Although research is ongoing, some potential taurine side effects include blood thinning, changes to heart rate or rhythm and extremely low blood sugar. Experts can point to at least two instances where it might have triggered mania and brain damage, although they can’t say for sure whether it was the culprit. Digestive problems and dehydration also might be a result of excess, and it can interact with drugs, particularly lithium. Doctors usually recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women not take this substance as a supplement, just to be safe, as there isn’t enough research to show how it could affect an unborn baby or infant.
Taurine is a sulfur-based, non-essential (conditional) amino acid, meaning the human body is able to make it. The substance occurs in foods such as eggs, meats and fish, and in people, it appears in muscles, the bloodstream and the nervous system. It is connected to many physical functions, such as increasing blood flow to nerves, so it’s necessary to stay healthy. Many people take supplements for better physical and mental performance.
Doctors have discovered that taurine has multiple benefits for the heart, because it reduces the effects of hypertension and prevents plaque from building up in the arteries. It also lowers the amount of inflammation that sometimes happens with heart disease. Depending on a person’s exact physical makeup and other factors such as diet, this amino acid can reduce blood clotting by up to 10%.
Although these results typically are positive, they are not beneficial for everybody. A person with hypotension, for example, might experience further blood pressure drops and subsequent problems such as dizziness. Similarly, a person who is already on blood thinners or who has a clotting disorder might be at increased risk of excessive bruising and bleeding.
Abnormal Heart Rate or Rhythm
This substance partially controls levels of important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium in the body. These connect to heart function and the regularity and strength of the heartbeat. Abnormal amounts in the body, therefore, potentially can cause heart and circulation disturbances.
One role of taurine is keeping insulin and glucose well balanced. In general, it increases a person’s sensitivity to insulin, making it easier to handle increases in blood sugar. This makes it terrific for diabetics, but if levels are too high, in theory, the body can become too efficient with this process, and blood sugar levels can drop below normal. Dizziness and fainting might happen as a result.
Brain and Nervous System Damage
Taurine affects the nervous system and brain because it generates nerve impulses and increases blood flow to cells. Scientists tentatively have linked at least one case of brain damage to it. In this instance, a bodybuilder took 14 grams of the amino acid, hoping to prevent a breakdown in muscle and boost performance. This is well above the maximum recommended daily dose of 4 – 6 grams, such as is prescribed for heart or liver patients. It isn’t clear whether other substances he consumed — insulin and steroids — were the real source of the problem.
Taurine side effects might include mania, as it influences the brain and nervous system. An individual with bipolar disorder reportedly became manic after drinking energy drinks, which often use the amino acid as an ingredient. Experts still are not willing to say with certainty what caused this, however, because these beverages typically contain other brain- and nerve-affecting substances such as caffeine and inositol.
This substance triggers the stomach to make more acid. This is good for those who do not produce enough, but in many people, it can lead to upset stomach or even ulcers. People who already have ulcers or other problems such as acid reflux shouldn't take it for this reason, and experts recommend eating no more than half an hour after taking it to keep acid production in check.
A person’s body naturally tries to get rid of excess taurine by flushing it out with the urine. This takes water to do, so the more of this amino acid a person gets, the more often they usually have to visit the restroom. Over time, if an individual isn’t replacing the lost water by drinking more, he can become dehydrated. Mild symptoms include fatigue, constipation and dry skin, but over time, more serious side effects such as mental confusion, fever, rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure might develop.
Doctors know that this substance interacts with lithium, a drug commonly used to treat certain mental conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Specifically, it makes it harder for the body to get rid of the medication. A buildup or overdose can lead to nausea, muscle weakness, loss of coordination and other serious side effects.
Doctors understand how this amino acid works in the body and, therefore, have a sense of what could go wrong if levels are off. Even so, much more research is needed before they can conclusively say when or how often taurine side effects might show up. They don’t have proof that it will have negative effects on unborn children or babies, but just to be safe, they recommend that those who are pregnant or nursing avoid it.