October 12, 2023
Palmitoylethanolamide or PEA is a chemical our bodies use to reduce pain and swelling. PEA can be increased through a proper diet as well as taking certain supplements. Tune into this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist with Britni to learn all about Palmitoylethanolamide.
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BRITNI: Hello and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. I'm Britni Vincent, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. On today's show brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, I will be answering a nutrition question from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. And the question today is, “Wondering what your thoughts are on Palmitoylethanolamide or PEA supplement for nerve pain. I've read up on it some, but unsure if it is a safe alternative to meds. Any thoughts?”
Well, I'm going to just briefly answer the listener's question and just FYI, I am going to be referring to this as PEA throughout the show because it is quite a mouthful. So PEA, again, stands for Palmitoylethanolamide. And so again, to briefly answer the listener's question, I do think it's worth taking PEA in supplement form to try to reduce your nerve pain.
You know, with any supplement, it can take time to notice improvements. So I would say give it at least a month before you determine if it's helpful or not. And sometimes supplements for some people take even longer to notice the benefits. I know that, you know, a lot of people hope that you could notice improvement within a week, which is possible, but I always like to set up realistic expectations. And then the other thing I want to mention: when we're talking about pain and trying to improve pain, I always suggest that my clients track their pain on some sort of scale that resonates with them, only because sometimes improvement in pain can be gradual.
So if you knew what the level of pain was before you started supplementing with PEA, and then, you know, a month in, six weeks in, maybe even two weeks in, so that you could see if there is indeed improvement. Because I do have this happen often where I'm meeting with a client and I ask them about their pain and they say, you know, I'm not sure. Or sometimes they say, I hadn't thought about it, but now that you ask me, it really has improved.
So again, that would be something I would recommend is just tracking your pain before you start taking PEA and then during, just so you, you have some sort of data to go off of. So let's dive a little bit more into this topic. I think this is really interesting and learning more about it myself, it is quite possibly an underutilized supplement because so many people are dealing with chronic pain and that is really what PEA can be helpful for.
So first, what is PEA? It is a naturally occurring fatty acid amide. It's a fatty molecule produced in our body naturally and in other animals and plants. So PEA can also be found in food like meat, eggs, soybeans, peanuts. And once PEA was discovered that it was naturally occurring, there was a lot of research that was done. So there's been hundreds of scientific studies that have been carried out, and they show that it can be very effective for pain and, and generally safe to use. And PEA is often described in scientific writings as a natural painkiller.
So what exactly does PEA do in our body? And it is involved in the endocannabinoid system: ECS. ECS promotes balance in our central nervous system as well as our peripheral nervous system. The ECS also helps with relaxation and just healthy overall nerve function. And PEA is produced naturally in every cell in the body in a response to inflammatory markers.
So in research, PEA has been found to have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant properties and reduce pain. It can bind two cells in the body to reduce that pain and inflammation. And this can be beneficial often with chronic disorders. Often in people with chronic disorders, the body does not actually produce enough PEA, which can really just exacerbate the symptoms that these individuals are already having because of their chronic condition.
So taking a PEA supplement to help the body’s shortage may be beneficial and some conditions where you might think to supplement with PEA: any sort of peripheral neuropathy, you know, diabetic neuropathy, chemo induced neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatic pain, osteoarthritis and back pain. You know, those are just to, to list a few of them. And one systematic review and meta-analysis was done to examine the efficacy of PEA to reduce chronic pain.
So 11 studies were in included in this meta-analysis and several studies reported additional benefits of PEA for quality of life and functional status. And no major side effects were attributed to PEA in any of these studies. The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that PEA is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for chronic pain. And this was published in the journal, Nutrients, in 2023. So this is a very new meta-analysis. So more research is needed to determine all the benefits of PEA on the brain.
But some research suggests that it does increase dopamine and possibly other neurotransmitters in the brain and improves neuroplasticity. Because of these effects, it might also help anxiety, sleep and just promoting an overall feeling of calmness. So that could be a side benefit of, of taking PEA in addition to being a pain reliever.
So this is actually one of my colleague’s go-to recommendations for pain relief, and she often recommends this in combination with curcumin as a supplement. I actually recently discussed curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric in a recent “Ask a Nutritionist” episode called Spicy Food and Inflammation. So I'd encourage you to check that out as well. And I love sharing client stories when, when I get the opportunity just to give some real life examples.
So I've got one to share about PEA. One of my clients had a lot of knee pain that she thinks was triggered after a workout. So she took PEA and within two to three days the pain was a hundred percent gone. So that, that is more of an acute pain situation. But again, a lot of this research is on individuals that, that are dealing with chronic pain. So the supplement that we have on Nutrikey that contains PEA is called Nerve Eze. And the recommended dose is one to two capsules two times per day. And at Nutritional and Wellness, we are all about food first, right?
So I, I definitely want to address that aspect briefly because if you're eating a lot of sugar and processed carbohydrates, taking this PEA supplement may not be as beneficial. So we really want to address the food aspect first suggesting an anti-inflammatory diet to help to reduce that pain and inflammation. And I see this, you know, I on a weekly, sometimes daily basis with my clients that just reducing the sugar and processed foods significantly reduces pain and in some cases completely gets rid of it.
So what this exactly means is cutting down on, you know, chips, cookies, breads, pasta, anything that's processed that you can't find in nature. And these carbohydrates and sugar, you know, they add up really quickly and sometimes you're eating things or drinking things mindlessly too. The other thing I want to mention is keeping your blood sugar balanced. That means eating real protein, fat, and carbohydrates in combination, 'cause that will prevent big blood sugar spikes that also creates inflammation in the body.
So I encourage you to check out another recent podcast that Teresa and I did called Sugar Aches, and we elaborate more on how sugar and processed carbohydrates can cause pain. And briefly talk about some other foods that you might want to be aware of to reduce pain. So check that out and that will dive deeper into the nutrition aspect with pain.
Now I hope you learned a lot of new things about PEA today and in supplement form. I want to thank you so much for joining me today on “Ask a Nutritionist if you have a nutrition question you would like us to answer. We invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.
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