The Benefits of Lysine for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Closeup of a man holding a supplement pill, about to take it, representing the benefits of lysine supplementationAdrenal fatigue can happen for a variety of reasons. Healing adrenal fatigue syndrome, or AFS, requires making changes in several life areas including, lifestyle choices, diet, and adopting a program of nutritional supplementation that restores the full health and functionality of your adrenal glands, nerves, and other organs. The benefits of lysine in improving symptoms of AFS are found in this amino acid’s proven track record of reducing symptoms of anxiety, a mental health condition connected to an increased burden on the adrenal glands. When healing from adrenal overload, reduction of stress in all forms is a key to success.

About the Adrenal Glands and AFS

Adrenal fatigue syndrome, or AFS, is a condition thousands of people live with, many without even knowing what they have. Symptoms include relentless fatigue during the day, not feeling rested after sleep, insomnia, reduced sex drive, a “wired and tired” feeling, a reduced ability to concentrate and feel relaxed, and weight gain, especially in the stomach. Depression, forgetfulness, “brain fog”, and dark circles under the eyes are other common symptoms of AFS.

AFS is becoming more common and younger people are increasingly developing the condition. Our modern world contains many new sources of chronic daily stress. Activities like sitting for long periods in front of electronic devices, addiction to social media, driving instead of walking, and frequent trips to eat at fast food outlets all stress the body and mind over prolonged periods and can contribute to a person developing adrenal dysfunction.

As adrenal function declines and cortisol levels go down, the adrenal glands begin producing extra adrenaline, causing other symptoms of AFS including anxiety and irritability. Over time, AFS also results in low blood pressure, decreased immune response, and physical and mental exhaustion.

Healing Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

Healing AFS involves identifying and reducing sources of stress, improving diet and exercise habits, and utilizing dietary supplementation that supplies an abundance of nutrients associated with the nervous system, the adrenal glands and general recovery from stress. The benefits of lysine in healing AFS involve lysine’s ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety by increasing the body’s levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and thereby reducing stress on the adrenal glands, so they can heal.

Healing of adrenal fatigue requires attention to several aspects of the person’s overall life and health including:

  • Reducing stress to a minimum. Stress is always a part of life, and when adrenal function is poor, more things are stressful to the person. This can become a vicious cycle, leading the person with AFS even further into a health crisis. Changing jobs, retiring early, ending a bad relationship, and generally slowing down and not pushing oneself are all ways of getting rid of stress, so the adrenal glands can heal. Lysine can help with the body’s way of handling stress by increasing the “feel-good” hormones like serotonin.
  • Exercise and diet. Exercising in moderate amounts in also important for restoring good adrenal function. Moderate exercise is about 30 minutes three to five times a week. It is important to note that in advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, exercise may not be recommended and can, in fact, aggravate the situation. Many people who develop AFS have spent years exercising too much and need to adjust their exercise habits so exercise becomes less stressful on the body.

Healing AFS benefits from eliminating caffeine, sugar, and refined food products from the diet completely and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods like:

  • Olives
  • An avocado sliced in half with the pit remining in one half. Avocados are one food rich in the benefits of lysine and other nutrientsAvocados
  • Chicken and lean red meats
  • Walnuts and other nuts
  • Pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Coconut
  • Beans
  • Kelp

Some of these foods are high in the amino acid lysine. One of the benefits of lysine is for reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress on the adrenal glands.

The Amino Acid Lysine

Lysine is a type of amino acid which the body must get from nutrients in the diet. Some amino acids are made by the body from simpler building blocks, but lysine is among nine amino acids that the human body cannot make on its own. Amino acids are the main components of proteins which are needed in every part of the body, including in the production of hormones like cortisol.

Lysine is naturally present in certain foods, including red meats, fish, milk, eggs and some beans. There is no current daily requirement level set for lysine intake, but the average healthy, adult person’s body utilizes between 500 and 800mg a day.

Lysine supplementation above this level is generally considered safe, as long as levels recommended by the supplement manufacturer are followed. People who have a cardiovascular condition, elevated triglyceride, or high cholesterol should consult with their doctor about lysine supplements before starting them.

Evidence from scientific studies shows that the benefits of lysine supplementation include reducing symptoms of anxiety in many anxiety conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and PTSD. Anxiety symptoms involve overworking of the adrenal glands, leading to an eventual breakdown in cortisol production and regulation and development of the symptoms of AFS.

The Benefits of Lysine for Adrenal Fatigue

The body’s overall anti-stress mechanism is known as the Neuroendometabolic (NEM) Stress Response System. There are six major components. Lysine is a very powerful supplement to strengthen one of the components known as the Neuroaffective Circuit.

It has been shown in controlled studies to be beneficial for reducing anxiety. Some of these studies have revealed that lysine affects mood and anxiety levels by increasing serotonin, a neurotransmitter strongly involved in feelings of wellbeing and happiness.

Studies in rats demonstrated that a deficiency in lysine caused negative changes in the release of serotonin and led to anxiety responses. Another experiment found that giving rats a supplementation of lysine reduced anxiety in stressful situations. Scientists also attributed this result to an increase in serotonin in the rat’s brains brought about by lysine supplementation.

Written molecular composition of lysine on tablet device, next to papers with drawn structure of lysine, and a small amount of lysine powder nearby. Image represents scientific studies that were done to determine the anxiety reduction benefits of lysine.Lysine has also proven useful in reducing anxiety in studies involving humans. In a study with 108 adults in Japan, a week of lysine supplementation had a significant effect on lower symptoms of anxiety. All of the study participants were people who were experiencing ongoing stressful events or who had been diagnosed as having chronic anxiety personality traits. Both groups reported significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety after taking oral lysine supplements for a week compared to a control group who did not receive lysine supplements.

Another study examined stress levels in families in Syria who were living in marginal and highly stressful circumstances. In a random, double-blind experimental design, half of the approximately 100 families who participated in the study received wheat flour that was supplemented with lysine, and the other half received rations of flour without this additive. All of the families relied on wheat flour as a main source of food. After three months, researchers measured stress levels and anxiety in both groups and noted a significant reduction in the group who consumed the lysine-fortified flour diet. These studies show that lysine supplements can make an important contribution in lowering anxiety in people who are under stress or who are naturally anxious.

In healing AFS, it is important to keep daily stress levels at a minimum. As adrenal fatigue progresses, a person’s ability to handle stress goes down, making it even more important to find ways of managing stress symptoms. The benefits of lysine in healing AFS are that lysine supplements make it easier to manage stressful situations without becoming anxious.

Adrenal Fatigue and Lysine Supplementation

Scientific studies that directly assess the effects of lysine supplementation for healing AFS have yet to be done. However, there is no question that a diet high in essential nutrients like lysine has been an important part of the healing process for people who have recovered from adrenal fatigue because of its work on the neuroaffective circuit and the nervous systems.

There are, however, a number of studies that have shown that lysine supplements reduce anxiety in both animals and humans. Lower anxiety and stress levels is vital for restoring good adrenal function. The benefits of lysine for healing AFS are in this essential amino acid’s ability to increase serotonin which leads to a greater sense of wellbeing and relaxation and thereby puts a lower demand on the recovering adrenal glands. Unfortunately, those who suffer from advanced stages of AFS may experience paradoxical reaction. In other words, instead of feeling relaxed, more anxiety is felt instead. Always consult an adrenal fatigue literate physician prior to taking lysine if you are weak or sensitive.



© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Written molecular composition of lysine on tablet device, next to papers with drawn structure of lysine, and a small amount of lysine powder nearby. Image represents scientific studies that were done to determine the anxiety reduction benefits of lysine.
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Hello Dr. Lam, I am a Gynecologist who now lectures and teaches Holistic Medicine and Natural remedies to other health care providers around the country.. My partner had a very high Lp(a) and after reading your articles (years ago) and research his use of Proline / lysine as recommended by you, was so beneficial. His repeat Lp-(a) was normal..heart history of early MI runs in his family with his father having a heart attack at 35. I can't thank you enough for putting your knowledge out there for the good of mankind. Thanks so much!


  • Karol says:

    Can you explain what an adrenal crash is and related symptoms? I am now 75, was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroditis 15 years ago but I feel in my heart it was adrenal fatigue because after having a saliva test 2 years ago my cortisol level was pretty much flat-lined for 24 hrs with remark stage 3 adrenal fatigue. Asked doc about that and he just shrugged his shoulders so I knew he knew nothing. For the 2nd time one year prior to that my blood pressure spiked, TSH was 53 and all the endocrinologist did was change Synthroid dose and on mentioning having a saliva test for adrenal fatigue he said adrenals have nothing to do with the thyroid so I never went back to him. I did medical transcription for 13 years and know better. Found an alternative doctor, got on Armour and several months later blood pressure spiked again, TSH was in the 50’s and I went to a naturopath this time, had another saliva test showing 24-hr cortisol off the charts. He started my on Nature Throid 1.5 grains things came around and have been relatively quiet since then can’t go back to him because HealthNet doesn’t cover alternative things anymore only did it for a year. I notice I have lots of energy so I’ll go walk my 5-6 mi in 1.5 hrs and then I’ll be drained of energy for a few days until it all comes back again. I have allergic rhinitis and my allergies have never been so bad so started quercetin which is better. Now I don’t know whether all this is because I had to put my golden lab to sleep 1.5 years ago as my motivation since then has fallen through the cracks, I still miss her dearly. She was 16 yrs 10 months and was my partner (soul mate) everywhere I went. My first name has been stress my whole life having raised both boys from age of 3 and 5 minimal support from fathers and no emotional support system. I’ve worked 60 out of my 75 years and literally had to do everything including roof gutters, mowing, etc because the financial situations was such I couldn’t afford to have it done. My stress started at age 12 when my father passed away. Any info you can give me would be helpful, you might say I am a Type A person, go, go go and right now I am terribly bored which actually stresses me too. Always been healthy, active, eating organically and am basically a vegan, non-GMO gluten free person who eats sardines in a can, no processed foods at all or meat, lots of organic beans, split peas, vegetables, goat cheese, Kefir, etc.

  • Michele Finizio says:

    How much lysiine do you recommend? I take three 620mg daily for herpetic whitlow. It helps with less frequently outbreaks. I been on it for years. Is this supplement ok to take long term.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      hthe dosage for herpes is high. some neeed 3000 mg or more. some people needs a lot more. long term is not recommended.

      Dr Lam

  • Janis M says:

    Having survived for six years after being diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma and leukemia without chemo or radiation, thinking I was well, I stopped taking Essiac. Within a few months, I was very ill. I began the Essiac again without much changes. I found your information about Artemisenin (sp) about a month ago and began taking 4 capsules each a.m. and p.m. and am feeling much better. I stop taking it after ten days then resume after three days. I have continued the Essiac.
    Is there any further guidance for using that product?
    And thank you so much for your wonderfully informative articles. I pray you are blessed.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Artesminisn is not a stand alone compound but part of an overall bigger comprehensive program. Everyone is very different and each case is different as well. We need to talk on the phone if you want my further assessment as cannot be done by email.

      Dr Lam

  • DB says:

    How much lysine a day? Diet generally good, non-veggie.

    • Dr.Lam says:

      General dosage is 250-1000 mg a day. Everyone is different so you should not rely on the general for your body.

      Dr Lam