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The Benefits of L-Arginine

Jason Earls

L-arginine is an amino acid classified as "semi-essential," which means the body can make adequate amounts for proper health from the kidneys and liver. But to obtain maximal benefits, additional supplementation is required. (In case you are curious, the 'L' at the beginning of L-arginine means it is one of the most common amino acids.)

L-Arginine Supplement

L-arginine performs many functions in the human body. It's a protein building block that helps the pituitary gland function, supports the immune system, helps wounds heal, aids blood flow, lowers cholesterol, balances levels of sodium, fights build-up of plaque, and eliminates waste products. There is also evidence showing L-arginine can relieve migraine headaches, metabolize fat, and raise good cholesterol levels. It even creates other amino acids and substances such as creatine, L-proline (which is responsible for helping wounds heal), and L-glutamine, which can be converted into energy if the body requires it. L-arginine is also thought to improve one's sense of smell, and help long term memory.

One of the most beneficial aspects of L-arginine is that it acts as a precursor to a gas called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to engorge and dilate through a relaxation process known as vasodilation, which can aid sexual performance in both men and women. If L-arginine is taken with yohimbe (not available in Canada) or ginkgo biloba, it may even be effective at treating erectile dysfunction. Dilated and engorged blood vessels from vasodilation also relieve stress on the heart.

Because L-arginine production lessens with age, some researchers believe the loss speeds up various degenerative processes. Hence, it's important to get enough of the amino acid since it can act as a mild anti-aging nutrient.

Body builders take L-arginine because it gives them a fuller muscular "pump" during workouts. There is also evidence showing it helps secretion of normal hormones, as well as the release of natural growth hormone, which bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts find especially appealing. L-arginine also removes toxins from the body and supports a healthy immune system, which allows athletes to recover faster. But here is a warning: If you regularly consume protein shakes, as many bodybuilders do, be aware that many manufacturers add additional amino acids to their powders, so be careful not to overdose.

Although there are no precise guidelines for amounts of L-arginine to take, it's recommended to stay lower than 2000 milligrams per day. And if you have a heart condition or a mental health issue, consult a medical professional before taking L-arginine. Side effects from large amounts are thickening of the skin, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue. But these will go away when dosages are lowered. L-arginine in higher amounts can also create stomach acid, which sometimes irritates ulcers and heartburn. Also consult a doctor if you take blood pressure medication, since L-arginine alters potassium levels in the body. If you are a diabetic, seek advice from a medical professional since L-arginine also raises blood sugar.

There are many natural food sources for L-arginine if you don't like pills. Poultry, beef, lobster, shrimp, salmon, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cottage cheese, soybeans, oatmeal, chocolate, peanuts, raisins, almonds, and other nuts.

In summary, almost everyone can benefit from taking L-arginine. Athletes, people on diets, older people to hinder the aging process, those with high cholesterol levels, etc. So be sure to start your supplementation regimen as soon as you can.

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