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Arginine

L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid which was first isolated in 1886. It is considered semi-essential as even if it is normally synthesized in the body, supplementations are required in certain conditions. It is required for various functions in the body. Deficiency of arginine may lead to symptoms like poor wound healing, skin rash, constipation, hair loss and fatty liver.
L- arginine is found in dairy products, soy, fish, meat poultry and nuts.

Health and arginine

  1. Arginine is required to eliminate toxic ammonia and creatinine from the body via kidneys.
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  2. Supplementations is required in special conditions like burns recovery, sepsis, protein malnutrition, inborn error of urea synthesis, excess ammonia production, infection, peritoneal dialysis, excessive lysine intake and rapid growth. It improves the rate of wound healing by synthesis of L-proline – a protein essential for formation of collagen.
  3. Being a precursor of nitric acid that causes relaxation of the blood vessels (vasodilation) it may be helpful in the medical conditions that are improved by vasodilation. These conditions include coronary artery disease, angina, atherosclerosis, heart failure, peripheral vascular diseases and erectile dysfunction.
  4. Arginine is also important for wound healing, body building, spermatogenesis (sperm production enhancement) and prevention of wasting in critical illness as it stimulates protein synthesis.
  5. Arginine is used to make compounds in the body like L-glutamate and L-proline and can provide energy by converting in to glucose or glycogen when required.
  6. Arginine when administered intravenously helps to elevate the growth hormone reserve in people with deficiency.
  7. Arginine proves to be beneficial for patients with critical illness (patients treated in intensive care units) and helps in faster recovery.

Side effects of arginine supplementation

  1. Arginine may be well tolerated, but in some individuals it can show some side effects such as headaches, nausea, stomach discomfort, stomach crams or even mild diarrhea.
  2. Higher doses of arginine if administered causes increased stomach acid by stimulating the production of hormone gastrin. This can cause heart burn or ulcers.
  3. Arginine inhalation or intake by mouth is not recommended for asthma treatment, as studies indicate that it worsens lung inflammation and elevates asthma symptoms.
  4. Arginine supplementation may increase blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and change various chemicals and electrolyte in the blood.
  5. It should be used with a word of caution for people with genital herpes as it may aggravate the symptoms.
Dosage of supplementation should be decided by your health care professional when used in a specific condition as there are chances of its interaction with many drugs. Arginine supplementations might not be required for most individuals as our body synthesizes it in sufficient amounts.
Submitted on January 16, 2014
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