Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is an endogenous fatty acid amide, synthetized by immune and nervous cells and it is involved in chronic pain and inflammation signaling: endogenous PEA levels increase in response to external stresses, but in chronic condition they can be inadequate to maintain homeostasis, so there is the possibility to administer exogenous PEA, with analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
PEA regulates many metabolic pathways and molecular targets which, for example, block the release of inflammatory cytokines and maintain at high level the activation of nervous fiber. To explain this concept, we can observe this figure where PEA administration in induced colitis, a chronic intestinal inflammation, lowers an intestinal inflammation marker, to value comparable to the heathy control (Borrelli et al., 2015).
The gut-health promoting role of PEA is not just analgesic and anti-inflammatory. Interestingly, it is able to improve the increased intestinal permeability caused by the induced colitis (Borrelli et al., 2015).
The increased intestinal permeability is characteristic of many intestinal disorders. It is caused by the disruption of the intestinal barrier integrity, since the tight junctions allow the transit of macromolecules, pathogens and toxins, activating the local inflammatory reaction. So PEA represents a support in many intestinal conditions.
In conclusion, PEA is an interesting adjuvant in the treatment of intestinal diseases characterized by inflammation, pain, increased intestinal permeability: the irritable bowel syndrome and the inflammatory bowel disease belong to that kind of diseases and they cause a worsening of the quality of life of those affected. PEA administration can be an interesting strategy to control these kind of conditions.
Borrelli, F., Romano, B., Petrosino, S., Pagano, E., Capasso, R., Coppola, D., … & Izzo, A. A. (2015). Palmitoylethanolamide, a naturally occurring lipid, is an orally effective intestinal anti‐inflammatory agent. British journal of pharmacology, 172(1), 142-158.