Now more than ever, immune health is top of mind and a topic of daily conversation. In addition to following the experts’ immune health guidelines, everyone is looking for new ways to support their immunity.
While palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) may not be as well-known as other nutrients touted for immunity (vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc, for example), it packs a powerful punch for your immune health.* This blog will discuss what PEA is and how it can help keep your immune system functioning at its best.*
What is PEA?
PEA is a naturally occurring fat-like compound called a fatty acid amide. It is found in egg yolks and some plant foods. In addition, PEA is made in the body as part of an immune response. It goes by many names: palmitoylethanolamide, palmitate monoethanolamide, or palmitic acid monoethanolamide. But you can call it PEA for short.
PEA is considered part of the cannabinoid family. It does not come from cannabis (marijuana or hemp). Instead, PEA is an endocannabinoid, meaning that it is produced inside the body (‘endo’ means ‘within’). It is related to anandamide, another endocannabinoid often referred to as “the bliss molecule.”
PEA functions as part of the Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining the body’s homeostasis, or balance. The ECS primarily functions in the central nervous system (brain and spinal column) and the immune system. Although researchers have much more to learn about the ECS, it is thought to be involved in various bodily functions, including healthy sleep, fertility, brain health, and an overall sense of well-being.
How does PEA work to promote a healthy immune system?*
The immune benefits of PEA can be traced back to the 1930s, when researchers discovered that feeding dried egg yolk to children enhanced their immune response. In the 1950s, researchers identified a substance in egg yolk, later determined to be PEA, that provided allergy and immune health benefits.* Research continued, and by the 1970s, the immune benefits of PEA were well-established. Today, PEA is known to be a safe and effective choice to promote a healthy immune response.*
So, how does PEA work? As mentioned, it is produced in the body and functions as part of the ECS. PEA is made and released on demand in response to stress in or to the body. PEA serves as a negative feedback signal, preventing the immune system from going into overdrive.* It regulates and promotes a healthy release of inflammatory compounds from mast cells, a type of immune cell.* PEA helps mast cells shift from immune activation to a resting phase, which prevents the immune system from over-reacting.* More simply put, PEA helps assure a healthy and effective immune response.* These actions happen by PEA’s activation of cannabinoid receptors as part of the ECS.
How do you get more PEA in your diet?
PEA is found in egg yolks, soy, and peanuts. It is also available as a dietary supplement. This tasty recipe combines eggs, vegetables, herbs, and spices for a delicious, nutritious meal to be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Mediterranean Eggs (2 Servings)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder or regular chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and ground black pepper to taste4 eggs
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ avocado, sliced
- Prepare all vegetables and herbs. Chop sweet potatoes, red onion, garlic, and cilantro.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add chopped sweet potatoes to skillet and cook until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
- Add the chopped onion and green pepper. Continue cooking until the onions begin to soften.
- Add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
- Season with chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper; stir.
- Transfer cooked vegetables to a bowl and cover with a plate to retain the heat.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and return to medium heat.
- Crack the eggs into the heated oil and cook until no clear white remains and the yolk is at preferred firmness.
- Place the cooked eggs on top of the potato mixture. Top with cilantro, crumbled feta cheese, and sliced avocado to serve.
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