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Arginine is an inexpensive amino acid, a protein building block, that has been used to treat heart attacks, interstitial cystitis, hemorrhoids and Peyronie's disease. However, no good data show that arginine helps to prevent heart attacks.

Many diseases are caused by sustained contractions of muscles. Arginine causes your cells to make nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes muscle spasms, so it can be used to treat diseases caused by muscle spasms such as a painful bladder condition called interstitial cystitis (1,2), because it stops the bladder from going into painful contractions. It treats hemorrhoids (3,4,5,6,7,8) because they are thought to be caused by spasm of the anal sphincter. It helps to prevent (9,10,11) and treat (13) heart attacks by widening arteries, preventing blood cells called platelets from clumping and starting to form clots and by preventing plaques from forming in arteries. It may also treat Peyronie's disease by dissolving the scarring that causes the penis to bend to one side and it may well be effective in treating heart valve damage associated with the diet drug called fenfluramine by dissolving scarring on heart valves. The doses used in the many studies are 500 to 1000 mg three times a day with meals. A death has been reported with massive overdosage of arginine (12).

1) SD Smith, MA Wheeler, HE Foster, RM Weiss. Improvement in interstitial cystitis symptom scores during treatment with oral L-arginine. Journal of Urology 158: 3 Part 1 (SEP 1997):703-708. 1.5 gm. L-arginine orally daily for 6 months. Address SD Smith, Yale Univ, Sch Med, Dept Surg, Urol Sect, New Haven, CT 06510 USA.

2) MA Wheeler, SD Smith, N Saito, HE Foster, RM Weiss. Effect of long-term oral L-arginine on the nitric oxide synthase pathway in the urine from patients with interstitial cystitis. Journal of Urology 158: 6 (DEC 1997):2045-2050.

3) SR Gorfine. Treatment of benign anal disease with topical nitroglycerin. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum 38:5 (MAY 1995):453-457.

4)NI Alstrup, OO Rasmussen, J Christiansen. Effect of rectal dilation in fecal incontinence with low rectal compliance: Report of a case. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum 38: 9 (SEP 1995);988-989.

5) WR Schouten, JW Briel, MO Boerma, JJA Awuerda, EB Wilms, BH Graatsma. Pathophysiological aspects and clinical outcome of intra-anal application of isosorbide dinitrate in patients with chronic anal fissure. Gut 39: 3 (SEP 1996):465-469. fissure healing rate of 88% at 12 weeks.

6) Lund JN et al. A randomized prospective double blind placebo-controlled trial of glycerol trinitrate ointment in treatment of anal fissure. Lancet 1977(January 4);349(9044):11-13.

7) Lund C, Scholefield JN, Glyceryl trinitrate is an effective treatment for anal fissure. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 1997 (April);40(4):468-470.

8) H Bacher, HJ Mischinger, G Werkgartner, H Cerwenka, Elshabrawi, J Pfeifer, W Schweiger. Local nitroglycerin for treatment of anal fissures: An alternative to lateral sphincterotomy? Diseases of the Colon & Rectum 40: 7 (JUL 1997):840-845.

9) Lancet editorial, 1997(Sept 27);350:901.

10) Negase S, Takemura K, Ueda A, et al. A novel nonenzymatic pathway for the genreation of nitric oxide by th reaction of hydrogen peroxide and D or L-arginine. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1997;233:150-153.

11) RH Boger, SM Bodeboger, RP Brandes, L Phivthongngam, M Bohme, R Nafe, A Mugge, JC Frolich. Dietary L-arginine reduces the progression of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits: Comparison with lovastatin. Circulation 96: 4 (AUG 19 1997):1282-1290. RH Boger, Hannover Med Sch, Inst Clin Pharmacol, Konstanty Gutschow Str 8, D-30625 Hannover, Germany.

12) A fatal overdose of arginine hydrochloride. Journal of Toxicology - Clinical Toxicology 35: 6(1997):621-625. 21-month-old girl who developed cardiopulmonary arrest following an accidental overdose of arginine hydrochloride. acute metabolic acidosis and transient, but severe, hyponatremia.

13) A Lerman, JC Burnett, ST Higano, LJ Mckinley, DR Holmes. Long-term L-arginine supplementation improves small-vessel coronary endothelial function in humans. Circulation 97: 21 (JUN 2 1998):2123-2128. oral L-arginine supplementation for 6 months in humans improves coronary small-vessel endothelial function in association with a significant improvement in symptoms and a decrease in plasma endothelin concentrations.

Checked 6/17/18

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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