Being in constant pain can be a life-destroying experience. But there is hope. Painkilling compounds are found in many natural substances. Herbs, foods and minerals can be sources, so too can our own bodies.
Everyday food items such as banana and peanuts are rich in DLPA, but for specific treatment and pain relief, DLPA supplements are probably more helpful.
Notable among herbal pain relievers are the opium poppy; the Californian poppy, aconite, wild lettuce, yellow jasmine, and Jamaican dogwood. Homoeopathic compounds for pain relief are derived from animal and mineral sources, as well as from plants. Examples include cuttle fish (SEP – Sepia Officinalis), arsenic (ARS – Arsenicum Album), and magnesium carbonate (MAG-C – Magnesia Carbonica). But it can come as a surprise to discover that our bodies, too, have the capacity to manufacture analgesic chemicals of their own. One amino acid in particular, Phenylalanine, often referred to by its chemical name, DLPA, has been shown to have far-reaching effects in pain control. A great deal of time and research has been aimed at discovering the nature and mode of action of the endorphins and encephalins – pain releaving brain chemicals whose release is encouraged by prolonged aerobic exercise. Low levels of serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter responsible for transporting messages between groups of brain cells, and a natural mood elevator, have been linked with a reduced pain threshold.
Adrenalin and noradrenalin are hormones released during stress and exercise by the adrenalin glands. These are partly responsible for the lack of pain many people experience after a serious injury – the type of injury that often follows a sudden burst of extreme stress which has, in turn, been caused by a fight or other emergency requiring vigorous activity.
All these compounds – endorphins and encephalins, neurotransmitters and stress hormones – are proteins synthesized by the body from the amino acid building blocks that make up proteins. We obtain these from the protein foods we eat – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and vegetables – which are broken down during digestion in the small bowel into their constituent units and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Amino acids play numerous vital biochemical roles, from helping to repair and replace old and damaged tissues, so acting as a source for the synthesis of enzymes, hormones and other cellular chemicals. Around 16 major amino acids have been discovered, and they are labeled from the point of view of dietary requirements, as either essential or non-essential. The latter, for instance tyrosine, alanine and aspartic acid, our bodies can make for themselves. The essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized by the body, include tryptophan (see NATURAL CALMATIVES), from which serotonin is made, and phenylalanine, which gives rise to both tyrosine and to adrenalin and noradrenalin.
It has been found possible to isolate amino acids, like vitamins, minerals and trace elements, in the form of supplements and to use them to produce specific beneficial effects. Tryptophan, for instance, which is now available both as a supplementary dietary nutrient and as a drug, can relieve depressive illnesses, act as a sedative, encourage sleep and increase the body's pain threshold. Phenylalanine (also known chemically as DL-phenylalanine or DLPA), has proved beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain and other disorders.
DLPA is broken down by the body in a chain reaction, the successive stages of which run through tyrosine, L-dopa, dopamine, adrenalin and noradrenalin. Besides its actions as a pain reliever, various different research programmes have shown that this natural nutrient can relieve depression, improve memory and mental alertness, increase sexual interest, suppress the appetite and also be of assistance in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Dopamine, for instance, the next stage on from L-dopa, has been known since the 1960s to relieve Parkinsonism. It has to reach the next stage, L-dopa, for this effect to be realized, and the drug L-dopa has become the mainstay of clinical treatment for this condition. L-dopa is prescribed instead of dopamine itself, because dopamine does not cross the blood-brain barrier. Adrenalin and noradrenalin play vital roles besides those of stress hormones. They are released by nerve endings and brain cells, where they act as neurotransmitters mediating both sympathetic nervous activity and brain impulses.
Sympathetic nerves increase the rate and force of the heart beat; raise the blood pressure; suppress the action of the digestive organs; dilate arteries to muscles, including the coronary arteries supplying the skin and abdominal organs; stimulate the sweat glands and hair root muscles in the body; and dilate the pupils. Some of these effects make DLPA unsuitable in cases of migraine, depression treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) drugs, (for example pargyline, phenelzine, procarbazine, isocarboxazid), phenyl-ketonuria (PKU), and heart disease.
It is generally thought that an increased production and release of adrenaline and noradrenalin in the brain and other body tissues probably accounts for DLPA's ability to relieve chronic pain. Increased brain levels are responsible for DLPA's anti-depressant effects since, in common with serotonin, adrenalin and noradrenalin are also mood mediators. Low levels of adrenalin and noradrenalin have been discovered in a number of depressed patients, and the MAOIs act as antidepressants by raising the level of both neurotransmitters and dopamine in brain tissue.
Natural sources of DLPA include cheese, non-fat dried milk, pickled herrings, peanuts, avocado, pears, banana, lima beans, almonds and sesame and pumpkin seeds. Supplements are available as tablets from health food stores, but check with your doctor before taking them if you are pregnant or being treated for high blood pressure. Like other natural nutrients, DLPA is safe to take provided you do not suffer from any of the complaints that contra-indicate its use, and take the specified dose. Reported adverse reactions include raised or lowered blood pressure and migraine headaches, and the chances of these occurring are increased by taking supplementary tyrosine concurrently, which should therefore be avoided. But comparative research indicated there is less risk of toxicity from DLPA than from even vitamin C and one of the other 'side effects' experienced included a surge in energy and activity.
Some recent studies and research indicate that pre-menstrual tension symptoms may also be associated with the release of endorphins. In the United States, many women have been successfully treated for PMS just by strictly adhering to a vitamin-and mineral-rich diet, together with supplements of DLPA.
Mrs. Bertha Pocock, aged 52, went to her doctor complaining of 'never being free from pain' as she has suffered from osteoarthritis for the past 10 years.
Her GP had prescribed several varieties of anti-inflammatory drugs for her condition but the side-effects caused her to abandon treatment after recurrent bouts of stomach pain and diarrhoea. Various other nutritional supplements had been tried but no benefit had been gained from Devil's Claw, and neither fish oil extract nor green lipped mussels were satisfactory since she was allergic to fish.
Finally her doctor recommended supplements of DLPA. These were taken after breakfast every day and after a month, Mrs. Pocock told her doctor that she was very much better. She was able to walk further, and she was sufficiently improved to resume her previous hobby of knitting.
WHAT TO EAT?
Cheese, peanuts, avocados, bananas, herring and sesame seeds are all good dietary sources of DLPA