Arginine, also known as L-arginine, is classified as an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Arginine is not only produced naturally in the body, but it is also found in food sources such as red meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and seeds of all types. Arginine also acts as a vasodilator, meaning it helps to dilate (open) the blood vessels increasing blood flow. Arginine is also produced pharmaceutically and given as a supplement in treating many conditions.
L-arginine works by converting into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide then dilates the blood vessels, increasing blood flow in the body. L-arginine also stimulates the release of insulin, growth hormone (helps increase muscle mass and reduce the amount of fat in the body), and other substances in the body.
L-arginine is indicated in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, intermittent claudication (recurrent pain in the legs due to blocked arteries), senile dementia, erectile dysfunction, and male infertility. It is also used in improving athletic performance, preventing the common cold, improving kidney function after a kidney transplant, pre-eclampsia, boosting the immune system, and preventing inflammation in the digestive tract in premature infants. Topically, L-arginine helps to speed wound healing, increase blood flow to cold hands and feet (helpful in those with diabetes), and for sexual issues in both men and females.
When taken appropriately by mouth, injection, or topically, arginine can be safe. However, it can cause some side effects including:
- – Abdominal pain
- – Bloating
- – Diarrhea
- – Gout
- – Blood abnormalities
- – Allergies
- – Airway inflammation
- – Worsening of asthma
- – Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Not enough is known how it affects those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Special precautions should be taken in those with asthma, allergies, cirrhosis, herpes, low blood pressure, recent heart attack, and kidney disease. Because blood pressure is affected while taking arginine, those who anticipate surgery should discontinue use at least 2 weeks prior to the scheduled date to avoid any complications. Children taking arginine need to be closely monitored to avoid serious side effects.
- – Antihypertensive medications- combining may lower blood pressure too much
- – Anticoagulants/Antiplatelet medications- may increase risk of bleeding
- – Diabetic medications- may lower blood glucose levels too much
- – Nitrates- may cause blood pressure to become too low
- – Sildenafil (Viagra)- may cause blood pressure to become too low
- – Potassium-sparing diuretics- may cause hyperkalemia (increased potassium levels)
Dosages depend on the patient and their condition. It is important to follow physician instructions when taking any medication or supplement.