L-lysine is an amino acid that is part of all proteins in the human body. While it is critical to the health of the body, it is one of the amino acids that cannot be produced by your body! Instead, you must eat one of the sources of lysine each day. Fortunately, whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian, there are some good sources of lysine including spinach, soybeans, lentils, eggs, cheese, red meat, fish, pork and poultry. You can also take over-the-counter l-lysine supplements; before you do that, be sure you understand the side effects that may develop and talk to your nutritionist or healthcare provider first.
You may experience many health benefits when you have an adequate intake of l-lysine in your diet.
- Cholesterol Management. In the liver, l-lysine converts to carnitine which helps your body burn fat. Because of this fat-burning ability, studies have shown that lysine in the diet may result in decreased levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol.
- Bone Health. Everyone knows that calcium is critical for strong bones. L-lysine helps the body to absorb the calcium and decreases the excretion of calcium. Some studies also show that l-lysine may increase the activity of bone and collagen building cells. Decreasing the loss of calcium and increasing bone-building activity may slow the bone loss that happens with age.
- Herpes Prevention. L-lysine may act as an antiviral by blocking the production of the Herpes Simplex Virus. Studies suggest that following a diet rich in lysine (or taking a lysine supplement), while not curing the virus, may prevent outbreaks of genital herpes and cold sores associated with the herpes virus. L-lysine may also help herpes sores heal faster.
- Proper Body Growth. L-lysine is one of the primary components of proteins. Therefore, it is critical for proper body growth particularly in children. Because it helps your body absorb calcium, l-lysine is also critical for growing bones and other tissues. Low levels of lysine may lead to failure to grow due to a protein deficiency.
- Anxiety and Stress Reduction. In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences reported that lysine supplements can reduce stress and anxiety in a population that consumed very low levels of l-lysine rich foods.
- Shingle Relief. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox in children. With shingles, the adult will experience a painful rash usually located on one side of the body along one of the major spinal nerves. While not a cure for shingles, l-lysine may help decrease the duration or intensity of the disease.
- Pain Relief:Studies are being conducted to determine if l-lysine acts as an anti-inflammatory. If it does, you may be able to get pain relief from an adequate intake of this amino acid.
- Heart Health. Finally, l-lysine may be effective in decreasing some of the symptoms associated with angina. While the mechanism of action is not known, lysine in conjunction with vitamin C seems to have some effect.
Precautions for Taking L-lysine
It is possible to have abnormal l-lysine levels - both too much and too little.
Abnormal L-lysine Level Symptoms
- L-lysine deficiency. If you do not have enough l-lysine, you may experience symptoms much like you would with the flu. You may have nausea and vomiting, excessive tiredness, and dizziness. If you are a woman who is not able to get pregnant, talk to your doctor as infertility may be one of the side effects of an l-lysine deficiency.
- L-lysine excess. If you have too much l-lysine, you can have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. You may develop gallstones or elevated triglycerides if you have a very high intake of l-lysine.
If your healthcare provider wants you to take supplemental l-lysine, the recommended dosage will depend on why you need it. For a healthy adult without health problems, a normal dose is about 12 mg/kg/day. For an adult who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg), the recommended daily dose would be 816 mg per day. However, if you are taking the lysine for herpes treatment, that dose may be increased to 1000-3000 mg three times a day. Before taking high dose lysine, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider who should help you determine how long you should take lysine at higher doses. Those who had suffered from cardiovascular problems before must consult the doctor before taking any lysine supplements.
Precautions for Taking L-lysine
Although l-lysine occurs naturally in foods, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the amino acid supplement for treatment of any specific diseases or illnesses. As with any supplement, there are certain groups who should consult a doctor before taking l-lysine. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a doctor. If you are taking any other medications (including antibiotics), talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that there are no interactions between medications. Because this drug is process in the liver, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking supplemental doses of l-lysine.