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dl-Phenylalanine (DLPA)

Author: Terry Lemerond

The pain reliever DLPA (d,l-phenylalanine) contains two forms of the amino acid phenylalanine. The “l” form improves mood-elevating chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The “d” form of phenylalanine appears to block a nervous system enzyme (enzyme carboxypeptidase A) that intensifies pain signals. The current theory is that DLPA prevents the breakdown of one of the brain’s natural pain-killing substances, enkephalins, which are in the same family as endorphins. DLPA supplements combine the “l” and “d” forms of phenylalanine, which works synergistically to reduce chronic pain and improve mood-two concerns that are interconnected.

Many people confuse DLPA (found abundantly in fish, yogurt and tofu) with aspartame (NutraSweet® or Equal®) that also has the amino acid phenylalanine as an ingredient.  These are not the same compounds and do not act in the same way in our body. Aspartame breaks down into an unnatural toxic substance not found in the human diet, which can cause some people to be sick or have migraine headaches. When DLPA breaks down, it converts to tyrosine, which is a precursor to helpful substances like dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are helpful neurotransmitters in the brain; melanin, a healthy pigment in the skin; and thyroid hormone. It does not metabolize into toxic substances. There are no health concerns with DLPA causing migraine headaches.