Palmitoylethanolamide, also known as PEA, is a naturally occurring fatty acid compound found in plants and animals. PEA has natural anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic (pain-killing) properties. We are still learning the totality of the benefits of PEA, but research has indicated it may be beneficial for:
- Allergies (reduces itching and skin lesions).
- Nerve pain in common conditions such as arthritis, Chiari-like Malformation (CM), and Syringomyelia (SM).
- Cystitis and chronic urinary tract disease.
- Osteoarthritis pain and neuropathic pain.
- Mast cell tumors
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
PEA works by supporting the healthy function of glial (nerve) and mast (immune) cells in the body. Healthy, normal mast cells are part of the body’s immune system. They can be found in most tissues, but in particular in the skin and the linings of the digestive tract, lungs, mouth and the nose. They are also involved in allergies and allergic reactions. When triggered, the mast cells release large amounts of heparin, histamine, and enzymes. Glial cells help support the nervous system by facilitating nerve impulses, and exerting an inflammatory response on and nourishing neurons. Overactive or dysfunctional glial cells can have a negative effect on the nervous system.
PEA does not directly block pain signals the way opioids and analgesics do. Instead, PEA is a part of our natural signaling system, and is not an NSAID, opioid, or steroid. There are no known drug interactions with PEA; it is considered a safe, natural option. In a small number of cases, we have seen increased itching from pets with severe allergies when using plant-derived PEA.
Because PEA is lipophilic (attracted to fat), it should be taken with a food containing fat to assist in absorption. For pets, we have found success combining PEA with coconut or fish oil at meal times.
A 2015 study with 160 dogs evaluated the efficacy of PEA for moderate atopic dermatitis (allergies). Over the course of 56 days, they saw an increased quality of life score for dogs with moderate atopic dermatitis, while reducing itching and skin lesions.
A pilot trial in the Netherlands gave PEA to 12 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with confirmed cases of syringomyelia. After one week, the owners of all 12 dogs noticed improvements in pain-related behavior and inflammatory signs. PEA has worked wonders for our own dogs with syringomyelia, allowing us to discontinue the use of the drug Gabapentin.
A 2015 study using female rats induced with cystitis showed reduced urinary dysfunction, pain-associated behavior, and bladder inflammation.
A 2017 meta-analysis of 10 studies, including data from 786 human patients who received PEA and 512 controls, found PEA was associated with significant pain reduction compared to the controls.
For Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
A 2016 study found that PEA, when injected in mice with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, significantly decreased lung fibrosis, inflammation and damage. Animals that received PEA also saw decreased weight loss and mortality.
There are still additional opportunities for research to understand the full extent of the power of PEA, however, the available data shows its value as a natural option for common issues. There is not only a long list of benefits, but side effects are rare and minor unlike its pharmaceutical alternatives. We have personally used it with great success and cannot wait for even more data proving the power of this supplement.