Lysine is one of the eight essential amino acids, meaning that we must obtain all our daily needs in our diet. That is usually not a problem as lysine is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, pulses (lentils, beans and peas) and dairy. A vegan diet depending on grains for protein would be deficient in lysine, so it is commonly added to animal feed.
Lysine is an essential building block for all protein in the body, including hormones, enzymes and antibodies. It is important for increasing muscle and in the healing of wounds or surgery. Lysine plays a role in calcium absorption and is essential in the production of collagen, a protein found in skin, tendons and cartilage. Lysine also helps regulate serotonin, one of the anti-anxiety neurotransmitters I discussed in column #167.
Lysine is sometimes taken as a supplement to help fight infections of herpes simplex virus which causes cold sores. For this purpose, lysine is often taken in a formula along with zinc, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and immune-supporting herbs like garlic, echinacea and goldenseal. Studies have found that a diet high in lysine and low in arginine reduces the frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks.
Lysine appears to inhibit herpes infections by suppressing arginine, the amino acid I wrote about last week, which is essential for the virus to replicate. Arginine and lysine compete with each other for absorption, so increasing lysine will create a relative deficiency of arginine. So if you are taking lysine for this purpose, you should avoid supplementing with arginine and temporarily reduce consumption of foods high in arginine (see list in last week’s column). Because arginine is also important to our health, long-term supplementation of lysine is not recommended.
Speaking of arginine, two functions that I missed mentioning last week are:
• arginine enhances the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland to increase production of B and T cells
• arginine stimulates the pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone (HGH)
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.