Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a powerful metabolic antioxidant that offers a natural means of treating and preventing a broad range of ailments.
Earth Clinic readers have reported that ALA has been helpful as a home treatment for painful neuropathy (pain, weakness or numbness, usually in hands and feet). This advice is supported by practice in Europe, where ALA is a recognized treatment for neuropathy.
In addition to alleviating diabetic neuropathy for those suffering from diabetes, ALA can help to control blood sugar levels by helping the body to use glucose.
Earth Clinic posters have also reported using ALA as a natural home remedy for a range of medical ailments, including cancer, liver disease, burning mouth syndrome, edema and hepatitis C.
ALA was first seriously studied in the 1950s, when it became known as a “universal antioxidant.” Researchers determined that ALA could be helpful in “recycling” Vitamins C and E, other important antioxidants. Antioxidants are generally depleted as they do their work, but there is evidence to suggest that ALA has the unique quality of being able to regenerate other antioxidants, enabling them to continue their vital metabolic function, that of preventing the damage that can be incurred by the over-production of free radicals linked to premature aging, heart disease and inflammation.
The Unique Advantages of ALA
- Universal antioxidant that works both inside and outside the cells, giving increased protection from free radicals;
- Water-soluble and fat-soluble, unlike other antioxidants;
- Beneficial in the treatment of many ailments;
- Helps diabetics control neuropathy and sugar;
- Being investigated for treatment of strokes and dementia;
- May treat or prevent onset of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, high cholesterol, macular degeneration, cataracts, cancer, early aging, wrinkled skin, heart disease and liver problems.
There are two types of ALA: R-Lipoic Acid (R-ALA) (natural) and S-Lipoic Acid (S-ALA) (synthetic).
Many of the commercial ALA supplements are a 50/50 mixture of the two forms, R-ALA and S-ALA. Due to the fact that pure R” (natural) lipoic acid was not commercially available for many years, being unstable without the “S” type, most of the research that has been done with ALA has been with this mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA, known as a racemic mix. Though they are considered mirror images of each other, there is evidence to suggest that they function very differently in the body.
Users of pure R-ALA have had to therefore rely on the intravenous delivery of R-ALA. Nowadays, however, some ALA capsule manufacturers claim that they have been able to solve the problem of instability and can produce capsules containing pure, natural R-Lipoic Acid.
R-Lipoic Acid is naturally found in plants and animals. It is found in every cell of our bodies, where it works to turn glucose into energy. It is valuable because it helps the body to fight infection while reducing free radical damage to organs and tissues. Most antioxidants are either water-soluble (vitamin C) or fat-soluble (vitamin E), but R-ALA is both water- and fat-soluble, able to work anywhere in the body.
S-Lipoic Acid is a synthetic form not found in nature. S-ALA stabilizes natural R-ALA, but many believe that it lowers the effectiveness of R-ALA.
There are several different ways to take ALA.
- Intravenous (IV) ALA is available for high-dose treatments.
- Injections of ALA may be given by a health practitioner.
- Capsules are widely available. Check to see if the capsules are R-ALA or a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA.
As this is not an officially recognized treatment in the US, there is no established dose. In Europe, 200-300 mg a day is recommended for diabetic neuropathy, although some take much higher doses. When used as a general antioxidant, 20-50 mg. a day may be recommended. It’s reported that most people tolerate up to 600 mg. a day.
- Capsules are available in varying doses. If pure R-ALA is wanted, check label. If label only says that capsule contains “ALA,” it is likely to contain a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA.
- Anti-aging specialists often recommend 400 mg per day.
- Those with diabetes or liver disease may take 800-1,600 mg. daily, divided into doses taken 30 minutes before meals. ALA may be better absorbed on an empty stomach.
ALA is sometimes used in conjunction with other treatments in varied doses. Several studies have documented longer than expected survival rates and improved symptoms after treatment with ALA and low dose naltrexone.
ALA and the Foods You Eat
Many foods contain ALA in small amounts, including red meat, especially organ meat. Other sources include: spinach, yams, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, yeast and rice bran.
Side Effects of ALA
Diabetics should check with their doctor before taking ALA as it could react with insulin and cause blood sugar to become too low. It is also recommended that anyone with liver or kidney disease, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or a thyroid disorder should check with their doctor first.
Diabetics should check with their doctor before taking ALA as it could react with insulin and cause blood sugar levels to become too low. It is also recommended that anyone with liver or kidney disease, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or a thyroid disorder should check with their doctor first.
The most serious reported side effect is that high doses of ALA could cause heart rhythm irregularities.
ALA is highly regarded as a natural remedy by many Earth Clinic readers. If you have been using ALA, please let us know the dosage that you have been taking and how it has been working for you.
Note: Do not confuse alpha lipoic acid, described above, with alpha-linolenic acid, which is also referred to as ALA.