Arginine is one of the twenty amino acids that make up our proteins. It is often referred to as a “semi-essential” amino acid because we will usually synthesize enough quantities of it to meet our bodily needs.
Arginine plays an important role in the production of protein, tissue repair, cell division, immune function and in the elimination of ammonia (an extremely toxic substance for the central nervous system) from the body. It also partly controls the release of hormones, especially our growth hormones. Moreover, it plays a significant function in the production of nitric oxide and creatine. Nitric oxide helps dilate our blood vessels and regulate our blood pressure levels whereas creatine is linked to muscle development and functioning. Arginine is also commonly known for helping treat erectile dysfunction by dilating the blood vessels and by promoting enough blood flow to help maintain an erection.
Although we will usually produce enough arginine to meet our bodily needs, the production might not be sufficient in certain health conditions. That being said, arginine deficiency can happen and if it does, it can have some serious effects on the body. Research suggests that arginine deficiency, albeit relatively rare, can cause the following symptoms: poor wound healing, erectile dysfunction, balance issues, stiff muscles, hair loss, fatty liver and constipation. The causes of arginine deficiency vary from chronic undernutrition, injuries, after surgery, serious infections to certain congenital diseases.
Although arginine is considered safe in moderate doses, a surplus of arginine in the system can also cause several side effects. Excessive levels of arginine are linked to nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, gout, bloating, airway inflammations or worsening asthma and allergy symptoms.
In the sports world, taking nutritional supplements containing arginine is thought to increase
Even though arginine is involved in the regulation of blood pressure and acts as a vasodilator, allowing better blood circulation, effects of arginine supplementation on athletic performance are controversial.
Arginine can be found in many foods such as red meat, seafood, fish as well as poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes (e.g. soybeans, broad beans), soy products (e.g. tofu) and whole-grains. Other foods with high amounts of arginine include seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds), peanuts, almonds, pine nuts and spirulina.
In conclusion, our arginine levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your arginine levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.