The Lysine Story



L-lysine is an essential amino acid in that it is required for human nutrition and is not produced by the human body. L-lysine is a key amino acid in many critical body proteins, and is needed for growth, tissue repair, the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes. Current research efforts are being directed at a possible role of L-lysine in reducing the incidence of herpes infections and migraine headaches.

The natural form of lysine found in food is designated L-lysine. Good food sources of L-lysine are meat, eggs, fish, milk, cheese and yeast.

Natural L-lysine deficiencies result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia and reproductive problems. Severe L-lysine deficiency results in diminished utilization of fatty acids for energy production and even in sudden death.

Human needs for L-lysine vary markedly from person to person. The amount of L-lysine required for protein balance was found to vary fourfold from 400 to 1,600 milligrams per day just with one relatively small group of adults. The amount required for optimum health was found to vary seven fold from subjects requiring the least amount to those requiring the most. In another study, four of five men aged fifty to seventy required more L-lysine than younger men.

Some individuals with high needs may be severely deficient if their protein source is poor quality in respect to L-lysine content. L-lysine is lacking in certain cereal proteins such as gliadin from wheat and zein from corn. Supplementation of wheat-based foods with L-lysine improves their protein quality and results in improved growth and tissue synthesis.

Herpes affects fifty to seventy-five percent of adults, and possibly the same percentage of children. Herpes is caused by a virus (herpes virus hominis) that remains in the body in a dormant state until the immune system is weakened by some acute stress, colds, sunburn or fatigue. At least in some people, the eating of low L-lysine foods such as nuts, seed and cereals causes a nutritional imbalance that favors growth of the herpes virus.

Herpes symptoms are the disfiguring, usually painful sores that appear on the skin and mucous membranes including the lips, eyes and genital areas. A L-lysine deficiency may increase one's susceptibility to herpes simplex (cold sores or fever blisters). Herpes sores usually last one to three weeks, generally the latter.

Lysine is effective against herpes because it suppresses the virus by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A key factor in the suppression of herpes virus is the ratio of the amino acids, L-lysine and L-arginine. The greater the amount of L-lysine, the better the suppression of the virus. There may be a genetic factor also, but the nutritional factor is certain.

One successful program recommends that people with active sores take two 500 milligrams capsules two to four times a day until the herpes infection has cleared. Pain usually disappears overnight. Inactive herpes can be controlled in most people with just one 500 milligram capsule daily, especially after a L-lysine loading program as suggested above.

The research involving L-lysine suppression of herpes virus goes at least as far back as 1952 and has been especially active since 1970. The first clinical trail is credited to Dr. Christopher Kagan in 1974. This first clinical trial involved ten patients and was completely successful.

Dr. Kagan, along with Dr. Richard Griffith and Arthur Norins, followed the first trial with a larger number of patents. Of forty-five patients receiving between and 1,200 milligrams of L-lysine daily, only two failed to respond (96% success).

Dr. Kedar Adour and his associates at the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center have shown that the causative agent in many cranical syndromes, including migraine headache, acute vestibular neuronitis, globus hystericu, cartidynia, Bell's Palsy, and Meniere's disease, is a herpes simplex virus.

Sufficient knowledge about herpes simplex virus has been generated to allow association with cranical nerve syndromes, even though the possibility exists that a yet unknown virus or pathophysiologic mechanism maybe the primary disease which causes reaction of the herpes simplex virus. When a patient recovers from the primary herpes simplex viral infection, the virus subsides to latency in the cranial and spinal ganglia where it is protected from circulating antibodies. Because herpes reactivation and relictions begins in the ganglion cells, every case of recurrent herpes simplex viral infection starts as ganglionitis. The virus only then passes down the axon to induce the formation of the herpetic vesicle in the skin or mucous membranes, but this represents only the "lip of the volcano." This means that every time a person has a cold sore on his lip, the base of his brain is inflamed. Herpes simplex may be considered a disease of the nerve, and not of the skin.

Adour suggests that many of the diseases which have been labeled idiopathic or psychogenic are manifestations of a very simple and understandable disease entitled, the herpes virus.

Thus far current treatments for migraine and tension headaches may be inappropriate, since they assume the disease is primarily a vascular one instead of neuritis. Will treating the viral disease with L-lysine present further neurolytic damage due to an autoimmune reaction in and around the ganglion? Migraines have been successfully treated by Griffith with four grams of L-lysine. Bell's Palsy disappeared in two days. Further research is required to answer the question.

This article is not intended to give medical advice or replace the services of a physician. It is for educational purposes only.


By Billie J. Sahley

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