I first became aware of the alpha lipoic regimen by Dr. Burt Berkson in the late 90's. Early on in his career, while an internist, he was given several patients who were expected to die from hepatitis C. His job was more or less to simply baby sit them in the ICU and watch them die.
But Dr. Berkson was a rebel at heart and he simply couldn't do that. Instead he called an associate at the National Institutes of Health and found out how he could treat them. He learned that alpha lipoic acid had some impressive experimental support. Remarkably, although these patients were expected to die within a few weeks, they all completely recovered!
However not all went well for Dr. Berkson. As he made his superiors look foolish, they simply could not tolerate that so rather than embrace his findings, they actively suppressed the results and made his life miserable for showing them up.
This was a pivotal moment in Dr. Berskson's career and caused him to make choices that eventually led to where he is at now. Since then, Dr. Berkson has lectured all over the world on this topic, and published a study on the use of antioxidants for the treatment of hepatitis C.
His first book, The Alpha-Lipoic Acid Breakthrough was published in 1998.
As many of you already know, I am not fond of recommending many supplements, but I do believe that antioxidants make sense for many of us.
Why You Need Antioxidants
Your entire body, including your DNA, is under endless, daily assault from a variety of sources, from poor diets to pollution. Think of your cells, including your brain cells, each getting hit by free-radicals thousands of times a day. This violent process is called "oxidation," which damages your cells.
Enter antioxidants. They include vitamins and other nutrients that target free radicals.
Food, particularly fruits and vegetables, is a powerful source of these valiant protectors, and your body produces some itself. Their role is to limit the damage to your cells, which can slow down disease and signs of aging.
In the case of alpha lipoic acid, your body does produce it in minute quantities, but most of it comes from your diet. Some of the best natural sources include grass-fed red meat and organ meats.
The Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) has many functions, but it's one of the most effective free radical scavengers, and the only one known to easily get into your brain.
It also has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and glutathione. So, when your body has used up these antioxidants, if there's ALA around, it helps regenerate them.
You may not know this, but glutathione is another very important antioxidant. You can get it from supplements, but the only form that works effectively is the reduced form, which is difficult to absorb when taken orally. It is much more cost effective to supplement with precursors, or items like alpha lipoic acid that regenerates glutathione.
Alpha lipoic acid also recycles coenzyme Q10 and NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
But, if that wasn't enough, this powerful antioxidant is also:
- A great modifier of gene expression to reduce inflammation
- A very potent heavy metal chelator
- An enhancer of insulin sensitivity
The benefits of ALA can appear near miraculous. For example, according to Dr. Berkson, Russia has successfully used ALA intravenously to reverse ischemia reperfusion injuries by injecting it right after a heart attack or a stroke.
And people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome tend to do much better when taking lipoic acid, as it enhances insulin sensitivity.
There's even been quite a bit of research showing it can restore T cell function. T cells are a type of white blood cells that are of key importance to your immune system, and are at the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors your body's immune response to specific pathogens.
What Health Conditions Can be Treated With Alpha Lipoic Acid?
Clinically, alpha lipoic acid seems to be a useful supplement in treating hepatitis C. It can also be used for painful nerve conditions in diabetes, and may help slow down the aging process itself through its reduction in free radicals.
Dr. Berkson uses ALA along with low dose naltrexone (LDN) for the reversal of a number of more serious health conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Dermatomyositis (an inflammatory muscle disease)
- Autoimmune diseases
Most of his patients normalize in about one month on this combination of ALA and LDN.
What is Low Dose Naltrexone?
Naltrexone (generic name) is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug and alcohol addiction -- normally at doses of 50mg to 300mg. As such, it's been an FDA approved drug for over two decades.
However, researchers have found that at very low dosages (3 to 4.5 mg), naltrexone has immunomodulating properties that may be able to successfully treat cancer malignancies and a wide range of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, and Crohn's disease, just to name a few.
As explained on the informative website www.lowdosenaltrexone.org, when you take LDN at bedtime -- which blocks your opioid receptors for a few hours in the middle of the night -- it is believed to up-regulate vital elements of your immune system by increasing your body's production of metenkephalin and endorphins (your natural opioids), hence improving immune function.
Can Alpha Lipoic Acid Help Your Workout?
Alpha lipoic acid can be a potent aid when you exercise vigorously.
In my interview, Dr. Berkson gives an anecdotal story about a friend - an international weight lifting champion -- who regularly uses ALA prior to meets.
Unfortunately, there are no set guidelines on dosage and timing. It can be highly individual, and is something that requires a little bit of trial and error in order to get it just right.
But if you suffer from any of the conditions listed above or diabetes it would certainly seem like a useful supplement to consider.