Split pea and ham soup: Although split peas are high in arginine, they are traditionally cooked with high lysine ham, for a balanced and very nutritious soup.
Lysine is all about
Powerpoint of High Lysine, Northern European Ancestral Diet-click on button
Milk and fish are the two foods that are highest in lysine. Here, fish is baked in milk, for a traditional Finnish dish.
Lysine is needed for so many basic bodily functions that a deficiency of lysine in our diet would contribute to a broad range of serious health problems. Yet, although lysine is readily available in protein foods, for a number of reasons it is difficult to consume adequate lysine-30 mg per kg - in the typical American diet. This was recognized in the 1950's, when Congress considered fortifying bread with lysine, but this never happened.
Traditionally, people have included high lysine cheese and/or fish in their regular diet, but both foods are eaten far more in European countries than in the U.S. In Asian countries, where they eat little dairy but a lot of grains, fish consumption is very high. In fact, the Japanese eat more than 3 times more fish than we do in the U.S. Also, ginger is widely used, and ginger contains the digestive enzyme trypsin, which digests arginine.
A big issue is that the amino acid arginine limits availability of lysine, plus an excess of arginine causes many problems. These amino acids need to be balanced in a diet, as they are in traditional diets. Grains, nuts, seeds, and some legumes are much higher in arginine. Historically, grains like wheat, rye, millet, rice, and quinoa were ground to a flour, then fermented for many hours. Examples are sourdough bread, South Indian rice pancakes and African teff or millet breads. Fermenting lactobacteria break down arginine, increasing the ratio of lysine in wheat flour from 55% to 81%!1
Many of the foods that we eat today are very high in arginine, and our favorite, wheat, is the grain highest in arginine. Plus, we prepare the wheat with little or no fermentation: for bread, pizza, pasta, pitas, muffins, crackers, and desserts. Other popular foods that are much higher in arginine are hummus, soy foods, peanuts, cornmeal, almonds, breakfast cereals, snack bars, flaxseed, rice, orange and grape juice, wine, and dark chocolate.
Pesticide exposure can be an important cause of lysine deficiency because common pesticides (flea and tick), fungicides, and herbicides bind lysine. The cotton seed poison gossypol, present in cattle, poultry and fish feed, as well as in cottonseed oil, also binds lysine. This is an issue for farm animal health and animal foods, such as meat, dairy and eggs. In addition, caffeine inhibits the breakdown of arginine. Finally, sugar and physical and mental stress might be very significant barriers to getting adequate dietary lysine, because sugar binds with lysine when heated, and stress depletes lysine.
As a result of all of these factors, it is difficult to consume adequate lysine in America today. Lysine deficiency may thus be a major contributing factor of many common health problems. However, using traditional diets as a guide, it isn't difficult to make sure that you get your daily lysine.
Peanut butter is the most concentrated source of arginine, with 650 mg of extra arginine in two tablespoons. Cottonseed oil may also be added.
The Critical Importance
Do you suffer from shingles or cold sores? Do you have chronic pain? Have you tried going gluten-free, but still get bloated? Do you suffer from Candida, inflammation, colds, or allergies? Are you low in calcium and iron? Do you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or hair loss? Do you have anxiety, depression, or low energy? Are you inattentive, or have poor short term memory? A diet that is low in the amino acid lysine and high in arginine can lead to all these problems, and much more. Lysine is an essential amino acid, so it must be obtained in our diet, but the body makes all the arginine it needs. Dietary arginine competes with lysine for absorption, thus it interferes with actions of lysine. In addition, the effects from excess arginine lead to many health problems.2,7
HEALTH BENEFITS OF LYSINE:
Very high lysine pork loin, paired with lentils, which are higher in arginine, makes a well-balanced and highly nutritious meal.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: increases natural killer cell activity, regulates inflammatory immune response (inhibits TNF and IFN). Studies have found that viruses, bacteria, and parasites are dependent on arginine for survival. Also, excess nitric oxide (from arginine) can become peroxynitrate, whic enhances infection. Lysine regulates/breaks down arginine, limiting nitric oxide. Adequate lysine in collagen prevents viruses and bacteria from entering cells. So, it may be important to limit arginine for all pathogens, like it is for the herpes family: simplex 1/2, zoster (chicken pox/shingles), HPV, Epstein Barr, cytomegalovirus. These herpes viruses are found w/cancer, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, birth defects, autism, hypertension, autoimmune diseases. 7,9,10,11,12,17,25,27
HEART, ENERGY, FAT, DIABETES: as collagen: keeps heart, arteries/capillaries strong, prevents damage; lysine increases carnitine (uses fat for energy), reduces abdominal fat, lowers LDL and triglygerides, fights free radicals, helps angina, blood flow, nerve regeneration, prevents lactic acid build-up (in CFS, fibromyalgia); maintains B3 (protects against stroke, mental illness); maintains insulin receptors, prevents insulin resistance, lowers blood sugar, prevents cortisol inflammation, prevents cataracts and neuropathy.2,3,4,16,19,23
DNA, DEGENERATION, CANCER: has a vital role in DNA expression, repair, and preventing muscle degeneration, silences cancer retroviruses. Lysine activates key cancer fighter protein p53. Also, adequate lysine in body cells prevents cancer growth by preventing enzymes from destroying the collagen.6,8,17,20,26
HORMONES: acts as receptors for hormones, thus regulating them-insulin (helps to prevent insulin resistance), vitamin D3, Vitamin A (growth, regulates anti-inflammatory immune response), major sex hormones, blood pressure hormones (sodium/ water balance, progesterone production), oxytocin (breast milk production, social behavior, parenting), thyroid (regulates metabolism and detoxification), dopamine, which is low in Parkinson's, ADHD, and is released in large amounts by stimulant drugs (meth, heroin, cocaine, etc.).4,5,22
INHIBITS TESTOSTERONE CONVERSION TO DHT: lysine inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), affecting both women and men. DHT can lead to infertility, enlarged prostate/ cancer, hair loss, depression, insulin resistance, frequent urination, excess body hair, abdominal fat, acne.13
CALMING EFFECT: lessens pain and anxiety by regulating “feel-good” neurotransmittors GABA, opioids, and serotonin (helping with aggitation, digestion, autism, addiction, depression, seizures, migraines, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and pain). For example, adding lysine to bread lowered anxiety levels in Syrian males.1,2,14,15
CONNECTIVE TISSUE: with vitamin C, forms, stabilizes, and repairs strong and elastic collagen (25-35% of body protein) and elastin-for supple skin, hair, functioning gums, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles, heart, veins, arteries, blood vessels, capillaries, cells, lungs, ears, retina, cornea, stomach, intestinal mucosa, blood-brain barrier. Stiffening of arteries from broken down elastin is major cause of heart attack and stroke.21
ENERGY, MEMORY, RECYLCLING WASTE, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE: is a precursor for acetyl coenzyme A, producing energy (ATP). Acetyl coenzyme A becomes acetylcholine for attention and memory-low in Alzheimer’s. Lysine prevents build-up of waste products (found in Alzheimers, Parkinson's). Acetylcholine induces heart NO only when artery elastin is intact (through lysine), preventing HBP and blood clots (heart attack, stroke).16,26
HEMOGLOBIN, CALCIUM: increases blood oxygen; strong bones, teeth, nails, tooth enameling, eyes; decreases calcium loss. Inadequate lysine can lead to osteoporosis, bloodshot eyes, anemia, kidney stones.2,7,13,14
METABOLIC ACIDOSIS, MUSCLES, ADRENAL FATIGUE: counters acidosis (Arginine article); improves strength (as carnitine, prevents lactic acid build-up and stiff and painful muscles, prevents muscle wasting), helps form and repair strong muscles; prevents adrenal fatigue by reducing cortisol (anxiety, high blood sugar).18,24
ACTIVATES MANY ENZYMES, REGULATES ARGININE: see Arginine article.
Soaking buckwheat in whey raises the lysine, lowers arginine, and makes very tender waffles.
High arginine seeds, nuts, soy, peanuts and corn are also high in the inflammatory omega 6 fat, linoleic acid.
HIGH LYSINE FOODS HAVE A HEALTHY BALANCE OF OMEGA FATS
Just as there is a significant difference between animal protein and plant protein, there is also a significant difference between animal and plant unsaturated, or omega, fats. Omega 6 and omega 3 fats are called "essential fatty acids", because they can't be produced in the body, but must be obtained from food. The essential fats include DHA, EPA, GLA, and arachidonic acid.
It is important to eat foods that have a balanced ratio of unsaturated fats, that is, omega 6 and omega 3 fats. This is because omega fats are very active in many processes of the body, and they balance each other. Not surprisingly, traditional fats like fish and meat fat, dairy fat and eggs from grassfed animals have a healthy ratio of DHA and arachidonic acid, from one-to-one to four-to-one. Other traditional fats, like coconut oil and olive oil, have little omega fat.
In contrast, high-fat plant foods, like nuts, seeds, soybeans, corn, and peanuts, have no DHA, EPA, GLA or arachidonic acid, but are very high in the omega 6 fat linoleic acid. Linoleic acid must be converted in the body to GLA and arachidonic acid to be utilized for its many crucial functions. Likewise, alpha-linolenic acid, the omega 3 fat in plants, must be converted into DHA and EPA, using the same enzymes. Margarine and oils from these plants, which are very inexpensive, are now very widely consumed in the United States, rather than the usable omega fats, DHA and arachidonic acid. Foods from animals that have been fed only grain are also high in the linoleic acid.
LINOLEIC ACID VS. ARACHIDONIC ACID
ARACHIDONIC ACID The small amount of plant omega 3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, that is in canola or flaxseed oil is converted very poorly, or not at all, to the usable anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats, EPA and DHA, that are found in fish. Omega 6 fat from plants, called linoleic acid, must first be converted into arachidonic acid to make it usable. An adequate amount of arachidonic acid is critical to kill pathogens, prevent allergies, and fight cancer, for the functioning of our brain and nervous system (including making our own cannabis-like hormones), for heart health, bone, cartilage and muscle strength and repair, vision, fetal development, and for our digestion (prevents leaky gut and fatty liver) and pancreas.1,2 Arachidonic acid is the principle long chain fatty acid in almost all organ membranes, and is essential for cell integrity.8 In other words, adequate arachidonic acid is critical for physical and mental health! Not surprisingly, traditional foods, such as salmon, sardines, chicken, liver eggs and pork, happen to be the best sources for arachidonic acid.
It's interesting that when we are told that a new food, such as frog legs, "taste like chicken", we know that it will be a healthy food. It turns out that the high amount of arachidonic acid in chicken actually gives chicken its flavor, because arachidonic acid itself tastes like chicken! The arachidonic acid in chicken soup may thus be the reason that chicken soup is called "Jewish penicillin". Given the critical importance of this fat, similarly to the sweetness of lysine vs. the bitterness of arginine, we seem to crave what is healthy for us.
IMMUNE SYSTEM Arachidonic acid (AA) plays a major role in our immune system. When we are attacked by a virus, bacteria, parasite, or fungus, AA produces prostaglandins and leukotrienes to kill the intruder. So, without AA, pathogens cannot be destroyed. Lipoxin, an AA hormone, is needed to resolve inflammation and its harmful free radicals superoxide and peroxynitrite, and to increase glutathione and prostacyclin (the repair hormone).13 Lipoxin also lowers pain perception. In addition, AA is converted into relaxing marijuana-like hormones, which relieve pain. Other AA hormones inhibit the unnatural production of DHT in women and in older men, which causes sexual aggression, abdominal fat, frequent urination, hair loss, dry eye, and high blood sugar.14
LINOLEIC ACID Seeds are very high in the related omega 6 fat linoleic acid, which must be converted into arachidonic acid to be usable (in the same way that plant omega 3 fat must be converted into EPA and DHA to be usable). Oil is made from many kinds of seeds (including cottonseed, which is not even considered to be food!), but this oil is not a traditional fat, for traditional plant fats are made from fruits: olives, palm fruit, coconuts, and avocados. In fact, it wasn't until industrial processes and solvents were invented in the 1800's that they could be produced. Then, in 1980, seed oil consumption was encouraged by the USDA and, soon thereafter, the medical profession. In the same year, the USDA encouraged Americans to eat plant oils and nuts, and to avoid the best, traditional sources of AA: egg yolks, chicken fat, butter, lard, etc. Since that time, modern vegetable oil has become the main fat that is eaten in America. Unfortunately, these oils have now been found to be inflammatory, due to their very high amount of linoleic acid.29
INFLAMMATION The reason that is usually given for the inflammatory effect of linoleic acid is that linoleic acid (LA) is turned into arachidonic acid (AA). It is true that AA is converted into leukotrienes and PGE2 when attacked by free radicals, toxins, or pathogens. However, although LA is converted into AA, using the delta 6 desaturase enzyme, in laboratory mice (natural seed-eaters), this conversion is negligible in humans-less than 1% is converted-and for many people even less or none is converted. This is true for those who have little delta 6 desaturase activity, and includes infants, elderly, alcoholics, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, ADHD, and for people with Northern European or Native American ancestry. Caffeine, pesticides, and infections also block this enzyme (D6D is a serine and threonine enzyme, see information about serine and threonine, below). As a result, a 2011 study found that, for people following a Western diet, LA did not increase AA in body cells.18
The very low conversion rate was known as early as 1980, when a study showed the "unexpected" result that linoleic acid did not produce prostacyclin, a hormone from AA that is critical for heart health and respiration, among many other functions. The study also showed that LA actually reduced prostacyclin, as well as AA, while adding AA increased its production.21 Moreover, people with chronic inflammatory illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, test low for AA, and the more AA they have, the lower their inflammation.9 This makes sense, since AA is needed to kill viruses, plus it produces critical hormones that resolve inflammation. Regarding MS and other diseases of the nervous system, AA is needed for myelin integrity, and to build and repair myelin.27,28 In addition, fat-soluble vitamin K2, also found only in animal fat, protects cells that synthesize myelin against damage caused by free radicals.3
FREE RADICALS A major problem with eating omega 6 fats found in peanut butter, soy, nuts, and seeds is that, when they are not converted into AA, they are inherently unstable and easily turn into free radicals. For example, when seed oils are used for frying, they become transfats and other free radicals.17 Similarly, when these oils are eaten and there is any inflammation occurring (from mental or physical stress, toxins, virus), the LA in our cells is oxidized, which sets off a chain reaction of free radicals. These free radicals then cause both AA and LA to be converted into inflammatory hormones. However, LA free radicals, which, unlike AA, are made non-enzymatically, are found in far greater numbers than AA hormones.16 In inflammatory diseases, HODE's are found in LDL up to 100-fold higher than in healthy LDL, and HODE's are the "most abundant oxidized fatty acid" in the plaques that block arteries, which can cause heart attacks.30
A study from the National Institute of Health stated that chronic pain “may be particularly dependent on oxidation of linoleic acid."5 A high ratio of LA to AA is found with "insulin resistance, diabetic complications, and some tumors."12 HODE's are so common in inflammatory illness that, in a study on subclinical hypothyroidism, they were called "nearly ideal markers" for inflammatory diseases, including diabetes.4,6 In major contrast, arachidonic acid was found to protect against diabetes.7 For example, a major hormone from arachidonic acid, prostacyclin, is "very low" in diabetes, which causes the brittle red blood cells of diabetic neuropathy.33 In addition, AA supplements prevented central nervous system birth defects in diabetic rats.19 Several studies have found that exposure to pesticides causes obesity and insulin resistance when they gave rats a "high fat diet", in which soybean oil (linoleic acid) was the fat.31 HODE's are found with many serious diseases: heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, chronic pain, cataracts, asthma, and many cancers.10,11 Furthermore, the most reactive free radical from lipid peroxidation, 4-HNE, which damages mitochondria and plays a major role in the pathology of many serious diseases, is also produced mainly from LA.15
The other main problem with plant omega 6 foods, like modern oils, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds, is that the LA displaces AA in our body cells, digestive system, organs, and brain, so we have less AA to perform its many and varied functions in the body. In fact, researchers found that the anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure benefit of ketogenic diets is due more to the replacement of arachidonic acid and DHA in brain cells (increased by 15%, lowering LA and free radicals) than to the state of ketosis.18
MENTAL HEALTH Linoleic acid consumption was found to lower serotonin, which is a key hormone for mental health.26 The National Institute of Health did a study which showed that, in countries with a high consumption of linoleic acid, there is more mental illness, aggression, suicide and homicide.20 This may also be due to the displacement of arachidonic acid in the brain. AA is a critical brain fat, is used 4 times as much as the omega 3 fat DHA, and is needed for myelin (nerve covering) formation and repair, which is impaired with neurodegeneration and mental illness.32,27,28 Thus, AA is essential for the health of our entire nervous system. For example, when people with Alzheimer's and autism were given AA, their sociability was improved.24,25 Another study showed that, following anesthesia, AA restored the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, for it lowered stress-induced glutamate and raised "steady state" acetylcholine, as well as the major detoxifiers glutathion and SOD.23 (see references 9, 22 for more information on AA)
It is thus possible that the increase in violence seen since the early 1900's, throughout the world, is due in part to the dietary change from traditional fats to modern, high linoleic acid seed oils. For example, sheep tail fat has been used for cooking throughout the Middle East, in North Africa, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India, for many thousands of years. Starting with cottonseed oil, seed oils have largely replaced tail fat for cooking in all of these countries. At the same time, there has been a great increase of aggression, suicide, and homicide.
Thus, the same foods that are higher in lysine and lower in arginine have healthier fats as well as healthier protein.
LYSINE DEPLETED BY PESTICIDES
The common pesticides atrazine, neonicotamides, and organophosphates have been found to impair lysine's actions.19,20,21 The common pesticide Round-up is an organophosphate. Organophosphates also inhibit the enzyme trypsin, which digests lysine and arginine. Trypsin inhibition was found to activate the immune system in the intestines, leading to gluten intolerance.22 Organophosphate residue is found on wheat, which is the grain that is highest in arginine (thus requiring more trypsin for digestion).23 The pesticide synergist piperonyl butoxide, which "is suspected of causing anorexia, carcinogenesis, convulsions, and dermal irritation, as well as hepatic and renal damage", is sprayed on wheat to repel pests during storage.26 Pesticides may thus be a major contributing factor for the growing problem of gluten intolerance, as well other problems. Piperonyl butoxide also blocks the cannabinoid receptor, and may thus contribute to the popularity of cannabis.25
Organophosphates also bind to (phosphorylate) serine, threonine, histidine, tyrosine, and cysteine. This is because these amino acids are particularly reactive and they're present on the active sites of our enzymes, receptors, hormones, etc. Heavy metals, solvents, and other toxins phosphorylate one or more of these amino acids as well. The development of obesity and diabetes has been linked to exposure to a variety of these toxins, such as bisphenol A and flame retardants, and low levels of serine, threonine, histidine, and lysine are found with these problems. 27
A deficiency of these six amino acids may be a very important contributing factor to the development of modern diseases:
Serine is a major target of many toxins. Serine is needed for methylation (histamine breakdown, DNA, hormones, vision, muscle building, regulates "fight or flight" response, prevents fatty liver), is at the active site of hundreds of enzymes and receptors, and is vital for brain/nervous system function (NMDA receptors). Serine enzymes break down blood clots and fibrin (scar tissue), gluten and dairy casein, excess cholesterol and triglycerides, plus they relieve pain (through cannabis-like hormones) and they repair DNA. As phosphatidylserine, it controls cortisol release and is the building block of myelin. In the case of serine deficiency, serine is produced from glucose, and serine actually tastes a little like sugar. So, a serine deficiency causes cravings for refined carbohydrates and alcohol. The process of making serine from glucose also produces metabolic acidosis (lactic acid), which is a major problem.
Serine is being studied to treat ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, high cortisol, schizophrenia, PTSD (can be caused by chemical exposure29), OCD, cocaine addiction, autism, depression, and insomnia, all of which studies have found a link to toxin exposure. Interestingly, latent viruses, such as herpes viruses, are "re-activated" via phosphorylation on their own serine/threonine active sites, so toxins may be the main culprit in the many diseases where re-activated virus activity is found, such as autoimmune diseases and cancers. Also, the malfunction that causes insulin resistance is the result of phosphorylation of a serine and threonine enzyme.28 Similarly, many toxins, including heavy metals, are estrogenic, meaning that they phosphorylate serine on the estrogen receptor. This leads to cancer, cysts, hair loss, allergies and asthma, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and more.34 Dairy products, meat and fish are the best sources for serine, and canned salmon is a particularly good, yet inexpensive, source.
Threonine tastes like a mixture of vanilla and brown sugar, a taste many of us crave! Threonine is a major component of our protective gastric mucosa, which is impaired with leaky gut. Thus, threonine, combined with serine, cysteine and proline, prevented the development of colitis and "reequilibrated the gut microbiota".33 Threonine is also needed for tooth enamel, so it prevents cavities. The enzyme HNMT, that breaks down histamine in the nervous system, needs to have threonine at its active site.30 The other histamine breakdown enzyme, DAO, may also be a threonine enzyme.32 Threonine is used to treat MS, back pain, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injury. Threonine crosses into the spinal cord, where it becomes glycine, which calms the nerves, relieving stiff muscles and inhibiting spasticity. Threonine (as converted into glycine) is a major component of elastin and cartilage, so it's needed for strong and resilient skin, joints (including the jaw joint), muscles, neck, and heart. Accordingly, supplementation with threonine helps with temporomandibular joint, as well as neck and shoulder pain. Beef, pork , poultry, fish and shellfish are the best sources of threonine.
Histidine is a major component of our immune system. Notably, histidine is at the active site of arginase, the lysine-regulated enzyme that metabolizes arginine, thus preventing the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Histidine regulates the metabolism of iron and copper by sequestering free iron and using it to make hemoglobin to make red blood cells. One reason that this is very important is that pathogenic bacteria need iron to survive and to replicate. So, histidine is used to treat bacterial infections, anemia, allergies and eczema, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (histidine is low with these diseases). Histidine is also converted into histamine during the inflammatory immune response, and needs to be controlled by threonine enzymes (see above). Interestingly, children with dental fillings were found to have lower levels of threonine (needed for dental enamel), but were completely lacking in histidine (histidine normally controls the iron-eating bacteria that produce plaque and cause caries). As the active component of metallothionein, histidine also expels heavy metals. Fish broth, beef, pork, and poultry, all important traditional foods, are top sources of histidine.
Tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure, motivation/reward, and physical coordination. Low levels of dopamine causes the symptoms of Parkinson's, which is linked to pesticides. Tyrosine is needed for thyroid hormone, is the active of many enzymes and receptors, such as the insulin receptor. Tyrosine is critical for stamina, memory, focus, and dealing with stressful situations. Many addictive behaviors, such as gambling, drugs, and sex/pornography, raise dopamine, so these behaviors may be the result of low levels of tyrosine. Tyrosine is very high in cheeses, and the crystals that are found in parmesan cheese are tyrosine crystals.
Cysteine, as N-acetyl-cysteine, is used to treat many diseases, for it is the precursor to glutathione, the body's major anti-oxidant and heavy metal chelator. Cysteine, which is made from serine, is also converted to taurine, which prevents afibrillation, blood clots, congestive heart failure, gall stones, and cataracts. Whey protein powder is the best source of cysteine, especially if it is processed at a low heat.
So, these six amino acids are critical to virtually every bodily system, and a deficiency would be very problematic. Yet, pesticides and other toxins are nearly impossible to avoid, for they are applied on gardens and lawns, in homes, on pets, on field crops, and on livestock. The CDC found pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in 100 percent of people who had both blood and urine tested, plus pesticides have been found in breastmilk.4
Thus, pesticides and other toxins may be major contributors to both mental and physical diseases, due to a deficiency of lysine, serine, threonine, histidine, tyrosine, and cysteine. So, garden and pet pesticides, solvents (including nail polish/remover, varnish, food additives, DEET), cigarettes, fragrances, plastics, exhaust, floor polish, heavy metals, etc. should be avoided. Crops that are grown with the most pesticides include almonds, grapes, berries and other fruit, spinach, sweet peppers, celery, carrots, corn, soybeans, and cotton, and high-gluten wheat, legumes, and potatoes are sprayed with Round-up pre-harvest. Pesticides accumulate in fat, so conventionally-produced meat and dairy products would contain the pesticides in their fat. Thus, unless the animals are raised organically, their meat, eggs and diary products should be low in fat.
Toxins are passed down during pregnancy, so it's important to support the body's detoxification systems. Lysine protects against lead and cadmium, which are stored in bones and teeth. Histidine, serine and threonine (as metallothionein), and serine/ cysteine (as glutathion) chelates all heavy metals. Also, tyrosine protects against mercury. The vital role that amino acids play in taking heavy metals out of our bodies underscores the importance of adequate daily protein. In addition, it could be very helpful to take all six amino acids as supplements, as many people have found.
COTTONSEED'S NATURAL PESTICIDE
You may not be planning to serve cottonseeds or cottonseed meal for dinner, but both products of the cotton plant are present in some meat and dairy, and some baked goods today. Cottonseeds have a natural pesticide, called gossypol. Gossypol is very toxic, for it binds to lysine, as well as to manganese, iron, and potassium. Gossypol also binds to DNA, causing genetic mutations.
Cottonseeds are so toxic that, historically, U.S. cotton farmers disposed them as toxic waste, even though they are very high in protein. But, since the late 1800's, farmers have mixed cottonseed meal with animal and fish feed, although many have died from the poison. Cottonseed is processed to lower gossypol, however, some gossypol gets into the meat from these animals, especially those raised on industrial farming operations.8
Gossypol poisonings of farm animals, and thus gossypol present in meat and dairy products, has risen since the 1980's. This is because, rather than pressing out the oil, solvents are now used. This results in ten times more gossypol remaining in the meal!33 Signs of gossypol poisoning are anorexia, heart failure, infertility, anemia, shortness of breath, abdominal distension, red blood cell fragility and breakage, and membrane permeability.1,2,8,14 Gossypol also causes gastroenteritis, so it was a popular homeopathic remedy for inflammatory bowel disease, or gout, in the 18th and 19th centuries (in homeopathy, small amounts of a poison, that causes the symptoms of the illness that is being treated, is given to patients). Unfortunately for these patients, gossypol also inhibits detoxification, so even small amounts of gossypol build up over time, causing many other ill effects.
Dr. Bruce Semon found that feeding mice minute quantities of cottonseed, at a level equal to eating meat over a lifetime, produced Alzheimer's tangles. 2,8 The extremely high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio probably contributed to this. In contrast, it is thought that, for many reasons, "diets high in lysine and low in arginine may be associated with lower prevalences of AD".24 Pigs and chickens are fed less cottonseed because they are more prone to heart attacks and infertility from the poison, so pork and poultry contain less cottonseed than meat from cattle, whose digestive system offers protection. 0n big dairies, cows eat about eight pounds of cottonseed meal daily for years, then are used for hamburger or hot dogs.7 Cottonseed oil is also turned into transfats during digestion, which get into meat and dairy fat.13
In India and China, where animals have been fed cottonseed since ancient times, people eat little or no beef.12 China produces the most cottonseed in the world, and feeds most of it to their animals. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, a study in China, led by Dr. Colin Campbell, found that people who ate the most animal protein in China had the most deaths from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Highly refined oil from cottonseed is also widely used in prepared foods and in cheaper restaurants, especially for deep frying.
The body normally produces all the arginine it needs. In a study, dietary arginine, as well as its precursors, were eliminated for 4 weeks, yet study subjects were able to produce the same amount of arginine as before the study.1
One problem with excess arginine in our diets is that it competes with lysine for absorption: during digestion, entry into cells, and crossing the blood-brain barrier.4,15 Thus, excess arginine interferes with lysine functions. Also, lysine regulates many actions of arginine, so these actions can become harmful with excess arginine. In addition to diet, many people get an excess of arginine by taking supplements, or by using skin, hair, or sex enhancement products with arginine.
METHYLATION, HOMOCYSTEINE, AND MTHFR
Creatine, which helps supply energy to cells, is made from arginine. This process uses 70% of the body's methyl groups, and excess arginine was found to impair methylation.33 Methyl groups are of critical importance: to make serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and carnitine, repair DNA, activate enzymes, detoxify the body of the many chemicals we ingest, metabolize sulfur, and much more. Thus, poor methylation is a major health problem and is associated with all serious diseases, as well as miscarriages, birth defects, food sensitivities, infections, ADD, and ADHD.34 For example, methyl groups are needed to recycle homocysteine to methionine (for methylation), and arginine supplementation was found to raise homocysteine in heart patients.33 This issue is very important for people with a mutation of the MTHFR gene, which causes poor methylation. Up to 60% of Americans are thought to have a mutation of this gene.
GROWTH HORMONE, IGF-1, AND CANCER
Arginine induces growth hormone (HGH), which is converted to insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) for cell growth. However, excess HGH can cause joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, enlarged heart, hyperthyroidism, distended bellies, enlarged male breast tissue, and can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia. Moreover, high levels of IGF-1 are linked to colon, breast, and prostate cancer. 30,51,21 HGH release is normally stopped at high levels of IGF-1, but excess arginine "overrides this action,” keeping growth hormone at high levels.40 In fact, eliminating dietary arginine was found to reduce tumors, and "arginine deprivation" has been shown to be a promising treatment for skin, pancreatic, prostate, liver, bone cancer, leukemia, and other cancers.46,47
NITRIC OXIDE: THE LADY, OR THE TIGER
Arginine contains four times more nitrogen than most other amino acids, so it is the source for the nitrogen used by the body to make nitric oxide (NO). The enzyme eNOS produces a small amount of NO, which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, and is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Similarly, neuronal NO is essential for a healthy brain. In these ways, arginine functions as "the lady", with the desired effect.
One function of blood vessel dilation from NO is to enable men to have an erection. Arginine is thus marketed as a "prosexual nutrient".17 Notably, arginine is widely taken by bodybuilders and athletes, including teens.
NO, which is also a highly reactive free radical, is induced in large amounts by the inflammatory immune system, where it is a major player in the inflammatory immune response. This is critical to fight infections. However, in excess, NO combines with free radicals, generated from the inflammatory immune response or from toxins, to make peroxynitrite. NO also inactivates the vital CP450 enzymes, thus inhibiting the metabolism of toxins and drugs.71 In addition, NO slows down enzymes that convert cholesterol to sex hormones, cortisol, and activated vitamin D, plus it inhibits release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which reduces alertness and activity, and may lead to addictive behaviors (which increase dopamine artificially).74 Thus, in excess, or with inflammatory conditions, nitric oxide can be "the tiger" instead, and cause much damage.
Peroxynitrite is a major free radical that damages tissues, plus it constricts blood vessels, which raises blood pressure.54 Lysine lowers inflammatory NO, preventing the formation of peroxynitrite.73 It does this by breaking down its source: arginine. Lysine also increases natural killer cells, which efficiently destroy viruses, bacteria and parasites. Then, once these pathogens are destroyed, the inflammatory immune system is turned off, thus limiting the damage from NO and peroxynitrite.
Alcohol increases inflammatory NO production, and researchers have suggested that a low arginine (low NO) diet would enable people to stop smoking.42 Elevated ammonia levels also increase inflammatory NO production (see Urea, Ammonia and Metabolic Acidosis below).
Membrane permeability is a major problem in many diseases. In excess, a growth factor that is induced by NO, which is VEGF, has a "detrimental role" on membrane permeability.57 Accordingly, arginine supplements were found to increase intestinal permeability.61 This may be why side effects of arginine supplements include worsening of allergies and bloating. VEGF expression is also high in type 2 diabetes, asthma and cancer.68 The receptor, VEGFR-1, is elevated in autism, and greater intestinal permeability enables undigested gluten and casein to enter the blood stream.72 This is a major problem for people with autism as well as many others who are sensitive to these foods.
Excess inflammatory NO is found in many diseases: leaky gut-blood-brain barrier, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, mental illness, inflammatory bowel disease, schizophrenia, insulin-dependent diabetes, cataracts, constipation, asthma, osteoarthritis. Excess NO prolongs illnesses such as the flu. The widely used drugs Prednisone and Minocycline, as well as vitamin B12, lower NO by destroying arginine. Production of excess NO thus uses extra B12 and may cause a deficiency. Damage from peroxynitrite is a “crucial pathogenic mechanism” for heart problems, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune, shock, neurodegeneration, cancer. Excess NO also increases fatality with heart attack and sepsis, and lysine is suggested as a therapy for sepsis. Similarly, interference with arginine metabolism "holds great promise for the treatment of cancer (and autoimmunity".6,7,8,9,11,18,19,31,32,44, 49,53,55,56,57,58,59,61,70
ALS patients are advised by Stem Cell Therapies: "For the sole purpose of not contributing to excess nitric oxide production, you would at a minimum want to choose mostly from foods with a ratio of more lysine than arginine."10
Lysine, combined with aspirin, was effective treating rheumatoid arthritis and neuralgia. Lysine also controlled symptoms in schizophrenia and a case of IBS.20,21,22,23,45
Regular lysine supplementation also controlled symptoms in a case of Raynaud's.21 A lysine salt was also found to protect against diabetic neuropathy, which is induced by a vasospasm.63,64 People who have Raynaud's often suffer from migraine headaches as well. NO can induce migraine, as well as tension headaches, because it dilates blood vessels, and NO inhibitors prevent both kinds of headaches.43 Lysine plus niacin has been found to be effective against migraines.65
The body also produces arginine to maintain proper blood pressure. This is done via the hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP) and via nitric oxide (produced by the arterial wall). AVP raises blood pressure by inducing a vasoconstriction, narrowing blood vessels and retaining water, plus it enhances blood clotting.84 In contrast, healthy NO, induced from eNOS, lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels (vasodilation). Arginine retailers claim that arginine helps heart disease. However, arterial NO is induced only when the collagen (from lysine) in arterial walls are intact. In fact, lysine supplementation normalized blood pressure among hypertensive people with sub-optimal lysine intake.82 AVP is also "paradoxically" increased during heart failure, which contributes to the accumulation of fluid found during heart failure. 83 Arginine was recommended to heart attack patients until, in a study, the only study participants who died of a second heart attack were those taking arginine.60
Thus, the heart-healthy effect of NO from arginine depends on the presence of lysine, both as acetylcholine and as collagen. This is the classic case of “the lady, or the tiger” because, although we hope that arginine will produce arterial NO, in excess, it can lead to many problems. On the other hand, beets, which contain an important component of methylation, have been found to increase arterial NO, so they are included in the high lysine diet.50
RAISED INSULIN AND HYPOGLYCEMIA
Dietary arginine prolongs the raised insulin levels that occur during digestion, which can be harmful. Chronically elevated blood insulin levels play a key role in the development of high triglyceride levels, and can lead to damaged arteries, pro-inflammatory body fat, balding, acne, near-sightedness, and hypoglycemia.37,38,80 In contrast, lysine has very beneficial effects on the activity of insulin, for it was found to increase diabetics' insulin receptor enzyme activity, which lowered their blood sugar by 27%.78 Phosphorus for bone/teeth health was also decreased during arginine-induced insulin peaks in normal subjects.81
AVP and OXYTOCIN
In addition to raising blood pressure, arginine vasopressin plays a key role in social behavior. AVP is associated with male sexual arousal, aggression, depression, fear, anxiety, eating disorders, and OCD, plus it increases long term memory. 36,24,41,69,77 AVP also raises stress hormone cortisol, while lysine regulates cortisol. It is interesting that the most commonly used drugs-caffeine, alcohol, and marijuana-inhibit AVP. Thus, excess AVP may cause cravings for these drugs. Lithium, a mood elevator used to treat neurological disorders, paranoia, and addictions, also inhibits AVP.
In contrast, the other key social behavior hormone, oxytocin, induces relaxation, empathy, social interaction and attachment, and is called the "love and parenting hormone". Interestingly, AVP and oxytocin are nearly identical in structure. The only difference is that AVP contains 2 additional amino acids, one of which is arginine, while oxytocin contains no arginine. Females have more oxytocin receptors, probably because oxytocin has much to do with childbirth and breastfeeding, while males have more AVP receptors.
VIRUSES, BACTERIA, PARASITES, CANDIDA
A major problem with excess arginine is that it is food for bacteria, parasites, viruses and Candida, so they can replicate.66 (For more references, see "The Critical Importance of Lysine") In fact, one of the functions of our anti-inflammatory immune system is to break down arginine via the enzyme arginase to destroy viruses, parasites and malignant cells.2 Arginase also needs the amino acid histidine to function, and histidine is another amino acid that is depleted by toxins, so arginase may be low in many people (see "Lysine depleted by pesticides"). 28 Thus, people with herpes take lysine regularly to control growth of the herpes virus.
Also, it is very common for bacteria and viruses to be inactive, for the great majority of Americans are estimated to have latent infections of many bacteria and viruses. In fact, two people informed me that they didn't realize that they had the herpes virus until they took arginine supplements and broke out with a cold sore the next morning. Latent bacteria and viruses are found with autoimmune diseases, cancer, and heart disease. Arginine plays a large part in the flu, because the severity of flu increases with a greater amount of inflammatory nitric oxide.
Blood-sucking insects, such as bedbugs, mosquitoes, tics, and lice, have an enzyme in their saliva that binds with the arginine that is present in blood, which enables the blood to flow more readily.48 It may be, then, that people with high blood arginine are more attractive to these pests.
Ammonia, which contains nitrogen, is formed in the intestines from the nitrogen in amino acids, or from the breakdown of muscle protein, or from pathogenic gut bacteria. Ammonia, which is very toxic, is expelled from the body by first forming it into glutamine, then transporting it to the liver. There, ammonia is converted into arginine, and then into urea. Arginine is exceptionally high in nitrogen, because it contains four times more molecules of nitrogen than most other amino acids. Excess arginine builds up in the kidney and can contribute to gout.5
Lysine has a critical role to play in ammonia/urea disposal because it regulates or enhances two of the enzymes that expel nitrogen. Fully functioning enzymes are vital because ammonia builds up in the muscles and brain when the urea cycle is not functioning properly.3,4 Elevated blood ammonia is found with cigarette smoking, high blood sugar, heavy exercise, stress (raised cortisol). In addition, Candida, parasites, viruses, and bad bacteria grow by metabolizing arginine, and these pathogens are a major source of excessive ammonia and the related uric acid, which are the results of arginine metabolism.
Elevated ammonia leads to both mental and physical symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches, confusion, inability to concentrate, low body temperature, drowsiness, lack of coordination, shortness of breath, combativeness, muscle stiffness and weakness, lethargy, low serotonin, enlarged liver, tremor, blurry vision, and anorexia.75 Many diseases are characterized by high ammonia levels, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, Alzheimer's, MS, ALS, autism, diabetes, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, Lyme disease, Parkinson's, alcoholism, poorly functioning liver, anorexia, OCD, and congestive heart failure. Furthermore, during the inflammatory immune response, excess ammonia increases production of inflammatory NO by contributing more nitrogen.76
EFFECTS ON ENZYMES
Excessive intake of arginine can cause many problems, some of which are related to its displacement of dietary lysine. For example, lysine is required for many enzymes, such as for the urea cycle. Also, the "anti-aging" SIRT1, that resveratrol stimulates, must first bind with lysine, contained in an enzyme, in order to stimulate release of thyroid hormone.12 Not surprisingly, then, people who are hypothyroid are low in lysine.14 Thyroid hormones maintain a healthy body weight and support detoxification, so this is an important way that SIRT1 protects the body against the harmful effects of obesity and disease.
Lysine also activates MnSOD, which is a critical enzyme that protects mitochondria (our power generator) from free radicals.13 MnSOD also is a tumor suppressor, while inflammatory nitric oxide enhances tumor growth.26,39
Excess arginine interferes with the essential trace metal molybdenum. Molybdenum is a component of enzymes that metabolize potentially dangerous substances: sulfites, nitrites, purines, and Candida toxic waste products. So, this problem of excess arginine may have major health consequences.
BLOATING, HYPOGLYCEMIA, GERD
The following are listed as side effects of arginine supplements: gout (high lysine foods decrease risk), dizzyness, light-headedness, bloating, dehydration, headache, restless legs, indigestion and GERD (arginine increases gastrin and prolongs esophegal sphincter relaxation), swollen legs, chest pain, low blood sugar, lower back pain, breathing problems, blood abnormalities, worsening of low blood pressure, sickle cell anemia, allergies, asthma. 6,16,35,52
NEED FOR MORE LYSINE THAN ARGININE
The body already makes all the arginine that we need and an excess causes many problems. On the other hand, we cannot make lysine, yet lysine is required for numerous critical actions, so an adequate supply is essential for both physical and mental health. From our current state of health and diet, it appears that many Americans could be low in lysine relative to arginine. Therefore, it is very important at this time to replenish our lysine by eating foods with more lysine than arginine.
HOW SWEET IT IS!
A high lysine/low arginine diet is naturally a good- tasting diet for a very basic reason: lysine tastes much better than arginine! Lysine has a sweet taste and can thus be dissolved in water when taken as a supplement. In contrast, arginine is very bitter, and can only be taken as a pill.
To get an idea of the taste of lysine, think of the aroma of freshly baked bread. That aroma is the lysine that has carmelized as the crust. In contrast, high arginine raw nuts and seeds have a somewhat bitter flavor. We improve them by roasting them, but the improved flavor is, once again, carmelized lysine! Unfortunately, that lysine is indigestible, so the little lysine in nuts and seeds becomes even lower in the effort to make them palatable. It appears that sweet is also healthy, and bitter nuts and seeds should perhaps be left to small rodents, who happen to be the only mammals who eat them in the natural environment.3 Yet, even the squirrels ferment their nuts before eating them, by storing them in their cheek pouches! Also, unlike humans, arginine is an essential amino acid for lab mice and rats, so it is questionable how well arginine studies that use these animals might apply to humans.
Proteins in a high lysine diet have a high lysine/low arginine ratio. Animal proteins include dairy, fish and meat that are cottonseed-free, that is, wild-caught fish and grassfed meat. Also, ground bison is higher in lysine than hamburger meat. Black, kidney, pinto, and white beans are also higher in lysine, while tofu and lentils are about equal in both. Soy flour, chickpeas, favas and peas are higher in arginine. Lentils, soy and chickpeas are often paired up with grains for a complete protein, but a high lysine food should be included as well. A good example is how traditional Indian lentils, split peas, or chickpeas with rice are always served with raita made from water buffalo milk yogurt, which is 50% higher in lysine than cow's milk yogurt. Notably, when lentils or soybeans are eaten as mature sprouts, they are higher in lysine, as are peas with edible pods.
Dairy products are the foods that are highest in lysine. Whey has the most lysine by far, then yogurt and raw aged cheeses. Raw cheese is better than pasteurized because pasteurization lowers lysine content, plus raw cheese retains the milk digestive enzymes.1 Milk products from goats and sheep are higher in lysine than cow's milk, plus they may be easier to digest for some people. Eggs and seafood contain equal lysine and arginine. Eggs and seafood, like all animal protein as well as whole grains, are good sources of methionine for methyl groups (which excess arginine depletes). Methyl groups combine with lysine form carnitine and acetyl choline.
Whey is readily available as protein drinks, and it has little to no casein or lactose. Whey is also the best source of cysteine, and cysteine is another source of methyl groups. Glutathione, the body's "master de-toxifier", is made from cysteine, and researchers found that whey increases glutathione (in mice).16 Whey improved lung function in cystic fibrosis patients, who have little glutathione. Whey contains a large amount of lysine, and a lysine salt was found to maintain levels of glutathione.18 Lysine also helps to control blood sugar, and diabetics who drank whey with their meals had a significant reduction in blood sugar levels.4
Roots like potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, and turnips, which are an important part of traditional diets around the world, are all higher in lysine than arginine. In addition, beets, as well as cherries, help rid the kidneys of excess arginine.5 Beets also supply betaine, which helps to replenish the methyl groups that excess arginine depletes. Regarding betaine, quinoa and wheat germ are the top sources, and so are helpful in recovering from a high arginine diet.
Yeast spreads from brewer's yeast and nutritional yeast are popular in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Most yeast products are very high in lysine, and are conveniently sprinkled on high vitamin C vegetables or made into a cheese-like sauce. Yeast is also high in B2, B3, B5, and B6, for lysine absorption.
Grains are an important traditional food throughout the world, as a source of complex carbohydrates. Grains are also a good source of methionine, but a poor source of lysine. Methionine must be paired with lysine to form a complete protein, so typically grains have been paired with legumes, which are higher in lysine than grains. However, grains, as well as some legumes, are also very high in arginine.
Traditionally, grains have been prepared in ways that raise the lysine content, such as grinding and fermenting them with lactobacteria, as is found in yogurt, sourdough, cultured butter, and sauerkraut. This raises the amount of lysine significantly (see chart below). Examples are the sourdough buckwheat pancakes of Bretagne, and sourdough English muffins. Moist cooking of pasta and dumplings, and cooking in fat also helps to retain lysine, which is broken down with dry cooking. In Europe and India, the lysine in grains would be improved by long-cooking in milk, for traditional porridges. An easy altermative is to soak grains, like oatmeal and quinoa, overnight with extra water and some yogurt or sauerkraut juice, then cook until creamy. The importance of grain fermentation and raw dairy products in traditional diets is fully explained in the excellent cookbook "Nourishing Traditions", by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Rye is the grain with the lowest amount of arginine, plus it can be made into sourdough bread, in which lactobacteria remove more arginine than baker's yeast. Sourdough rye bread is the bread of choice in traditional cuisines of most of northern Europe and Russia. Oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat are a little higher in arginine than rye, while the grains highest in excess arginine include wheat, rice, and cornmeal. However, corn tortillas and hominy (which, unlike plain cornmeal, are processed for more nutrients) have little excess arginine.
Whole wheat, because it is high in protein, is very high in arginine (especially the bran), and sprouting just slightly improves it. Thus, whole wheat pitas (with yeast instead of traditional sourdough) have twice as much excess arginine as white bread or cooked quinoa, and six times more excess arginine as cooked oatmeal (equivalent weight). In contrast, at 81% lysine, white sourdough bread, the traditional bread of France, has very little excess arginine; in fact, it has the same as for rye sourdough crackers.
Vitamin C and lysine form the structure for collagen, including the arterial wall, which develops lesions in heart disease. In addition, the formation of carnitine from lysine and methionine requires vitamin C. Linus Pauling had "rapid results" when his heart patients took vitamin C and lysine, and many others have reported similar results.2,7 Also, vitamin C activates arginase, which breaks down arginine.
Vitamin B is essential for the actions of lysine in the body, and a deficiency depletes lysine. For example, B vitamins help us deal with stress and stress raises cortisol, which depletes lysine. B1 is needed for energy production from carbohydrates, and a deficiency causes metabolic acidosis, anorexia, inflexibility, irritability, excessive emotions, and muscle weakness. B1 is depleted with sugar, refined flour, coffee, tea, alcohol-especially wine, sulfites in ozone/smog and many processed foods, and mental and physical stress. As a result, B1 deficiency is "widespread."23 Pork, the principle traditional meat of Northern Europe, and the most popular meat worldwide, is by far the best source of B1.
Another important B vitamin, B5, is the "stress vitamin", and is needed for myelin and a strong heart. B5 is made into CoA for energy production, and to make bile, sex and adrenal hormones, hemoglobin, cholesterol, and vitamin D. B5 breaks up mucus, prevents teeth grinding, acne, apathy, and more. The best sources of B5 are mushrooms, salmon, chicken and avocado, which are also high in lysine.
Vitamin B12 detoxifies nitric oxide, which is supplied by arginine. So, a diet that is high in arginine may result in excess nitric oxide and utilize extra B12, thus leading to a B12 deficiency. Liver, clams, sardines, beef, tuna, trout, and salmon are the top sources of B12, which is found naturally only in animal products.
Zinc, Iron, Manganese, Calcium, Molybdenum
Adequate amounts of the trace mineral zinc in our diet is critical for both mental and physical health, yet, similar to lysine, zinc is depleted by pesticides and other chemicals, plus another mineral, copper, competes with it. Among its hundreds of bodily functions, zinc supports many actions of lysine, such as its immune functions, fetal development, thyroid, muscle and heart health, and anti-anxiety effect. Iron is likely to be low with lysine deficiency, due to lysine's role in forming hemoglobin. Traditional foods, like oysters, meat, eggs, dairy products, and other fish/seafood are good sources of zinc, iron, and some are good sources of copper as well. Dietary zinc needs to be eight to ten times higher than copper, because copper competes with zinc for absorption. Legumes and grains are also sources of iron, zinc and copper. However, due to phytates, they must be fermented to enable the absorption of zinc and iron, so we don't just absorb the copper. Seeds and chocolate contain zinc and iron, but they also contain a large amount of copper, as do fruit and potatoes.
Copper toxicity is "increasingly common", due to estrogens (in birth control-found in our water, pesticides, plastics, food additives like BHT, etc.) that bind to the estrogen receptor, which increases copper and depletes zinc.21 Also, stress and a diet high in refined carbohydrates, carbonated drinks (phosphorus), caffeine, and alcohol deplete zinc. Cadmium, from smoking and chemical fertilizers, is more readily absorbed with zinc deficiency, because cadmium closely resembles it. Furthermore, both cadmium and mercury displace zinc from our major detoxifier of heavy metals, metallothionein.
Copper stimulates the brain, so a high level of copper and low zinc affects both mental and physical health with: fast-moving and highly creative thinking, anxiety, depression, aggression and emotional meltdowns, Asperger's, ADHD, bipolar, poor immune/detoxification/repair system, hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, enlarged prostate, birth defects and infertility, diabetes, poor vision, and weak heart and muscles.
Manganese is very important in the High Lysine Diet because it's a component of arginase. Similar to zinc in a number of ways, manganese is depleted by refined carbohydrates and by caffeine. Excess copper (from low zinc) decreases manganese, but replenishing manganese lowers toxic levels of copper. Manganese detoxifies the brain of ammonia and excess glutamate by converting them to glutamine, so low manganese causes seizures. Also, similar to how zinc superoxide dismutase is the protector of our cells, manganese superoxide dismutase is the protector of our mitochondria. Mitochondrial malfunction is a factor in many health problems, such as low thyroid, autism, muscle weakness, dementia, cataract, and stroke. Also, B1, biotin, vitamin C, and choline need manganese in order to be utilized. Manganese is needed for blood sugar control, bone formation, and strong collagen (cartilage, ligaments, bone). So, manganese is low with diabetes, both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis, and manganese deficiency during child development causes skeletal abnormalities.
Mussels, clams, oysters, pineapple, beets, fish, kale, and fermented or sprouted legumes and rye are the top sources of manganese, and these foods are important traditional foods. Phytic acid in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds binds to manganese, as well as to calcium, so these foods must be fermented to release the manganese. Oxalates are thought to block manganese absorption as well, so the high amount of manganese in tea, which is very high in oxalates, is unlikely to be absorbed. Rather, the caffeine in tea may deplete more manganese than it provides. Whole rye is exceptionally high in manganese, 50% higher than whole wheat, so the staple Northern European food, sourdough whole rye bread, is an excellent source of usable manganese. Also, due to its large amount of fiber, this bread is very effective at maintaining an even blood sugar level, and is recommended for diabetics and alcoholics. Common problems like seeing spots, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ pain, fatigue, low blood sugar, allergies, cold hands and feet, low HDL, and impaired fat and carbohydrate metabolism are indications of a manganese deficiency.
Because lysine is required for calcium absorption, calcium deficiency is likely with lysine deficiency. Dairy products, canned salmon and sardines, and cooked greens are all high in calcium. Excess dietary arginine interferes with the essential trace mineral molybdenum.8 Good sources of molybdenum are kelp, cheese, canned fish, legumes, fermented wheat (wheat germ), greens, and figs.
Arginine is inflammatory, and grain-based cuisines include many anti-inflammatory herbs, spices, and hot peppers, and other foods, which help with this. However, these foods are also very high in salicylates (see below). So, an alternative to reducing inflammation by adding a lot of herbs and spices to the diet is to limit arginine.
LESS IS MORE: DECREASING ARGININE
Fasting is a very healthful practice, and is common among people with grain-based diets, like in India and the Middle East. Fasting is also used in the book, The Fast Diet, for cancer prevention. Interestingly, fasting is a way to improve the body's lysine to arginine ratio, because all amino acids except for lysine begin to break down within 12 hours. Excess arginine enhances tumor growth by inhibiting the breakdown of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). Thus, the breakdown of arginine with fasting would help prevent cancer. The body's conservation of lysine during fasting is a good illustration of the fundamental importance of lysine to our health.
Pea shoots also decrease arginine because they contain the lysine enzyme ADC, which breaks down arginine to form agmatine.5 ADC is helpful in yet another way, because agmatine protects the brain and acts as an anti-depressant. Arginine can also be broken down by raw pineapple and papaya, and to a lesser extent, by avocado, figs, ginger, and mango. These foods contain the enzyme trypsin, which digests arginine. The substance in these foods which contains trypsin, called bromelain or papain, is used as a meat tenderizer and marinade.
Excess arginine can cause bloating, and wheat is the grain highest in arginine. So, if you seem to be sensitive to gluten but you still become bloated when you go gluten-free, the problem may be the arginine in wheat rather than or in addition to the gluten. Thus, eating only fermented wheat products, with less arginine, may decrease or eliminate the bloating.
If beans cause bloating, a 12 hour soaking (not refrigerated) raises lysine as well as helps predigest the beans. Plus, beans can be eaten in small portions throughout the day. Finally, if milk causes bloating, whey is a good option because it has no casein or lactose. Also, the A2 casein in goat milk is more digestible and, in well-aged cheeses, casein is pre-digested.
Excess arginine has some of the same effects as aspirin, which contains the phenolic hormone salicylic acid. Exposure to phenolic hormones has become very widespread, by way of aspirin and other NSAIDs, acetaminophen, food additives (benzoate, vanillin, BHT, food coloring), body care products, linaments and acne lotions, Pepto-bismol, fragrances, and mint flavoring in dental products, as well as bisphenol A and synthetic estrogens. Salicylates also are produced naturally in many plant foods. Foods that are high in salicylates are generally native to warm climates, and include herbs, spices, peppers, olive and coconut oils, many nuts, peanuts, fruits and berries, wine, tomatoes, avocado, tea, coffee, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
Like arginine, salicylates dilate blood vessels, raise gastric acid and insulin production, and contribute to intestinal permeability.9,10,13,17 Salicylates also inhibit glutamate enzymes, including one that detoxifies ammonia (which affects the kidneys), and one that generates GABA.15,11 One effect from this is to increase glutamate, which can be a neurotoxin in the central nervous system. Salicylates also block the conversion of the essential fat arachidonic acid into hormones that repair the myelin in our brains. These actions cause hyperactivity and more. People who are sensitive to salicylates often have eczema and hives.13 In addition, they "uncouple" our mitochondria by blocking enzymes that generate our energy source-ATP-out of oxygen and nutrients.12 This can cause fatigue, breathing problems, and a low body temperature.24,25 Similarly, a high arginine/low lysine diet increases glutamate (arginine is converted into glutamate), lowers GABA, increases ammonia (arginine has 4 times the amount of nitrogen as most other amino acids), and inhibits ATP production. Thus, limiting dietary arginine is likely to lessen some of the problems of our excessive exposure to salicylates.
One effect of excess salicylates is to reduce the protective mucus of the gut, which, along with increased gastric acid, can cause holes in the gut lining. Salicylates do this because they block production of the hormone PGE2 from arachidonic acid, which protects and repairs the gastric mucosa. In this way, salicylates contribute to irritable bowel syndrome, food sensitivities, and inflammatory bowel disease.13 It is interesting that, in times past, ulcers were cured with a bland (low salicylate) diet and by drinking whole milk.14 This would add a good amount of lysine, as well as arachidonic acid from the butterfat, to heal the gut lining (see article on arachidonic acid-right). Ulcers also involve the bacteria H. pylori, which requires arginine for survival. So, with the “milk cure”, arginine would be reduced, thus limiting H. pylori’s harmful activity.
SULFITES, NITRITES, CANDIDA
Sensitivity to sulfites and nitrites, which are food preservatives, occurs with salicylate sensitivity, autism, and asthma. Sulfites and nitrites, as well as Candida yeast waste products, are metabolized by molybdenum-containing enzymes. Sulfite needs to be converted into sulfate, which is used in the PST enzyme to detoxify phenolic compounds, like salicylates, and toxins. Excess dietary arginine was found to decrease molybdenum in the femur.8 Nuts and seeds are also high in copper, and high levels of copper lower molybdenum as well. The best sources of molybdenum are traditional high lysine foods: liver, legumes, and traditionally prepared oats and barley. In addition, the body uses methyl groups to process sulfites, and excess arginine depletes methyl groups. So, eating traditional foods like liver, bean soups, oats, and barley, and avoiding high arginine foods, might help to restore these vital activities.
Thus, in many ways, a more traditional diet, which is high in lysine and low in arginine, is likely to help people who have food sensitivities.
FOODS TO AVOID
Sugar depletes lysine Excess glucose from refined carbohydrates binds to lysine to form Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs). AGEs raise blood pressure and play a causative role in many degenerative diseases, like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Thiamine (B1) is needed to convert glucose into energy-ATP-in our mitochondria. Lysine also plays important regulatory roles in our mitochondria.20 Interestingly, accumulation of AGEs in diabetic mice was reversed by high doses of thiamine. But, the more sugar we eat, the more thiamine is used up, and, when thiamine is low, our mitochondria become dysfunctional (uncoupled) and the sugar binds with lysine to form AGEs, rather than being converted into ATP. In addition, thiamine is depleted by salicylates and sulfites.
The best sources for thiamine are pork and well-cooked/fermented beans, peas, and whole grains, especially oats and barley. Thus, traditional dishes like bean or split pea soup with ham are good choices for both lysine, thiamine, and molybdenum! Sugar also binds with lysine when heated together, plus it depletes zinc, a vital immune system mineral. So, sugar and other refined carbs should be avoided as much as possible.
Caffeine can also be a problem because it inhibits arginase, the enzyme that breaks down arginine when it is used in our immune response to form nitric oxide, or to form urea, as well as for disposal of excess arginine.
If you are currently suffering from any health conditions relating to a lysine deficiency, as listed above, it would be best to avoid foods that are highest in arginine v. lysine. These include nuts, peanuts, seeds, soy foods, coconuts/milk, and food with cottonseed oil. Just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain a full 650 mg more arginine than lysine, which is even more than a typical lysine supplement of 500 mg. Rice, cornmeal, and wheat (except sourdough or yeast-raised wheat bread) are less than 60% lysine compared to arginine, so they should be fermented, combined with very high lysine foods, or avoided.
Although chocolate contains very little protein, it is high enough in arginine that people with herpes often get cold sores when they eat chocolate, indicating virus replication. Happily, carob chips and powder, which have a chocolate-like flavor, are higher in lysine, so they make a passable substitute. However, if you can't do without chocolate, it should be limited to milk chocolate, or add it to high lysine foods.
HIGH LYSINE DIET: SUMMARY
DAIRY: whey, all milk products (raw if possible)
FISH: small, mercury-safe
COTTONSEED-FREE MEAT, EGGS
LEGUMES: beans, pea shoots, lentil sprouts, tofu
ROOTS: potato, beet, sweet potato, pumpkin
GRAIN: corn tortillas, rye and white sourdough breads, soaked oatmeal, buckwheat and quinoa
YEAST: nutritional and brewers
FOODS HIGH IN VIT. A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, C, D, ZINC, IRON, CALCIUM, MANGANESE, MOLYBDENUM
AMINO ACID SUPPLEMENTS: lysine, serine, threonine, histidine, tyrosine, and n-acetyl cysteine (see "Lysine depleted by pesticides")
FOODS TO LIMIT OR AVOID: Sugar; Caffeine; Peanuts; Nuts; Seeds; Chocolate; Coconut (milk); Cottonseed Oil/Meal (processed food, restaurant food, meat-especially hamburger); Chickpeas; Soy; Unfermented Grains; Orange/Grape Juice
If this diet is very different from your current diet, an easy first step is to cut way back on foods highest in arginine-nuts, peanuts, seeds, and dark chocolate, as well as cottonseed-and cut down on sugar and caffeine. If you can't live without peanut butter, try eating more cheese instead. If you're not used to fish, smoked fish, grilled fish, or a fish fry is a good place to start. If grassfed beef is too expensive, buy it just for hamburgers. As for sourdough bread, once you eat it for a while you may develop a taste for it. Potatoes are good substitutes for pasta and rice. Canned bean soups (cottonseed oil-free) are very convenient, and fish, yeast, or potato flakes can also be added. For vegans and vegetarians, there are some good plant sources of lysine, like beans, mature sprouts, yeast, potatoes, and fermented grains.
AND YOU'RE OFF!
With these changes, you're on your way to increasing your lysine. Please don't expect immediate results, however, because it could take months before your lysine is replenished. Depending on your need, and if changing to the diet is difficult, you can supplement lysine. However you can manage it, increasing lysine and decreasing arginine is well worth the trouble!
High Lysine Diet
At only 58% lysine, both hummus and modern (with yeast) whole wheat pitas are very high in arginine.
5.Conversation: Dr. Loren Hager DC RYT, 1/6/14.
"Prevention of tissue residues (of gossypol) in animal organ meats consumed by humans is an important public health consideration for those individuals already consuming cottonseed oil and cottonseed flour products in their daily diets. The Merck Manual
For a convenient list of lysine and arginine content for many foods, see:
Lysine is available in capsules and powder. Lysine is slightly sweet, so the less expensive powder is easy to take. Recommended daily dose is up to 1,250 mg per day, with higher doses reserved for times of illness.
"A good quantity of (aged) cheese is the best thing to eat, when distressed by eating too much fruit, or oppressed with any kind of food. Physicians have given it in cases of extreme danger."
The American Frugal Housewife, by Mrs. Child, 1833
Whey protein powder, processed at low heat, is an excellent source of lysine, as well as the other active amino acids-serine, threonine, cysteine, histidine and tyrosine.
All grains are much higher in arginine than lysine but, traditionally, grains were always fermented, so the lysine content is considerably increased, as shown in this chart.
Sourdough Bretagne buckwheat crepes with cheese and high vitamin C vegetables.
Salmon and potato patties are inexpensive and easy to make from canned wild-caught salmon and dried potato flakes.
Traditional chicken soup has a good balance of lysine and arginine, and is an excellent source of arachidonic acid.
"Using cottonseed oil in cooking may put you at risk for infertility."
Deaconess Hospital, Evanston, Indiana
Cottonseed flour is sometimes added to "healthy" high fiber baked goods, and cottonseed oil may be in "natural" foods.
Farm animals are often fed cottonseed meal. Hamburger might have the most gossypol, because it is made from old dairy cows, who have eaten cottonseed meal for many years.
Chocolate coffee creamer packs a triple punch, with cottonseed oil, high arginine chocolate, and lysine-binding sugar. Then, the caffeine in the coffee inhibits the breakdown of arginine.
DID YOU KNOW?
Lysine has the distinction of being the only amino acid to be the subject of not one, but two, Hollywood movies: “Jurassic Park” and “The Informant!”!
Traditionally, beef was made into high lysine soups, like borscht with beets and sour cream.
Lysine is critical for fertility in mammals, including breastfeeding.
Lysine is well-known by conventional farmers, who must feed it to their animals due to their grain and cottonseed meal diet.
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
There has been a sea change in the American diet, from high-lysine seafood, meat soups and stews, sourdough bread, A2 milk, beans, and roots, to a heavy emphasis on high arginine unfermented wheat, sugar, soy and peanuts, nuts and seeds, as well as caffeine and chocolate. This new diet, along with widespread exposure to chemicals that bind with lysine, and farm animals and fish that are fed cottonseed meal, has probably led to widespread lysine deficiency. Our immune and detoxification systems have been weakened because of the change from animal fat, the source of essential omega fats, to vegetable oils. Refined carbohydrates and many medications also have weakened our immune system, because they deplete zinc and B vitamins. So, we are more vulnerable to the many chemicals we are exposed to, and these cause deficiency of other essential amino acids as well. Thus, these new foods are likely to have contributed in important ways to the development of the "modern" health problems that have plagued Americans since the early 1900’s. However, this dire situation can be helped with a change for the better: back to a high lysine/low arginine traditional diet, and careful avoidance of chemicals.
Eggs have equal amounts of lysine and arginine, and are a major source of arachidonic acid.
White bean and ham soup is thickened with mashed potato for a hearty, delicious and highly nutritious soup.
Even Sheldon Cooper loves lysine-it's his favorite amino acid!
Updated on October 17, 2018