Our bodies need l-lysine for a strong immune system. Could this essential amino acid also tackle ear infections?
More than two thirds of children will have at least one ear infection by the time they’re three years old – that’s a lot of sleepless nights!1 But many adults can be affected by painful ear infections too.
It’s tempting to ask your GP for antibiotics to clear it up, but the common cold virus is the most likely cause of inner ear infections,2 meaning antibiotics would be a waste time3. However, a natural alternative could help restore your ears to normal: l-lysine.
What is l-lysine?
L-lysine is an essential amino acid, a building block of protein, that our bodies need to grow and repair. We cannot make it, so you have to get l-lysine from your food or from supplements.
L-lysine plays a key role in our immune system, helping to create antibodies. Other benefits of l-lysine include helping our body absorb calcium, producing collagen and boosting bone health.4
Handpicked content: How collagen could help your joints
How does l-lysine fight infection?
Apart from supporting a healthy immune system, meaning low levels could be linked to an increased risk of ear infections, l-lysine has also been shown to have anti-viral properties.
Viruses need arginine – another amino acid – to reproduce, but several studies have found that l-lysine blocks arginine activity.5 This can help prevent viruses spreading, or reduce the length of infections.
L-lysine is known to be particularly effective at tackling the virus that causes cold sores, herpes simplex 1, so could it also help with viral ear infections?
There’s an increasing amount of anecdotal evidence that taking l-lysine can help relieve the symptoms of Ménière’s disease such as vertigo, tinnitus, or pain and pressure in the inner ear. The exact cause of Ménière’s is unknown, but viral infections such as herpes or meningitis are thought to trigger the condition.6,7
A study by Japanese researchers in 1998 also found that taking the antiviral acyclovir had a ‘marked effect’ on Ménière’s disease.
Handpicked content: The hidden health benefits of L-arginine
Up your l-lysine intake
You can find l-lysine in strong cheeses such as parmesan, eggs, some fish, soybeans, quinoa, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and spirulina. Or you could take a supplement if you’re worried about warding off future ear infections.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
Shop our Vitamins & Supplements range.
1. Dr Mary Lowth. Acute Otitis Media In Children. Available from: https://patient.info/doctor/acute-otitis-media-in-children#ref-7
2. Bowdler D, Faulconbridge RL. Infections of the ear. Available from: https://www.entuk.org/middle-ear-infections
3. Public Health England. Health matters: antimicrobial resistance. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-antimicrobial-resistance/health-matters-antimicrobial-resistance
4. University of Maryland Medical Centre. Lysine. Available from: https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/lysine
6. Vrabec JT. Herpes simplex virus and Ménière’s disease. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12972911
7. NHS Choices. Ménière’s Disease. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menieres-disease/
8. Shichinohe M. Effectiveness of acyclovir on Ménière’s syndrome III observation of clinical symptoms in 301 cases. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290024315_Effectiveness_of_acyclovir_on_Meniere’s_syndrome_III_observation_of_clinical_symptoms_in_301_cases