Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that has symptoms that include pain, burning, numbness, tingling, weakness, and itching. This condition occurs in patients with diabetes, nerve pressure (from abnormal bone growth or a tumor), vitamin deficiency, kidney or liver disease, and alcoholism. Even cancer treatment chemicals can also cause it and HIV patients are prone to it. The leading cause of lower limb amputation, peripheral neuropathy develops in more than 20 percent of diabetic patients. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) has been shown to help with peripheral neuropathy. But before we look at what it does for neuropathy, we need to understand what alpha lipoic acid is.
WHAT IS IT?
Alpha lipoic acid is a fatty acid found naturally inside every cell in the body. It’s needed by the body to produce the energy for our body’s normal functions. Alpha lipoic acid converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy. Other names for it include lipoic acid, thioctic acid, and ALA.
ALA is also an antioxidant, a substance that neutralizes potentially harmful chemicals called free radicals. What makes alpha lipoic acid unique is that it functions in water and fat, unlike other common antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and it seems to be able to recycle antioxidants such as vitamin C and glutathione after they have been exhausted in the body. Alpha lipoic acid increases the formation of glutathione, an important antioxidant that helps the body eliminate potentially harmful substances.
ALA is produced by the body and can be found in tiny amounts in foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas, Brewer’s yeast, brussel sprouts, rice bran, and organ meats. Alpha lipoic acid can also be taken as supplements are available in capsule form. They should be taken on an empty stomach to achieve the maximum absorption.
HOW DOES IT HELP NEUROPATHY?
Since alpha lipoic acid is thought to work as an antioxidant in both water and fatty tissue, it helps neuropathy by using the water and fatty tissue, enabling it to enter all parts of the nerve cell and protect it from damage.
Many studies have been done on the use of alpha lipoic acid. In one of the largest studies, 181 people took 600 mg, 1200 mg or 1800 mg of alpha lipoic acid a day or a placebo. After 5 weeks, alpha lipoic acid improved neuropathy symptoms. The dose that was best tolerated while still providing benefit was 600 mg once daily.
Alpha lipoic acid is a natural substance that can really help neuropathy patients. However, as with anything, always consult your doctor to determine is this treatment is right for you. There are some side effects to using this antioxidant so do not start any treatment before getting all the facts. Also, the safety of alpha lipoic acid in pregnant or nursing women, children, or people with kidney or liver disease is unknown.
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