in times of bodily trauma or stress due to an increased nitrogen metabolism. Studies show supplementing with glutamine after chemotherapy may reduce:

  • Neuropathy
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Burning and tingling sensations
  • Mouth sores.

There is conflicting data where 2 studies have shown that glutamine fuels tumor growth, whereas other studies show that glutamine protects the immune system and increases Natural Killer cell formation, which may halt tumor cell growth.

Glutamine, a tasteless and odorless powder, is commonly found in health food stores, and is often marketed for weightlifters. It can be added to water, juice, milk, or foods and will not affect the flavor or color of the food. Chemotherapy patients who experience neuropathy should take glutamine orally for 4 days after chemotherapy infusion starting 24 hours after the first treatment. A therapeutic dose of glutamine is 10 grams, 3 times a day.

Glutamine is not the only product available to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. Neurotin and Amofostine are drugs specifically designed to lessen neuropathy. If you are experiencing neuropathy, speak to your oncologist to discuss whether a supplement like glutamine would be beneficial.

Dena McDowell, MS, RD
Contributing Expert

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