What is Lysine?
Lysine also commonly referred to as L-lysine is an amino acid which is known to have a variety of health benefits. It is commonly used to as a natural remedy for cold sores while it can also help treat diabetes, ease anxiety and potentially even cancer.
A number of amino acids are sometimes referred to as protein’s building blocks. They are vital for a range of human functions and such as growth and development. Only 20 of the hundreds of amino acids are needed to create protein and only half of those are produced in our bodies. The remainder are referred to as essential because we have to consume them in large numbers to ensure our health.
A deficiency in amino acids can lead to internal cell degradation resulting in significant health issues. It is absolutely vital that you get plenty of amino acids into your diet.
What Food Contains the Most Lysine?
While lysine is widely available in supplementary form, it is far better to get this nutrient from a natural food source. It is absorbed better by the body and consequently of more benefit if you can get your lysine through your diet.
The following food are the highest sources of lysine…..
- Lamb and Beef
- Parmesan cheese
- Chicken and turkey
- Soy beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- White beans
The Health Benefits of Lysine
Lysine has a number of excellent health benefits. It helps in the production of carnitine which in turn helps convert fatty acid into energy and reduces cholesterol. Lysine can also help increase calcium and collagen production which help with bone, muscle and skin health. Some of the other major health benefits of lysine include the following.
1. Cold Sores
Lysine is probably best known to the public at large as an effective natural remedy for cold sores. Cold sores are a common problem caused by the herpes simplex virus otherwise known as HSV-1. According to estimates over 60% of adults are infected by this virus with many not even aware of it and not experiencing any symptoms. Likewise many people who carry the HSV-2 virus which causes genital herpes are unaware of the infection.
Lysine is a very popular oral and topical treatment for cold sores and it has proven to be very effective. Research has largely backed up its use and effectiveness though results have been somewhat inconsistent.
Some studies have found that lysine helps reduce amount of viral outbreaks while other studies have found they only lessen the duration of the virus. While lysine may not completely protect against cold sore outbreaks, research suggests it will reduce both their frequency and their severity.
In one study which treated participants with a topical cream made from lysine, zinc and various herbs, the patients experienced significant results. The vast majority of participants found their cold sore had disappeared within 6 days of beginning the treatment. (1) This is significantly fewer than the 21 days cold sores typically last.
Researchers are not completely certain why lysine is so effective. They believe it is related to its interaction with another amino acid called arginine. This acid is known to increase the way herpes cells replicate. Higher levels of lysine in the body decreases the amount of arginine which may be responsible for treating the virus.
There is some speculation that lysine could also help to treat genital herpes which is caused by the HSV-2 virus. While the theory seems logical, more research is needed before we can draw any conclusions.
We know that anxiety can be eased in many cases by eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acid, minerals like magnesium and the B family of vitamins. Lysine is believed to help for a few reasons. First of all, calcium can also help ease anxiety and lysine helps improve the absorption of calcium in your body.
Lysine also binds itself to the brain’s serotonin receptors which can help prevent certain anxiety responses. Researchers found that lysine supplementation could reduce stress related anxiety responses such as diarrhea. (2)
This is particularly significant for people in developing areas where wheat is the major staple. People in these areas are far more prone to deficiencies of lysine than people in the developed world. Researcher have found that fortifying their diet with lysine has helped reduce anxiety responses like diarrhea. (3)
Some preliminary research including an Iranian study published in 2014 suggests that lysine may benefit in the treatment of people with schizophrenia. (4)
While research into the effects of lysine on cancer is at a very early stage, the results so far are promising. One study conducted in Florida and published in 2007 looked at the effect of lysine on damaged DNA strands similar to those found in people with cancer.
Researchers found that lysine was able to locate a damaged DNA strand by identifying its damaged spot and causing the remainder of the strand to tear apart. The cell is then not able to repair the damage resulting in cancer cell death or apoptosis. The researchers also found that it was most effective under certain light conditions which is of great interest to researchers and potentially to doctors in the future. (5)
Another study published in 2014 was done to test the effects of lysine on mice with colorectal cancer. The study used lysine oxidase and found that the treatment shrunk tumors a significant amount. The treatment was not associated with any deaths and researchers believe that lysine represents a promising avenue for future cancer research. (6)
4. Improved Calcium Absorption
Because lysine is known to help calcium absorb into the body more efficiently, it may help improve bone strength especially in people at risk of osteoporosis.
While calcium is usually associated with bone health and strength, it also has a number of other important functions for the human body. Consuming plenty of calcium may help prevent cancer, reduce PMS symptoms, improve dental health, muscle and nerve health, diabetes, anxiety and weight control.
5. Reduces Diabetes-Related Problems
People with diabetes are more at risk of infection and various other complications linked to the condition. Recent years have seen a growing interest in the role played by glycation end products or AGEs in diabetics.
AGEs are linked to the process of aging in all individuals but in people with diabetes they are present in much greater concentrations. They are responsible for numerous conditions related to diabetes prompting researchers to look into substances that could prevent these AGEs from gathering in such high numbers.
Studies have found that lysine can help by inhibiting the production of these AGEs and helping to protect from infection. (7)
6. Supports a Healthy Gut
Leaky gut syndrome is a very common digestive complaint that many people do not know they have. It is caused by the lining of the digestive tract permeating and allowing tiny particles from the gut into other parts of your body. It can result in a number of complaints including joint pain, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease and fatigue.
A recent study found that a type of lysine called poly-L-lysine had a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the stomach’s lining. (8)
Dosage and Precautions
Lysine is available on both oral supplements and topical cream form. Studies done on lysine have used the following doses without any ill effects.
Oral Lysine: 1000 mg each day for up to 12 months or 1000 mg 3 times each day for up to 6 months.
Topical Creams : A topical treatment containing lysine and zinc was used every 2 or 3 hours for around 12 days has been used by researchers,
Precautions and Side Effects
- Research suggests that lysine is safe when taken orally for a year and if applied to the skin for a short time.
- Potential side effects include diarrhea and stomach pain.
- There is insufficient data regarding the effects of lysine on pregnant women and nursing mothers. In order to play it safe, women who are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid using it.
- A single case was reported linking lysine supplements to kidney disease. People with a kidney condition should speak with their doctor before using lysine supplements.
- Lysine supplements can also increase calcium absorption in the body.