What are the Different L-Carnitine Side Effects?

Laura M. Sands

L-carnitine side effects are rare. When symptoms do occur, however, individuals often note minor to moderate stomach and digestive discomfort, headaches and skin irritations. In some, bladder infections, sleep disturbances and an unusual body odor are experienced.

Hemodialysis patients may benefit from L-carnitine.
Hemodialysis patients may benefit from L-carnitine.

As a derivative of the lysine amino acid, L-carnitine helps metabolize fat. The assistance it provides is vital to good health as it delivers fatty acids directly to cell mitochondria. Unless a person is deficient in this amino acid derivative, there is generally not a need to increase its presence in the body. Although it is easily accessed through the consumption of dairy products and red meat, many people who avoid these food products purchase it in supplement form instead and are often curious about any known L-carnitine side effects.

Patient reactions to L-carnitine are typically mild and include headaches and nausea.
Patient reactions to L-carnitine are typically mild and include headaches and nausea.

Individuals suffering from hemodialysis and age-related memory loss may also benefit from L-carnitine. Researchers are unclear, however, if supplementing this amino acid will actually prevent such losses. With sleep disturbances being one of the rarely reported L-carnitine side effects, individuals taking it to slow memory loss often find it less effective.

Nausea is one possible side effect of taking L-carnitine.
Nausea is one possible side effect of taking L-carnitine.

Sometimes referred to simply as carnitine or acetyl L-carnitine, side effects are very rarely reported in healthy individuals. Few, if any, side effects are even noted in people with other health issues. In fact, in some HIV patients, antiviral medications used to treat HIV infections are known to actually cause a deficiency of L-carnitine. Side effects like these are commonly treated with carnitine supplementation, which helps restore healthy levels of it to the body.

Sleep disturbances have been reported by some L-carnitine users.
Sleep disturbances have been reported by some L-carnitine users.

Even though most people do not experience L-carnitine side effects, those who do experience issues usually report mild to moderate symptoms and disturbances such as skin rash, nasal congestion, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Several have even reported the presence of a peculiar body odor possibly resulting from chemical interactions with the supplement taking place within the body. While body odor is one of the less common L-carnitine side effects, researchers have found that it can be avoided by also taking riboflavin supplements.

Dairy products are typically high in L-carnitine.
Dairy products are typically high in L-carnitine.

Even in the absence of any apparent physical L-carnitine side effects, doctors recommend that people taking carnitine supplements also regularly undergo clinical screenings. This is due to the fact that some L-carnitine side effects are only discovered via medical testing. Researchers testing children with attention disorders have also found L-carnitine supplementation to be somewhat effective, but recommend that such treatment only be administered under a doctor’s care so that side effects can be closely monitored and treated if they do occur.

Moderate stomach and digestive discomfort is a common side effect of L-carnitine.
Moderate stomach and digestive discomfort is a common side effect of L-carnitine.
L-carnitine may be effective for children with attention disorders, but should only be given under the supervision of a doctor.
L-carnitine may be effective for children with attention disorders, but should only be given under the supervision of a doctor.

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