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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

Reducing Neuropathy Discomfort with Alpha Lipoic Acid

"Hi, this is Dr. Silvester and I’m going to talk to you about another one of the supplements that we use in our patients who have diabetic neuropathy and that’s called alpha lipoic acid. Alpha lipoic acid has been used for 20 years, treating a lot of different conditions: HIV, sciatica, cancer, liver problems, hepatitis, strokes, vascular disease, diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. Also, it’s been used in patients who have Alzheimer’s, to try to help them somewhat. It’s not completely effective in any of those things - it’s a supplement and used as an adjunctive treatment for all of those things. It also plays an important role in nerve metabolism, because what alpha lipoic acid does, is it works in a thing called the Krebs Cycle in your cell. What the Krebs Cycle is is it’s the cycle that generates most of the energy that a cell needs. 

If you think of it like a gas tank in a car, alpha lipoid acid supports putting fuel in that gas tank. The energy requirements in cells varies a lot on the type of the cell. Your skin cells don’t require very much energy, muscle cells require some, tendons require very little because they just sit there, but nerve cells are always using energy. They’re the most nerve sensitive cell in your body. By taking alpha lipoid acid and supporting that fuel tank, you can actually increase your nerve’s ability to function normally and to heal. The other thing that alpha lipoid acid does is after you take enough that your Krebs Cycle is full, it then becomes an anti-oxidant. If you do some research on oxidative stress, we think that plays a significant role  in a lot of different disease processes including neuropathy. Alpha lipoic acid is a supplement that we use quite frequently in our patients with diabetic neuropathy, and what we tell them is that they’ve got to be a little bit careful, because alpha lipoic acid can lower your blood sugar. It’s a benefit if you have a little trouble with your blood sugar, it’s probably not a benefit if you’re under good control. Also, it can cause a little problem with your thyroid. Levothyroxine can go down and also you probably shouldn’t take it if you’re having chemotherapy or radiation therapy because it helps cells heal, and the treatment you’re undergoing to try to get rid of those problems, the reason you’re going to go on chemotherapy or radiation therapy is to kill cells, and so you probably don’t want to take alpha lipoic acid if you’re getting those.

Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to be pretty effective in helping patients with neuropathy. Thanks for listening!"