L-arginine is an amino acid inherent in the human body and it is also present in certain foods as well as in supplements. Although L-arginine has various benefits, it does not come without its own set of side effects that can range in intensity from mild to excessively high.
Mild Side Effects
L-arginine seems to heighten the levels of stomach acids because it causes an increase in the creation of gastrin -- the hormone that elevates stomach acids. There are certain mild side-effects of consuming L-arginine orally, ranging from stomach or abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and even a form of arthritis called Gout.
When L-arginine is taken intravenously, by way of an IV, it can cause nausea, flushing, vomiting and even headaches. Most people endure these side effects and do not feel the need for medication or consulting a doctor.
Serious Side Effects
There are chances of severe side-effects when consuming L-arginine. When taken orally, this supplement can cause difficulty in breathing and, if the person has asthma, it can be aggravated. L-arginine can also cause allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, itching, swelling, wheezing or difficulty in swallowing. If taken via an IV, there are a different set of side effects that can become serious such as swollen eyes, excessive irritation in the veins and neighboring tissues which can cause drastic injury.
Side Effects on Patients
L-arginine intake by people diagnosed with diseases may aggravate their conditions and could even cause complications. For example, in people with liver diseases, taking L-arginine can change their potassium levels. People diagnosed with kidney diseases or patients taking medications like ACE inhibitors must not consume L-arginine supplements without the supervision of a medical practitioner. People with diabetes should also avoid using L-arginine without consulting their doctors, as the supplement can elevate blood sugar levels.
Other Side Effects
L-arginine must also be avoided by patients who are recovering from a recent heart attack as well as children or women who are pregnant or nursing. People with genital herpes may also find that L-arginine can aggravate their symptoms. Hence, it's best to avoid consuming supplements or food containing L-arginine. Other side effects associated with L-arginine use include swelling in the legs, lowering of blood pressure levels, and pain in the chest.
Because L-arginine is a dietary supplement, it is not governed or monitored like prescription drugs are. For these reasons, it can be sold without any proof of its safety or efficacy. The fact that L-arginine is widely available does not mean it is completely safe for all people. Consumers should be careful to only purchase supplements marketed by renowned companies. Neighborhood pharmacists can also help one make a knowledgeable decision. Otherwise, it is best to consult a medical practitioner.