Spotlight on PEA
Given we specialise in fighting chronic neuropathic pain including Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, ME/CFS, Lupus and Hasshimotos, we get lots of questions on treatment protocols. We thought we’d shed some light on one the most effective treatments - Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)!
PEA is substance made by our bodies. Technically it is a fatty acid amide that is related to the cannabinoids - those things found in cannabis and made by our bodies that are critically important in cell to cell communication.
With chronic pain we know that the immune system is much more involved than we previously thought. There are two immune cell types that are involved - glial cells and mast cells.
What are glial cells?
They are the most abundant type of cell in the central nervous system. If the actual neurons are the aristocracy, the glial cells are the commoners. Ironically, neurons get all the fame and attention and go to the coolest parties, but the glial cells really hold all the power and make it possible for the neurons to be so rich in the first place. If your glial cells decided to stop working, all the aristocratic neurons would likely die of starvation. And if you have chronic pain, chances are your glial cells are quietly organising a revolution.
Just like commoners, the glial cells have different functions. The oligodendrocytes are chemical carpenters that wrap certain neurons with a fatty sheath called myelin which is like a slick skin suit on a swimmer – put simply, you go faster. Others have sophisticated jobs like the astrocytes which maintain a proper physical and chemical environment for good function and communication of the neurons. At the bottom of this feudal system are the microglia. Some don’t even consider them to be true glial cells at all, instead giving them the lowly title of macrophage. Basically, garbage collectors. Microglial cells are resident macrophages in the nervous system. They clean up the garbage that our rich, energy hungry neurons throw out and “eat” up dead neurons. An important function indeed, but they don’t like just being slaves to the “rich and fabulous” neurons, so they get up to antics. Sometimes they spike the punch at neurons’ parties by tossing around inflammatory chemicals that get the neurons all wound up and into mischief like chronic pain.
What are mast cells?
Mast cells are non-resident immune cells that roam around the body like mercenaries for hire and start bossing everyone around when they get excited by an infiltration of filthy invaders - the bacteria. Like all mercenaries, they have their good and bad sides. They show up and marshal the troops when your skin is cut so the hordes of bacteria waiting to get you can be defeated. But they also get bored when there is nothing going on and get up to shenanigans. They show up when pollen gets in your nose and start releasing histamine and other chemicals that make your nose and eyes get juicy and your lungs get tight and wheezy, all, apparently, in the name of self-defence.
When neurons themselves get injured, or when danger signals have been continually bombarding the central nervous system from some other tissue injury, guess what? Mast cells show up to join their microglial cousins and make the already bad situation worse.
Then they sashay about the place in their barbaric military garb throwing around their devilish chemicals and rusty spears while the toga clad neurons run about the place in confusion and fear muttering. The result is we suffer because the neurons get wound up and hammer even more danger signals to the brain as if there was a lot more tissue damage than there actually is, so we feel even more pain.
PEA is a signalling molecule made by neurons and immune cells. PEA naturally inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals from hyperactive mast cells. So, when your army of testosterone fuelled mast cells smells blood, or gets bored, and starts rampaging around spiking drinks and getting everyone amped up, PEA comes along like a chill pill and says, “cool ya jets!”.
The immune system is supposed to get involved to clean things up, but at the same time be controlled and not run away with itself. Why these natural processes evolved to cause us seemingly unnecessary pain is not yet well understood.
If the neurons send more danger signals to the brain because the glial cells and mast cells told them to, then anything that shuts down the microglia and mast cells should do the opposite and relieve pain. Taking extra PEA, beyond what your body already makes, might be like calling the cops to come and bust up the party that got out of control.
Because PEA is targeting the root cause of the pain problem, the very immune cells that make the neurons hyper-excitable in the first place allow PEA to act more as a disease modifying agent rather than a symptom modifying agent.
So, if you’ve got a rowdy party full of neuropathic pain going on in your body, contact Elixir Compounding today. We offer complementary face-to-face or phone consultations where we can discuss your individual symptoms and recommend a treatment protocol to get your party under control.