What is Alpha Lipoic Acid and Can it Offer IBS Relief?

Last updated: January 2020

In addition to IBS, I unfortunately also suffer from a lot of spinal issues and back pain. This is due to a combination of degenerative disc disease, herniated discs and Tarlov cysts (a type of cyst that forms in parts of the spine that actually contains nerves in it so can't easily be removed). My discs and cysts cause nerve pain running down my right leg.

Here is something I have noticed for many years now: When my back and spine issues are acting up, my IBS tends to flare. Spinal/back muscles and the lower GI tract are in close proximity, so this makes sense and I am sure some (if not many) readers here also noted a connection between back pain and IBS, something I have written about before.

I was looking for answers to my pain

Specifically, the nerve pain associated with the spinal issues was really interfering with my quality of life, especially since it was making it difficult for me to walk. At night, I could feel the pain in my leg like a relentless electric current, thwarting my ability to get a good night's sleep. After a lot of reading, I came across something called Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) – an organic compound and antioxidant. I was already taking low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and some sites suggested an LDN/ALA combination, noting ALA was particularly effective at taming nerve pain.

I decided to order some ALA online and started taking it daily in the afternoons with lunch along with my daily LDN dose. After about a few days to a week, I noticed the nerve pain in my leg became less intense and less severe, as well as the nerve pain in my back. Along with that, I also noticed my IBS flares that seem to relate to my back/spine and leg pain also settled down. Conversely, when I ran out of ALA and didn't take it for nearly a week, the nerve pain came back with a vengeance and along with it, my IBS flared again.

But is ALA beneficial for IBS on its own (not only when it relates to spinal issues/troubles)?

Research about alpha lipoic acid and IBS

According to one peer-review study title, ALA, "...suppresses P2X receptor activities and visceral hypersensitivity to colorectal distention in diabetic rats." What that seems to mean in plainer English is that ALA helped these rats feel less sensitive to issues with their colon because it calms the receptors that would aggravate those nerves/functions. 1

Another study, this time conducted in mice, analyzed: "the protective effects of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) against trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS)-induced [Ulcerative Colitis]..." and concluded that "... ALA has protective properties...Our present findings suggest a therapeutic potential of ALA in [Ulcerative Colitis]."2

The website for alpha lipoic acid does note its potential to help IBD, but does warn that taking it with the drug cyclosporine "could increase colon damage."3 It notes that one small, 6-week survey of 10 IBD patients found that 90 percent of the patients went into remission.

Of course, IBD is not IBS, though some complementary treatments for IBD also tend to benefit IBS. If you are considering taking ALA, consult with your doctor first and make sure you are not taking medications that clash with it.

Have you taken ALA? Did you notice any benefits to your IBS? Please answer in the comments section below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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