Alpha-Lipoic Acid Effective Against Burning Mouth Syndrome
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) significantly reduces symptoms of burning mouth syndrome (BMS), according to a new study in Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine (2002;31:267–9). The improvement in symptoms was maintained for at least ten months after discontinuing treatment with ALA in a majority of participants.
BMS is a chronic, painful condition of the mouth that is poorly understood by healthcare practitioners. It affects as many as one million Americans, primarily post-menopausal women. The pain is typically described as a feeling that the mouth had been burnt by hot liquid, with the tongue, roof of the mouth, and lips frequently involved. BMS has been associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies (particularly deficiencies in iron, folic acid, or vitamin B12), thyroid disease, and diabetes. Some researchers believe it is caused by damage to the nervous system, while others believe it may be due to a food allergy.
In the new study, 60 women between the ages of 22 and 68 with BMS were randomly assigned to receive 600 mg per day of ALA or placebo for two months. They were assessed every 15 days and questioned about improvement or worsening of their symptoms during the treatment period. Symptoms were re-evaluated again one year after the commencement of the study.
More than 96% of those taking ALA had significant improvement in their symptoms, compared with 40% of those taking the placebo. None of the participants taking ALA experienced a worsening of their symptoms, while symptoms increased in 20% of the placebo group. Follow-up at one year showed that 73% of the people who had taken ALA maintained their improvement, whereas almost all of those who had taken a placebo had worsened. The findings suggest supplementation with ALA for at least two months can have long-term benefits in the majority of individuals suffering from BMS.
ALA is a potent antioxidant that protects the body against damage from free radicals. It has been used to treat radiation sickness and complications of diabetes, and has been investigated as a possible anti-HIV medicine. ALA helps conserve other antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, and increases cellular levels of glutathione, another potent antioxidant. The benefits of ALA may be due to its power to neutralize free radicals and prevent damage to nerve cells. However, more research is needed to clarify its mechanism of action in the treatment of BMS.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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