Here at The Fertility & Pregnancy Acupuncture Clinic we often suggest supplements for clients if we feel it might help their particular circumstance. One of these is an amino acid called L-arginine which can improve fertility in both men and women. It does this through improving blood flow to the uterus, genital and ovaries, thereby increasing endometrial thickness and egg quality in women and sperm quality and libido in men. It can be obtained by the body through both food and supplements and is generally well-tolerated with few reported side effects.
Mechanism of action
L-arginine is converted into a substance called nitric oxide when ingested, and it relaxes and widens the blood vessels. This action improves blood flow and circulation through-out the body. Due to this action it has been used for a wide range of medical conditions, such as, high blood pressure, dementia, aiding wound healing and erectile dysfunction.
Who might benefit and why
Through this action of improving blood flow and circulation to the uterus, it has been used successfully to thicken the endometrium, aiding in the implantation of an embryo and the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. It is also thought to increase egg quality by increasing the blood supply to the ovaries. Due to this I always suggest L-arginine to clients who have previously had cancelled cycles due to an inadequate or thin endometrium. I also recommend it to clients with low egg quality or quantity issues, which would be known by a low AMH (ovarian reserve) level or previous poor response to IVF stimulation.
Research has shown L-arginine increases sperm production and improves sperm motility. It is also used for erectile dysfunction due to its vasodilating properties and can, therefore, support a healthy libido.
L-arginine can be obtained from both foods and supplements. Foods containing L-arginine include pulses (lentils and kidney beans), animal products, (eggs, meats and dairy products), and nuts (peanuts and walnuts). It can also be bought in supplement form from pharmacies, health food shops or your natural fertility practitioner.
Doses of between 6-30grams/day have been studied. We sell L-arginine in powder form at our clinic and I recommend clients take 1 slightly heaped teaspoon twice per day mixed in water. It can be taken with or without food or even be added to foods or drinks if desired. I have tried this but it does have quite a strange taste and I’ve found it ruins the flavour of the food or smoothie I have added it to.
Generally L-arginine is well tolerated and few adverse effects have been reported. Due to its effect of dilating the blood vessels it has been associated with low blood pressure. It may also aggravate symptoms in people with herpes. Whilst it is not deemed safe to take during pregnancy it has been used on women with pre-eclampsia and apart from headaches no adverse outcomes have been reported.