Free-radicals are formed through a process called oxidation, and substances that inhibit this chemical activity are known as antioxidants. Antioxidants help check the formation of free-radicals. If left unchecked, oxidative stresses can lead to repair of several parts of your cells. However, antioxidants do not eliminate oxidation activities in full; instead, they maintain a healthy balance of it. Of the many antioxidants, alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-type substance; it can be sourced from many naturally available foods. It can also be artificially created in a laboratory. But this antioxidant may trigger a few side effects. It is a good practice to know the side effects of this antioxidant before starting to consume it.

Alpha lipoic acid is a natural compound present in your cells. It is chiefly made inside the mitochondria (also known as the powerhouse) of cells. Its chief function is to turn glucose as energy with the aid of oxygen. As mentioned, free-radicals are made ineffective by antioxidants; but, in the process some of the antioxidants may themselves become free-radicals. It is when alpha lipoic acid plays a bigger role. This antioxidant brings such radicalised substances back to their original form. Thus, its helps avert an excessive build-up of free-radicals in the body. Alpha lipoic acid scavenges free-radicals present both outside and inside cells.

Alpha lipoic acid is soluble both in fats and water. Such versatility enables it to work with different types of tissues and cells. Most of the other antioxidants do not have such versatile properties – i.e., most are either soluble in fats or water. Not stopping with its versatility, alpha lipoic acid can helps decrease internal swelling, slow down the aging process, enhance the functioning of your central nervous system and also reduce the levels of blood sugars. Among people living with diabetes, this antioxidant can help decrease resistance shown towards insulin as well as help reduce likely repair of nerves, especially – the optical nerves.

Cellular repair – chiefly, mitochondria related problems – can lead to aging of the brain. If left untreated, an aged brain can develop conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This antioxidant is known for its ability to slowdown aging by boosting the health of your cells, tissues and nerves. As your body makes only a very small amount of alpha lipoic acid, you may need to source the needful quantity from supplements as well as foods. Though some plant-based foods such as spinach, tomato, broccoli, etc. do contain it, the major sources are animal-based foods. This antioxidant is available in abundance in organ-meats as well as red-meat. If you are unable to source needful quantities of alpha lipoic acid from foods, you can have them sourced from supplements.

Side effects of alpha lipoic acid

It is widely considered safe to take alpha lipoic acid. Its intake is unlikely to trigger major side effects. It is available both as an orally administered supplement and as a topical application. A few people have reported moderate side effects such as itchiness, rashes and abdominal discomforts like nausea, etc. In some people, it has triggered a tingling sensation (it is often described as a pins-and-needles feeling), cramping of abdominal muscles, persistent headaches, etc. Many of the side effects alpha lipoic acid triggers are mild in nature. These effects are known to disappear once dosages are discontinued.

Allergies and hypersensitivity

If you have any known allergies or hypersensitivity to alpha lipoic acid as well as its supplements, you need to inform about such conditions to your doctor and pharmacist. Very rarely, people havereported symptoms of allergies. These allergies may show up as inflammation of facial organs and a few oral parts like tongue; respiratory problems including gasping for breath, wheezing, etc. In some remote cases, people have complained of rashes on skin and hives.

Serious side effects

As alpha lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar level, you may develop signs such as weakness, craving for food, erratic heartbeats, headaches, being in a confused state of mind, feeling dizzy, etc. If you experience any of these symptoms, you are advised to stop taking the supplement. It is highly recommended to take medical help on an emergency basis. If you ignore these signs, you may pass-out or faint.

The above mentioned signs do not form a full list of its likely side effects. You need to remember that a few other symptoms are also likely to show up. In such instances, you need to talk to your treating doctor and pharmacist to inform them about such unfamiliar symptoms. If you are in the US, you can contact 911 immediately. If you are staying in Canada, you can either call a local poison control center or Health Canada on an emergency basis.

People living with diabetes as well as thyroid conditions

As this dietary supplement can reduce your blood sugar level, it is known to be effective against both types of diabetes – i.e., Type 1 and 2. Most of the antioxidants have serious limitations in arresting vascular repairs. Here, alpha lipoic acid is an exceptional antioxidant whose properties can safeguard against vascular damages. But, if you are already consuming medicines to control your blood sugar parameters, a co-administration can decrease blood sugar to a very low level. Hence, it is highly recommended to talk to your treating doctor about the diabetic drugs that you are currently taking. Your doctor may prescribe alternative drugs or reduce the strength of dosages to ensure proper control of blood sugar. Similarly, if you are living with thyroid conditions and are taking drugs to make up for thyroid deficiencies, you need to talk to your doctor. This is very important as alpha lipoic acid can change the level of thyroid your body makes.

Intake of alpha lipoic acid by pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children
Usage of this antioxidant by women who are pregnant is not fully established as safe. Hence, if you are either planning to become pregnant or already pregnant, you need to talk to your treating doctor and pharmacist before starting a dose of alpha lipoic acid supplements. Its effects on nursing mother and their infants are also not fully assessed. So, if you are nursing or breastfeeding your baby, it is recommended not to take supplements of alpha lipoic acid.

Similarly, it is not clear how safe it is on children. In fact, children who have been given sizeable dosages of supplements have reported convulsions as well as abdominal problems such as nausea, indigestion, vomiting, etc.

Dosage of alpha lipoic acid

Its maximum dose however needs to be restricted to less than 1,800 milligrams. If you plan to take higher doses (i.e., more than the daily limit of 1,800 milligrams), such dosages are unlikely to fetch additional benefits. However, in a few research done on animals, higher dosage of alpha lipoic acid increased stresses associated with oxidation. In general, intake of 500 milligrams is found to be safe as well as adequate. You may need to know many of the orally administered supplements of alpha lipoic acid are made with strengths ranging from 200 to 500 milligrams.

You are advised to take the supplement of alpha lipoic acid before having your meal. For better results, you are advised to take it at least 40 minutes before your meal. This is highly recommended to take it on an empty tummy as the presence of other foods may decrease its potential to get absorbed in your body. But, as this antioxidant can influence many parameters – such as, liver health, functioning of kidneys, bodyweight, etc. – it is highly recommended to take it in small dosage forms. The initial dosage form is measured at around 500 milligrams; maintenance dosages may depend on the present condition of your health, your age, bodyweight as well on your body’s response to the doses. If you are using a topical form of the supplement, you are advised to use it on your neck and facial areas. You are advised to read the instructions carefully while using the topical variant of alpha lipoic acid.

It is a good practice to adhere to the prescription plan, as directed by your doctor. If the supplement is taken in smaller or larger dosages than what is prescribed, it may trigger a few adverse reactions. Alpha lipoic acid is also available as herbal-supplements. In such cases, you need to talk to a qualified practitioner of herbal medicine or a specialist in herbal supplements. If your condition does not improve after taking a supplement, you need to quickly get in touch with your treating doctor.

Many of the supplements of alpha lipoic acid come in multiple forms – such as capsules, tablets, creams, liquids, etc. If you are taking supplements in multiple forms and without proper medical counsel, you are likely to run into risks of overdose of alpha lipoic acid.

Other precautions to stay aware of while taking supplements of alpha lipoic acid

The supplement needs to be stored in ambient temperature without being exposed to direct heat or excessive moisture. You are also advised to keep it away from pets and children. If you have missed a dose of alpha lipoic acid, you are advised to take it as soon as you are reminded of it. But, if the missed dose falls too close to your next dose, it is better to skip the missed dose. If you take two doses within a closer time interval, you may have accidentally triggered an overdose.

Also, there are many natural foods or herbs that can bring down the blood sugar level. Such foods include garlic, ginseng (Siberian variety), fenugreek, etc. It is highly recommended to keep away from such foods while taking supplements of alpha lipoic acid.

Safe manufacturing practices and quality standards of supplements

You need to note that the supplements of alpha lipoic acid do not come under the purview of regulatory agencies like food and drug administration (FDA). Hence, it becomes important to buy brands sold only by reputed manufacturers. But, how to know which manufacturer is making it fairly? There are several independently-working certification bodies in US; some of them are Consumer Lab, US Pharmacopeia – to name a few. If you ensure the products you buy are tested by such third-party, independent agencies, you can be assured of the fairness of manufacturing practices as well as standards of quality.

Alpha lipoic acid is endowed with many benefits. Some of the key benefits include regeneration of liver among people with hepatic damage, enabling better circulation of blood which can lead to better cardiac wellbeing, enables better treatment of optic nerve related ailments such as glaucoma, disabling metals such as cadmium, free-iron, arsenic, nickel, etc. The common side effects of alpha lipoic acid are abdominal discomforts like nausea and itchiness. In some people, supplement of alpha lipoic acid has triggered nausea, cramping of abdominal muscles, headaches, pins-and-needles feeling, etc. If the adverse reactions persist for long, you need to talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Most side effects of alpha lipoic acid may cease to show up once you stop the doses of this dietary supplement.

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