PEA: The Supplement Ingredient, the Majority of Us, Need to Know

PEA: The Supplement Ingredient, the Majority of Us, Need to Know

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Most people reading this article for the first time have never heard of PEA.  Please don’t feel bad because I hadn’t heard much about it until the last year or so.  This article will focus on this amazing ingredient and why you should add it to your daily supplement regimen.  PEA stands for a long word no one should have to pronounce, palmitoylethanolamide.  While this article is on the supplement form of PEA, it is good to know that PEA is also naturally produced in the body and found in a few foods we consume, i.e., olive oil, safflower, soybeans, peanuts, and chicken egg yolks.

PEA is automatically produced by your body when key areas (cells and tissues) are damaged (an injury) or threatened to become damaged, and by stress.  The production of PEA is highest in response to pain and inflammation.  PEA is best known for supporting your body in four key areas:

  • Decrease Pain
  • Decrease Inflammation
  • Neuroprotective (protect nerve cells against damage, degeneration, or impairment of function)
  • Help Regulate Immune Function

Knowing that PEA helps the body in these four areas shines a bright light on why it is something we need to take seriously.  Considering most of us haven’t heard of PEA until this moment, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.

What is PEA?

Simply put, PEA is a beneficial fat (more technically put, fatty acid amide) produced by our cells in response to pain, inflammation, and stress.  It is also found in several plant and animal food sources such as; olive oil, safflower, soybeans, peanuts, and chicken egg yolks.  It was first identified in the 1950s and researched by some of the greatest minds, including Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Why do We Need to Take PEA if It Is Produced Naturally in the Body?

In a perfect world, your body should be able to keep up with the demand and produce enough PEA to keep you comfortable and feeling great.  Unfortunately, the reality is we don’t live in a perfect world.  Not long after the body produces PEA, it is quickly removed.  Therefore, if you have an issue with chronic pain, inflammation, or stress, your body needs to keep making more PEA to keep you comfortable.  Regretfully, the body doesn’t seem to keep up with the demand for more PEA, which leads to persistent pain and discomfort.  This inability to keep up with demand will lead to a spiral effect to worsening your condition and health over time.  Since the body can’t keep up with the demand, it is necessary to take a supplement form of PEA.

Why can’t I just eat more foods that contain PEA?

As with many compounds found in our food sources, the body often requires large amounts of these foods to be consumed to have a therapeutic effect.  This is where taking PEA as part of your daily supplement regimen becomes essential for those concerned with pain, inflammation, stress, protecting the nervous system, and supporting your immune health. 

What does PEA do?

Without getting technical, PEA has several ways in which it supports your body’s fight against pain, inflammation, neuroprotection, and immune support.  Studies show that PEA helps as an analgesic (help relieve pain) by its effects at the site of injury and inflammation.  Meaning it works in the spot where you were injured.   If you have a cut, it works on that area to help reduce the inflammation that causes you to feel pain.  Research shows PEA can be used topically to achieve these benefits.

PEA’s effects on inflammation come from multiple angles, which means your body is getting supported in many ways to help reduce prolonged inflammation.  Prolonged inflammation eventually starts damaging healthy cells, tissues, and organs.  In addition, prolonged inflammation is a risk factor for blood sugar, cardiovascular, cognition, joint, and digestive issues.  PEA helps slow or inhibit the release of inflammatory chemicals produced in the body and the central nervous system (brain, for example).  By helping slow the release of these chemicals, there is a decrease in inflammation throughout the body.

Regarding immune health, some of the inflammatory chemicals mentioned above are also linked to why PEA helps support a healthy immune system and response.  In addition, PEA has also been studied for its effects on viral infections (colds and influenza) and has shown to be very beneficial, especially at reducing the episodes of fever, headache, and sore throat.[i]  Additionally, PEA affects the cells that release histamine (mast), which means PEA will provide an anti-allergy effect.

Research with PEA has also shown it helps decrease lactic acid production in those who exercise.  Lactic acid buildup leads to muscle fatigue, stiffness, and damage.  So by reducing lactic acid production, you would expect to have reduced muscle damage from exercise and increased exercise performance.

PEA also benefits those with sleep problems by decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep, improving sleep quality, and improving the time it takes to feel awake and think when you wake up in the morning.  The effects are achieved by supporting one of the systems involved with sleep and reducing pain (pain is a contributing factor to poor sleep).

Taking supplemental PEA has also been shown to slow the breakdown of the PEA naturally produced by the body.  Slowing its breakdown allows PEA to be more prevalent and effective over extended periods.  A Win-Win situation!

Has PEA been clinically studied?

Simply put, YES.  A quick search of PubMed.gov will bring up 959 results.

Is it Safe?

Simply put again, PEA is considered safe in literally every aspect.  There are no long- or short-term side effects, no allergic reactions, no known adverse reactions with medications, supplements, conditions, or lab tests.  This means that you can take it alongside your regular therapy without problems.

What makes pea different than other painkillers?

PEA works in two different ways to address your pain, at the injury site as an analgesic and on the inflammatory response.  Most pain relievers work by either one of these methods but not both.  Or, in the case of opioid-like pain killers, PEA does not lead to drowsiness or addiction.

How much should you take?

The answer here is it depends!  The ingredient Levagen+ (PEA with enhanced ability to get into your bloodstream) has clinical studies showing doses between 175mg and 600mg per day depending on the condition.  Examples of dosing using Levagen+:

Osteoarthritis: 300-600mg per day

Exercise Recovery:  167.5mg daily

Joint Pain:  350mg daily

Headaches:  525mg daily

Sleep:  350mg 1 hour before sleep onset

What is Levagen+

Levagen+ is not your typical PEA ingredient because it uses patented technology (LipiSperse®) to make PEA get into your circulation better.  While PEA is excellent at what it does (reduce pain and inflammation), it is not easily absorbed into the body or available for use in the body.  By using LipiSperse® technology, the amount of PEA getting into your circulation improves by almost two times (actual was 1.75 times more available).  The more PEA that can get into circulation, the more potential for helping you achieve the results you need from taking PEA.  Therefore Levagen+ is a preferred form of PEA.

Summary

We can see that PEA is an excellent and safe ingredient to consider for most people.  However, rarely do people not have issues with pain and inflammation.  Inflammation can occur in the body without you even knowing it.  Since PEA is naturally produced in the body but not in the amounts, we may need daily, taking a supplement form of PEA is required.  It has been well studied, safe, and proven effective should be all you need to convince yourself that it should become part of your daily supplement program.

[i] Keppel Hesselink JM, de Boer T, Witkamp RF. Palmitoylethanolamide: A Natural Body-Own Anti-Inflammatory Agent, Effective and Safe against Influenza and Common Cold.  Int J Inflam. 2013;2013:151028.  doi:10.1155/2013/151028