Got Fatigue? You Might Have Carnitine Deficiency

By on September 30, 2009

Nearly everyone experiences fatigue at one time or another, but when that fatigue goes on for long periods of time or when it accompanies another health problem, it can be devastating. While there are many medical causes of fatigue, often those with persistent tiredness are left without a diagnosis, without answers and without hope. For many, however, the amino acid supplement L-Carnitine could just offer some hope for a normal life again.

Some facts about L-Carnitine. It is an ‘essential’ amino acid, meaning that it must be supplied in the diet in order to meet the body’s needs. While the majority of amino acids are used for protein synthesis, L-Carnitine is special; it is not required for protein synthesis, but is used as a carrier of fatty acids into the mitochondria. the energy production centers of every single cell in the entire body. The burning of fatty acids in these miniature cellular power plants supplies MOST of the energy for the body’s skeletal muscles. While this points to the need for good quality fats in the diet, it ALSO highlights the vital function that L-Carnitine plays in producing energy.

“These findings suggest that L-Carnitine may be safely
administered at doses up to 3000 mg/day and that positive effects
may be more likely at relatively higher doses in this range.”
‘Safety, Tolerability and Symptom Outcomes Associated
with l-Carnitine Supplementation in Patients with Cancer,
Fatigue,and Carnitine Deficiency’

Since the facts about L Carnitine show that it is required to produce energy, the result of a deficiency is LACK of energy. While this is logical and there is plenty of research to back this up, doctors just simply do not look for L-Carnitine deficiency in their search for causes of fatigue. This is a big mistake because studies have shown L-Carnitine to be effective in increasing energy, sometimes DRAMATICALLY so, and the causes of fatigue from a WIDE variety of problems were helped including:


In fact, Carnitine is SO vital, that it’s lack can lead to fatigue in HEART muscles as well as skeletal muscles. This heart muscle fatigue and weakness can actually lead to Severe Heart Failure From Carnitine Deficiency as well as Congenital Heart Failure in newborn infants! While certainly carnitine deficiency is not the only reason for fatigue, and this symptom can be from many problems, including:

It’s still puzzling that doctors don’t even LOOK for L-Carnitine deficiency in their long-suffering Chronically fatigued patients when there are both blood tests and In Home Urine Tests that can accurately determine Carnitine Levels! The authors of the research article, ‘ Acylcarnitine Deficiency in Chronic Fatigue Syndrom’ state, “…the concentration of serum acylcarnitine in patients with CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrom] tended to increase to the normal level with the recovery of general fatigue. Therefore, the measurement of acylcarnitine would be a useful tool for the diagnosis and assessment of the degree of clinical manifestation in patients with CFS.”

But even WITHOUT diagnostic testing, facts about L Carnitine show it to be effective for fatigue that doesn’t respond to any other treatments. In the research paper, ‘L-Carnitine as a Treatment of Lethargy in Children with Chronic Neurologic Handicaps’, a group of profoundly lethargic disabled children clearly gained more energy after being given L-Carnitine despite the fact that their blood levels were normal! The authors concluded, “Serum levels may not be an accurate indication of bodily carnitine stores” and that they don’t have an explanation as to WHY the L-Carnitine improved the childrens’ functioning, only that it did.

This explains some of the contradictory conclusions of differing research studies on chronic fatigue syndrome. Some studies simply gave the patients L- Carnitine and recorded the beneficial effects, while other studies analyzed serum Carnitine levels and determined that the amino acid would not be an effective treatment due to the fact that the study participants had normal levels!

“… we found statistically significant clinical improvement
in 12 of the 18 studied parameters after 8 weeks of treatment.
L-Carnitine is a safe and very well tolerated medicine which
improves the clinical status of CFS patients.”
‘Amantadine and L-carnitine treatment
of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.’

As an added bonus, side effects are virtually non-existent and researchers all declared L-Carnitine Supplementation safe when used in both children and adults. It posed virtually no side effects or complications in studies, even in the group of 100 year old centenarians who improved from L-Carnitine administration! Despite the research showing the effectiveness and safety of this readily available supplement, doctors do not test for it nor do they ‘presume’ L-carnitine deficiency is one of the causes of fatigue. Even patients with fatigue who take L-Carnitine depleting medications, such as the anti-seizure drug Valproic acid or the HIV drug AZT, are often left tired and hopeless. With such an excellent safety record, if patients were only Informed of these studies, and that L-Carnitine COULD be one of the causes of fatigue, then they could decide for themselves whether a 2 month trial of Carnitine Supplements were worth it in order to have a CHANCE at improving their fatigue.

About Kerri Knox, RN

The author is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner. With 20 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in both Conventional Medicine and Alternative Medicine. She can help you to to find and repair the underlying causes of chronic illness, while empowering you to take charge of your own health. She is the owner and author of this blog and website.

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