Alpha Lipoic Acid

What is alpha lipoic acid and where is it found?

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and restores levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione in the body. Alpha lipoic acid is unique because it works as an antioxidant in both water and fatty tissue, whereas most antioxidants function only in water. This enables ALA to enter all parts of the nerve cell and protect it from damage. ALA is found naturally inside every cell in the body and is used to produce the energy for our body’s normal functions by converting glucose (blood sugar) into energy. In addition to being made by the body, ALA can be found in very small amounts in food sources such as spinach, broccoli, peas, potatoes, Brewer’s yeast, brussels sprouts, rice bran, and organ meats. ALA is also available as a supplement.

What are the benefits?

Alpha Lipoic Acid has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and can be effective in treating diabetes and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, such as burning, pain, and numbness. It is also used for memory loss, cancer, liver disease, heart disease, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight loss and wound healing.

Are there interactions with food or medications?

ALA should not be taken with alcohol or thyroid medications.  People on chemotherapy and those with diabetes who are taking anti-diabetic medications should be cautious and should speak to a doctor before taking ALA.

Are there side effects?

Some possible side effects are headaches, skin rash, muscle cramps, and “pins and needles” sensation.


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What is NAC and where is it found?

N-acetylcysteine is both an antioxidant supplement and a pharmaceutical drug. It is also referred to as N-Acetyl Cysteine or NAC. NAC comes from the amino acid L-cysteine, and it is a precursor in the formation of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione plays a key role in regulating the immune system and many cellular functions in the body, and it can protect against a wide range of health problems.  Glutathione cannot cross the cell membrane, but NAC can cross and be converted to glutathione and reduce cell damage.

What are the benefits of NAC?

NAC is used as an antidote for both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and carbon monoxide poisoning.  Additionally, it is used as a cough medicine to break up mucus, and to treat neurodegenerative conditions (nerve related health problems). It is used in the treatment of autism, bronchitis, COPD, cirrhosis, cystic fibrosis, high cholesterol, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and HIV and AIDS. NAC is important for the brain, liver and lungs; it supports normal detoxification in the liver, protects the kidneys, and protects blood flow to the heart. NAC may aid in diabetes management and help treat polycystic ovary syndrome.

In summary, NAC is an extremely powerful antioxidant that may affect a wide range of health issues. This is because many of these health conditions are caused by free radicals that damage our cells.  NAC is one of the most effective ways to help the body get the antioxidant army into each of the cells to fight off the scavenging free radicals.

Are there interactions with food or medications and NAC?

NAC may interact with nitroglycerin and increase the effects of the medication. It also may affect some blood pressure meds, meds that suppress the immune system, some cancer drugs and drugs that treat chest pain.

Are there side effects from taking NAC?

NAC may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. It also may increase blood homocysteine levels, so this should be monitored. Seldom, it may cause rashes, fever, headache, low blood pressure, drowsiness and liver problems.

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What is melatonin and where is it found?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain, which controls sleep and wake cycles. It can be found in very small amounts in some foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is also sold as a dietary supplement.

What are the benefits of melatonin?

Melatonin is used as a sleep aid to treat insomnia and jet lag. It is also used to treat shift-work disorder, circadian rhythm disorders in the blind, and nicotine withdrawal, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and decreasing cluster headaches. Some people use it for Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, some cancers, and neuropathy.

Are there interactions with food, medications or herbal supplement and melatonin?

Melatonin may decrease blood pressure, so it should not be taken with hypotensive supplements or medications. It should also not be taken with anticoagulant/antiplatelet supplements or medications because melatonin may increase the risk of bleeding in some people. There are also possible interactions with caffeine, St. John’s Wort, sedative medications and herbs, anticonvulsants, Echinacea, and vitamin B12.

Are there side effects and melatonin?

Melatonin is well tolerated but may cause daytime drowsiness, headaches, and dizziness.  Before taking melatonin, consult a healthcare provider if you have diabetes, depression, high or low blood pressure, epilepsy/seizure disorder, a bleeding or blood clotting disorder or if you are using any medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection.

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