L-lysine, popularly known as amino acid K, is an essential amino acid. It cannot be synthesized by the body and thus is only available from dietary intake. It plays an important role in the synthesis of all proteins within the body. It is commonly found in diets rich in animal products. Vegans are most susceptible to deficiency of amino acid. This amino acid plays a major role in body growth and development, boosting of the immune system, absorption of calcium in the body, controlling the body’s pH, and formation of collagen, among other things.
L-Lysine: The Missing Link for Vegans and Vegetarians
- Body growth and development: L-lysine plays a major role in the synthesis of all protein in the body. Protein is the main nutrient responsible for growth and repair of bodily tissues. Deficiency of this amino acid can result in stunted growth and a weak muscular-skeletal structure.
- Absorption of calcium in the body: Calcium plays a major role in the development of the skeletal, nervous and hormonal systems. However, its absorption requires other minerals and amino acids, such as lysine, to be present. Deficiency of lysine can thus result in brittle bones and teeth as well as problems in the nervous system.
- Formation of connective tissue.: Lysine is needed for the synthesis of collagen. This is the main element needed for the formation of connective tissue and bones in the body. In this way, lysine also helps in maintaining healthy skin, cartilage, and tendons.
- Maintenance of a healthy circulatory system.: L-lysine is needed for the synthesis of the nutrient carnitine. This nutrient is needed by the body for the conversion of fatty acids into energy. Carnitine plays a major role in metabolizing fats and thus keeping bad cholesterol levels low. A deficiency of carnitine causes an increased risk of developing heart and circulatory system diseases.
- Boost the immune system: L-lysine helps the body resist attack by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Studies have shown that l-lysine blocks the effects of arginine, another essential amino acid. Arginine promotes the replication of HSV, the virus responsible for cold sores and herpes.
- Reversal of osteoporosis: L-lysine has been found to play a major role in the absorption of calcium in the body. Osteoporosis is characterized by the degeneration of bone tissue and collagen, which is due to deficiency of calcium and lysine. Lysine supplementation will help to reverse the effects of osteoporosis and allow the skeletal structure to regain its health.
- Treatment and prevention of genital herpes: L-lysine has been found to slow down and stop the growth and thriving of the herpes virus. Lysine works by blocking the effects of arginine, an amino acid which promotes the growth and spread of the herpes virus. Lysine can be taken orally or applied to the affected area. An example of a dose often used during an active herpes flare up is 3,000 – 9,000 mg/day in divided doses for a short period of time. To prevent recurrences, many people take 1,000 mg daily.
- Treatment and prevention of cold sores: Anecdotal evidence suggests that taking 1,000 gm L-lysine on a daily basis can also prevent outbreaks of cold sores and genital herpes. Cold sores are classified as a type of herpes because they are caused by HSV.
- Treatment and prevention of shingles: Shingles are also caused by a herpes virus called the varicella-zoster virus. Arginine promotes the spread and replication of the shingles virus. Lysine, therefore, works in the same way for shingles as it does herpes.
- Treatment of marasmus and kwashiorkor: These diseases are characterized by muscle wasting, among other things. The body breaks down the muscles in the body to use as energy. Lysine supplementation for patients suffering from these diseases will help them rebuild protein and muscle reserves.
- Accelerated wound healing: Since lysine is an essential element in the building of muscles and collagen, it is used speed wound healing. Collagen is what binds skin and wounds together and lysine is usually prescribed for burn patients to increase the healing process. In addition to this, athletes use lysine to increase muscle mass and thus their performance.
- Treatment of hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism occurs as a result of the body being unable to produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone is an amino acid. Since l-lysine plays a role in the amino acid synthesis, its supplementation has been found to help in the treatment of hypothyroidism.
Possible side effects of L-Lysine
- Development of gallstones: Gallstones are hard solid substances which develop in the gallbladder. They are quite painful. Taking cholesterol-lowering supplements can cause build up of cholesterol in the bile, as the body tries to flush out the cholesterol. This can lead to gallstones. Since l-lysine has cholesterol-lowering effects, high doses of this supplement can cause gallstones.
- Abdominal cramps and diarrhea: High doses of lysine have been found to cause abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
- Interaction with arginine: High doses of l-lysine have been found to lower the levels of arginine in the body. Although this amino acid has been found to contribute to the development and spread of the herpes virus, it does have some uses in the body. It is therefore recommended that you stick to the recommended dosage.
- Interaction with drugs: L-lysine interacts with aminoglycoside antibiotics. Talk to your doctor if you are taking any other prescription medications before taking an L-lysine supplement.
- Allergic reactions: As with all medical supplements, some people can have allergic reactions to lysine. Symptoms include skin inflammation and rashes, dizziness and increase in body temperature after taking the supplement.
The essential amino acid l-lysine plays an important role in the well being of the body. Although deficiency of this amino acid is quite rare, there are instances where supplementation is necessary. It boosts the immune system and is essential for absorption of calcium in the body and controlling the body’s pH. It is also used to for the healthy maintenance of collagen, which helps maintain strong bones, skin, and hair. L-lysine is used as a treatment for cold sores and genital herpes and can be taken daily to prevent future outbreaks. However, it’s worth talking to your healthcare provider or naturopathic doctor before taking l-lysine. There are a number of possible side effects and drug interactions.