Substance P ---The Reason Your
Body Is in Pain

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July 26, 2016

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist










Not many people have heard of a compound called “substance
P” but, if you suffer from pain, it’s something you need to know
about.

Substance P is a peptide that your body needs to transmit pain.
Think of it as a cargo ship carrying molecules of pain. Some
foods actually deplete substance P, and thus rob your body of
one of the building blocks it needs to transmit pain. Which foods
decrease Substance P in your body? Are there foods or habits
which increase Substance P.


Inside Substance P

The next bit may sound a bit Frankenstein-like.  One of the
unusual things about muscles and other parts of anatomy is that
they work in isolation in a laboratory even when they are not
connected to a body. It is possible, for example, to take a tiny
cells of muscles from , say a rabbit, place these in a lab dish and
make them contract by adding various chemicals to them.


In 1931, two scientists from the National Institute for Medical
Research in Hampstead, London, were experimenting with
extracts of a rabbit's intestine in a lab dish.  Dr. Ulf S. von Euler
and Dr. J.H. Gaddum  were working with rabbit's intestines, or
at least cells of them, to figure out if which substances made
them contract well.  

Rabbit's intestines are often used in experiments to test
substances that cause contractions because, well, rabbit's guts
are notoriously hyper-reactive and contract easily.  

In the course of experimenting with the rabbit's intestines, the
scientists saw something strange.  Some unknown substance
was causing  the contractions of the rabbit's intestines.  
Whatever this unknown substance was, it was very powerful --
only a tiny bit was needed to trigger contractions.  That
substance was to be named "substance P".  Dr. Euler's discovery
later earned him the Nobel Prize in 1970.

Substance P is made up of 11 amino acids, the basic building
blocks of proteins.  The actual, precise amino-acid structure of
Substance P was discovered in 1974 by Dr. Susan Epstein
Leeman of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and
Boston University, who is a founder of the science of
neuroendocrinology.

Substance P is present in almost every cell in the body. It is
there, at the ends of nerve cells, and is used to trigger vital
responses such as vomiting.  In the part of the brain responsible
for the life-saving vomiting response, there are extremely high
levels of Substance P.

So, Substance P plays very many roles, some good and some,
very bad for you.

Over the past 40 years, scientists have discovered that
Substance P plays a role in many different diseases and
conditions. High levels of Substance P are found in the blood of
HIV/AIDs patients, cancer patients, those with rheumatoid
arthritis, and eczema. Other preliminary studies have found
elevated levels of Substance P in people suffering from clinical
depression.

Substance P is almost continually produced by your body
whenever it is experiencing inflammation.


Depleting Substance P -- Some Foods Help































1. Capsaicin in Peppers and Curries Reduce Pain

Capsaicin is the substance that makes some peppers and spices
hot. The hotter the pepper, the higher the levels of capsaicin.

Capsaicin depletes Substance P selectively from the nerve
endings wherever it is suppled, which is the reason, some
studies suggest, that capsaicin gives you relief from pain.  

The earliest known use of capsaicin to relieve pain is believed to
have happened in Dublin, Ireland in 1850 when a mixture of
alcohol and capsaicin was prescribed for relief of chillblains and
toothaches in the "Dublin Free Press".

A 1980 study from the University of Graz in Austria discovered
that older lab rats who were pre-treated with capsaicin
experienced 80% less pain. Many more studies have confirmed
capsaicin's effectiveness in pain relief.

In the United States and in the EU, government agencies have
approved capsaicin patches for the treatment of pain such as
arthritis pain.  Many other non-regulated creams, lotions and
potions now appear with capsaicin as the primary ingredient. If
you are tempted to use these, do consult with your doctor first.

And, whatever you do, take special care not to accidentally
introduce capsaicin into your eyes or other sensitive membranes.
Capsaicin is, after all, the active ingredient in pepper spray.

Can using capsaicin make you lose the ability to feel all pain? No,
it won't. There are two types of pain signallers
(neurotransmitters), fast signals and slow signals. Fast signals
are the ones responsible for letting you feel pain when you are
cut or burned.  The Substance P in fast signals are unaffected by
capsaicin.

Slow signals are the associated with chronic pain such as the
pain of arthritis or fibromyalgia. Foods or spices that deplete
Substance P only deplete the slow acting signals.


All peppers which are hot contain capsaicin, as does hot
curry
and paprika.

2.
Curcumin Also Changes Substance P Levels and Reduces Pain

Curcumin is the spice that makes curry yellow. Several studies
have found that curcumin reduces pain.  For example, a 2011
study from UGC Centre of Advanced Study, Panjab University in
India found that curcumin dramatically changes the levels of
Substance P and thereby reduces P. In the experiment, pain was
intentionally caused by introducing a compound called
reserpine.  Curcumin reversed the effects on Substance P caused
by the reserpine.


Also in 2011, doctors at the Vardhman Mahavir Medical College
and Safdarjung Hospital, in New Delhi found that pateints who
took curcumin for 3 weeks experienced "zero" pain after
laporoscopic cholecystectomy surgery. The patients also
experienced less fatigue.

And a 2007 study in The Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine found that curcumin relieved pain in
107 patients with knee arthritis as well as ibuprofen (Advil).

Keep in mind that curcumin is a blood-thinner so you should
never take it at the same time as other blood-thinning medicines
such as warfarin.


3.
Evening Primrose Oil Changes Substance P Levels with
Uncertain Effects
 

In 2011, Scientists from London's Medical College of St.
Bartholomew's Hospital found that diabetic rats which were not
given evening primrose oil had lower levels of Substance P. This
is opposite of the effect one would expect, since primrose oil
actually reduces breast pain in other studies.




























































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Curcumin helps deplete Substance P.