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Can You Help Nerve Pain with a Diet Rich in ALA?

Might you control neuropathy by consuming a diet rich in ALA (alpha lipoic acid)? One reader reports better success with diet than supplements.
Can You Help Nerve Pain with a Diet Rich in ALA?
Stewed chicken liver with apple and onion on wooden table

Doctors often have a hard time treating nerve pain, also called neuropathy. When diabetes causes neuropathy, physicians ask patients to control their blood glucose very strictly. In addition, they may prescribe drugs such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica). People who prefer to avoid such medications may turn to supplements for relief. Benfotiamine and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) are often helpful against diabetic neuropathy. One reader found that consuming a diet rich in ALA effectively eased symptoms of nerve pain.

Q. For years, I had idiopathic neuropathy (loss of feeling in feet and severe leg pain at night). I heard that alpha lipoic acid could be helpful, but the supplement did not work for me.

A Diet Rich in ALA:

Then, I experienced cravings for chicken livers. It turns out that organ meats are rich natural sources of lipoic acid. For the past few years I have eaten one organic chicken liver each day. I now have full feeling in my feet and no leg pain.

For me, it seems that a diet rich in ALA is far superior to the supplement. I have recommended this tactic to a few people I know with neuropathy and they have had similar beneficial results.

Does Alpha Lipoic Acid Help Neuropathy?

A. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) has been studied as a treatment for diabetic neuropathy. A review of nondrug approaches for painful peripheral neuropathy found that supplements of ALA, vitamin B12, acetyl-L-carnitine or vitamin D in deficient patients may be helpful (Current Treatment Options in Neurology, Sept. 2, 2019). 

Your approach of getting ALA from chicken livers is intriguing. To eat a diet rich in ALA, include organ meats on the menu along with vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. In addition, brewer’s yeast is a great source. Brussels sprouts, peas and tomatoes provide lower amounts of this compound.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Baute V et al, "Complementary and alternative medicine for painful peripheral neuropathy." Current Treatment Options in Neurology, Sept. 2, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s11940-019-0584-z
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