Amino acids make up the proteins in your body. There are two types of amino acids: essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. You must get proper amounts of essential amino acids through your food because your body does not produce them. However, your body can make non-essential amino acids. During times of growth or stress, you may need larger amounts of the non-essential amino acids from your diet.
Arginine is not an essential amino acid, because your liver produces it. However, during times of fast growth, such as infancy, or stress, such as infection, your body may not produce arginine fast enough. During these times, it is important to get arginine through foods high in this amino acid, such as dairy products and peanuts. Arginine helps your body get rid of excess nitrogen. It also helps you build both muscle and collagen. According to Dr. Eric R. Braverman, author of "The Healing Nutrients Within," arginine may also inhibit tumor growth, lower cholesterol and promote wound healing.
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One additional benefit of arginine is that your body can use it to make ornithine. Ornithine, in turn, helps make other amino acids, such as proline. Because ornithine can be made from arginine, it is not an essential amino acid. According to certified nutritionist Phyllis A. Balch, author of "Presciption for Nutritional Healing," ornithine supports the liver, boosts the immune system and increases fat metabolism.
Lysine is one of the nine essential amino acids. You must obtain it through foods such as cottage cheese, eggs and chicken. Like many amino acids, lysine helps your body build muscle. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lysine may prevent herpes outbreaks if taken on a regular basis. Lysine also helps you absorb calcium, build collagen and make another amino acid, carnitine. Carnitine helps lower cholesterol. Because lysine is an essential amino acid, a daily amount is recommended. The recommended amount is 51 milligrams per gram of protein ingested. Men typically need 56 grams of protein and women need 46 grams. Men, therefore, should strive for about 2.8 milligrams of lysine a day and women should strive for about 2.3 milligrams.
Taking any nutrient, including amino acids, in supplement form can cause side effects. Therefore, if you choose to take arginine, ornithine or lysine in supplement form, consult your physician first. If you have a herpes viral infection, avoid arginine, as it may cause the virus to multiply, according to MedlinePlus.com. If you are taking medication to lower blood pressure, arginine may enhance its effects and cause it to go to low. Pregnant women and schizophrenics are advised to avoid both arginine and ornithine.