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The primary side effects of L-arginine are gastrointestinal, and include mild abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. In most people these go away after a few days, usually once the body gets used to the supplementation; pain that is extreme or that doesn’t improve may be a sign that the dosage is too high, and may also signal a sensitivity or allergy. L-arginine can also cause blood pressure fluctuations, which can be particularly problematic for people who have naturally low blood pressure, those who are taking regulatory medication, and people preparing for surgery. Inflammation of the joints, particularly gout, has been documented as well, and those who have been infected with the herpes virus often see flare-ups when using this supplement. Even though the compound is natural, it isn’t always safe for everyone. Side effects are normally mild, but not always. Most health experts recommend that anyone interested in this or other supplements talk to a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist first, and take it only under supervision.
L-arginine is one of the building blocks of protein. It is an amino acid that is found in a variety of foods including chicken, fish and dairy products. Many people take L-arginine as a supplement to treat certain medical conditions, including congestive heart failure and bladder inflammation.
The body needs the L-arginine compound for a number of important functions. For example, it stimulates the release of certain chemicals in the body, including insulin and growth hormone. It also helps remove ammonia from the body and aids in the wound healing process, and is an essential part of the creatine creation process. Creatine supplies muscles with energy. Additionally, the breakdown of L-arginine produces nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and improves blood flow.
Healthy people typically produce all the L-arginine they need naturally. Supplementation is usually only recommended when the body can't produce enough of the substance on its own, and side effects typically only happen in the case of supplementation. Medical conditions that can lead to a L-arginine deficiency include malnourishment, severe burns, infections, high levels of ammonia in the blood, and problems with urea production. Symptoms associated with L-arginine deficiency include hair loss, skin rashes and poor wound healing.
The compound is usually available as a prescription drug supplement, but in some places it may also be available over the counter. Medical experts usually advise that dosage be calculated based both on a person’s condition as well as his or her individual circumstances, including how much, if any, the body is producing naturally.
The most common side effects are digestive; people often feel tightness in their stomach and may experience gas and bloating. Diarrhea and loose or watery stools are also common, and can last for the first days and weeks of supplementation.
Blood Pressure Drops
Blood pressure can also be affected by L-arginine, which may be a concern for those taking blood pressure medications or undergoing surgery. L-arginine can enhance the effect of medications designed to lower blood pressure, causing blood pressure to drop lower than expected, leading to dizziness and fainting. Individuals with naturally low blood pressure may also experience these symptoms. During surgery, normal blood pressure control could also be affected by the protein compound, which may lead to complications.
Who is Most at Risk
L-arginine side effects tend to be the most pronounced in those who are allergic to the compound. Allergic reactions are rare, but possible. Asthma and swelling of the airways are generally the most common signs of a reaction. Even discounting allergies, some people are more prone to negative reactions than others. Children and pregnant women, for instance, are typically more likely to experience L-arginine side effects, especially when the dosage is high.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
People deciding whether supplementation is right for them are usually wise to consider the benefits as well as the possible side effects. Even when L-arginine is present in normal amounts, supplementation may have some benefits for existing medical conditions. For example, the wound healing properties of L-arginine can speed up the healing process after surgery. The compound can also reduce the chest pain and fluid accumulation associated with congestive heart failure, and in some cases has been used to help improve erectile dysfunction by improving blood flow. When taken in combination with hydroxymethylbutyrate and glutamine, L-arginine can help increase weight and strengthen the immune system for patients suffering from wasting diseases.