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Arginine, also known as L-Arginine, is a semi-essential amino acid which promotes a healthy immune system, proper blood sugar levels, proper hormone levels, and male fertility. It is classified as a semi-essential amino acid because the human body may not always produce enough of it under normal circumstances. People suffering from arginine deficiency can show a variety of symptoms including hair loss, difficulty in wound healing, and chronic constipation.
While normal Arginine production is generally not a problem for most people, some conditions and chronic illnesses can interrupt its production. People with severe wounds or burns, for instance, may be unable to produce sufficient amounts of the substance on their own. It's not uncommon for burn patients in hospitals to receive supplementary Arginine as a result. Other conditions which could cause insufficient levels of this substance include malnutrition, sepsis, and excessive production of ammonia.
Arginine supplements are most commonly sold as a concentrated powder that is somewhere between 90% and 98% pure. Other Arginine products are sold in liquid in tablet form as well. You can find Arginine at health food stores, pharmacies, nutritional supplement websites, and bodybuilding websites. Arginine is manufactured by many reputable companies.
Among the many benefits of Arginine are its properties in helping build strong connective tissue, especially where the muscles are concerned. Arginine helps to encourage the body's production of creatine and nitrogen - both of which encourage strong muscle growth. Along these same lines, increased creatine and nitrogen levels speed up the body's metabolism which, in turn, burns calories more quickly. It is thought that a daily Arginine supplement prior to exercise could be beneficial in helping aid weight loss.
Where the healing of wounds is concerned, Arginine is thought to be beneficial in ways similar to its muscle building and fat burning properties. As the levels of Arginine in the body increase, the blood thins and protein synthesis is increased. The combination of both of these things encourages the rapid healing of wounds. Without sufficient Arginine, wounds take longer to heal and are more susceptible to infection.
Due to its cardiovascular benefits, Arginine is also used as a treatment for congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, and sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Ongoing studies suggest that sufficient levels of the substance in the body improve the performance of blood vessels, regulate blood flow, and contribute to arterial health.
Lastly, some studies suggest a possible link between Arginine, good memory function, and well-regulated sleep cycles. While it's not yet known how the amino acid affects memory and sleep cycles, studies suggest that a daily supplement may help increase memory function well into the later years of life. If Arginine does indeed prove to be beneficial to the sleep cycle, that in itself could play a supporting role in other health benefits resulting from getting proper amounts of sleep.
Taken in moderation, Arginine has no serious side effects in human beings, though it has been linked to minor digestive system distress. Excessive Arginine on the other hand, can cause an increase in gastric acid which is a contributing factor in stomach ulcers and chronic indigestion. Consumers who are already being treated for these serious gastrointestinal disorders should not take Arginine supplements without first consulting a doctor.
Arginine supplements have also been shown to alter potassium levels in some people. Therefore, those currently suffering from liver problems or kidney disease, or taking certain medications for those conditions, may be at increased risk from Arginine supplements. It's also recommended that women who are pregnant or nursing avoid Arginine as it is unknown how altered potassium levels could affect the baby in the womb.
As a nutritional or exercise supplement, a general rule is to consume no more than 2 to 3 grams of Arginine per day. Bodybuilders who consume the substance in powder form will generally mix 1 gram with water and drink it just prior to beginning their exercise routine.
People who might be taking Arginine as part of a burn or infection treatment may require as much as 10 to 20 grams per day. This will obviously vary by body weight and the severity of the condition being treated. If you are such a patient, your doctor will be sure to give you proper dosage instructions.
As with any dietary supplement, the specific dosage will vary from one manufacturer to the next. Always read and thoroughly understand such instructions before taking Arginine. Also, be sure to follow dosage instructions strictly. You should stop using the supplement if you experience any abnormal reactions or side effects.
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