Many folks suffering from Fluoroquinolone (FQ) toxicity turn to supplements to help provide their bodies with nutrients and necessary building blocks to promote healing.   One form of supplementation comes through amino acids. Amino acids are the chemical building blocks of the body that make up proteins. Protein substances make up the muscles, tendons, organs, glands, nails, and hair. Growth, repair and maintenance of all cells are dependent upon various proteins. Next to water, protein makes up the greatest portion of our body weight. There are basically two types of amino acids; first, essential amino acids that must be obtained from the diet and second, nonessential amino acids that the body can manufacture from other sources.

Amino acids are readily available in supplement form and can be found at most vitamin stores and sports houses. Amino acids are widely marketed to athletes who use them to enhance performance and promote muscle growth. Besides helping athletes, some amino acids are also good antioxidants that fight free radicals inside the body.  Many amino acids are bundled together in combinations by companies to target certain body functions such as muscle growth or intestinal support. Since amino acids are basic building blocks and are widely marketed as a natural way to provide the body with the essential building blocks it needs, surely they are safe for FQ sufferers to take, right?  Well, the answer is yes and no.

FQ’s can be toxic to the liver and some earlier versions of FQ’s were taken off of the market due to their liver toxicity profiles. Unfortunately, most FQ sufferers, at least ones that I know, have some sort of impairment to their liver as a result of the toxicity.  And many more probably have this impairment and are not aware of it or aware that it is responsible for some of the physiological responses that they experience.  The good news is that the liver has a good capability to heal and many FQ victims that have mild to moderate FQ damage seem to see faster liver healing.   For FQ sufferers, the majority of liver impairment usually comes in the form of damage to the enzymatic (cytochrome) pathways in the liver. The liver enzyme system is responsible for the biotransformation of a multitude of drugs in the body.  I will post a more in-depth article regarding liver dysfunction at a later date.

Over the years I have spoken with several FQ sufferers that, through trial and error, have determined that certain amino acids have made them feel worse or exacerbated their existing symptoms.  Some attributed this increase in negative symptoms to the fact that the supplementation with amino acids was helping the liver remove toxins from the body, but I do not believe that this is necessarily the case.   Others have told me that one amino acid will cause body pains, another will cause weakness, another will cause anxiety and some cause no reactions whatsoever.

Dr. Melissa Palmer, an expert on liver disease, says that amino acid supplementation is also potentially dangerous for people with liver disease. Although amino acids are indeed natural, it doesn’t mean that they’re always safe, especially for people with liver disease.  Now I am not implying that FQ sufferers have liver disease but I do believe that the possibility of liver pathway dysfunction caused by FQ toxicity warrants caution with the use of amino acids, or any substances for that fact. I think that, at times, some FQ sufferers assume that since amino acids are present in food, that they are benign and would not suspect them to cause problems. I have a theory that some of the reactions, not all, that folks have to certain foods may be from the amino acid content in the food, but I am not prepared to expound on that theory right now. Most of the amino acid supplements that are available over the counter come in quantities that are far greater than the amount the body needs or obtains through food sources. Consumption of excessive amounts of amino acids could cause serious side effects.

The moral of this story, like many, is one of caution.  If you are experiencing exacerbation or an increase of symptoms and are taking a supplement with an amino acid(s) you might want to research the possibility that they may be causing the problem.  Fortunately, most amino acids are readily available individually and in small amounts through various companies if you choose to experiment with any sensitivity issues.  For myself, I am slowly working through the amino acids to see which ones I respond negatively too.  I have severe digestive issues and certain amino acids like l-glutamine or l-carnosine are recommended to help heal the digestive tract lining. Unfortunately I am very sensitive to l-glutamine which exacerbates my neurological symptoms and am mildly sensitive to l-carnosine which causes weakness and some pain. To find out whether I am sensitive to an amino acid, I usually purchase a small quantity from a quality vitamin supplier and then test myself with a small amount. Just remember, a supplement that works for one may not work for another. If you have concerns about amino acids please discuss them with your trusted medical provider. Amino acids can provide essential building blocks that we need for healing but always keep a diligent eye on your supplements to make sure that they are not making you worse or causing discomfort.