Antioxidant Relief for IBD with Alpha Lipoic Acid

Anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid could help treat ulcerative colitis.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a serious condition. It significantly increases the risk of colon cancer in patients that have any type of IBD. Although there are numerous conventional treatments, they come with significant side effects. But promising studies suggest that anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid and curcumin from turmeric could help. (ii.10189-193)

There are 2 main types of IBD: (ii.189-191)

What Are the Causes of and Risk Factors for IBD?

⇑ back to top

The exact cause of IBD is not yet known. However, experts believe it's related to an abnormal immune system response to microbes in the intestine. Researchers have identified certain factors known to be associated with increased susceptibility or risk of developing the disease. These include: (ii.189195-198)

Table II.12: Risk Factors for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Risk Factor Crohn's Disease Ulcerative Colitis
Family History
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBD Conventional Treatment Options

⇑ back to top

The primary goal is to reduce inflammation. This often requires a multi-prong approach to relieve symptoms and put the disease in long-term remission. Conventional treatment for IBD includes: (ii.192)

As a last resort, surgery is sometimes recommended. (ii.192)

However, IBD medications often have side effects, including: (ii.192)

How Can Alpha Lipoic Acid Help Treat IBD?

⇑ back to top

Alpha lipoic acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could help reduce IBD flares. Results from animal studies suggest that alpha lipoic acid could help treat colitis. It may even reverse inflammatory damage in the intestinal tract. (ii.197)

Some of the ways alpha lipoic works, according to these studies, include: (ii.197)

Alpha lipoic acid also supports how well mitochondria function in our cells. This may be important since some researchers suggest a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and IBD. Mitochondria are the organelles in cells that produce cell energy, but when they aren't working properly they produce large amounts of dangerous, inflammatory free radicals(ii.198)

Clinical Evidence of Benefit

In a 6-week clinical study 10 patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis were given daily oral alpha lipoic acid supplements. Study participants were also given a therapeutic enema regimen. Alpha lipoic acid helped put the disease in remission in 90% of patients. (ii.10)

Precaution: Don't Take with Cyclosporine

⇑ back to top
Experts caution against using alpha lipoic acid with cyclosporine.

In preclinical studies, both cyclosporine and alpha lipoic acid appear to be beneficial against colitis. However, researchers suggest that using alpha lipoic acid while taking cyclosporine could increase colon damage. In an animal study, treating with both substances at the same time increased free radicals, inflammation, and colon ulcers. (ii.199)

At least one study showed that alpha lipoic acid is actually more effective than cyclosporine. (ii.199)
Specifically, rheumatoid arthritis. (ii.195)
Ashkenazi Jewish or Scandinavian descent. (ii.194196)
Ashkenazi Jewish descent. (ii.194)
Some examples of possible links include hormone replacement therapy or long-term, current use of oral contraceptives. (ii.195)
Some examples of possible links include isotretinoin for acne and/or long-term, current use of oral contraceptives. (ii.194-195)
Caucasian. (ii.194)
Such as sulfasalazine and corticosteroids. (ii.192)
Such as cyclosporine, which indirectly reduces inflammation. (ii.192)
However, there is no strong evidence of their effectiveness in Crohn's disease. (ii.192)