As a functional medicine-trained doctor, I thrive on discovering therapies that harness the body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate itself. I’m talking about therapies that build upon the fundamentals associated with proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and medication.

And that’s why I continue to be impressed with the benefits of therapeutic peptides — those chemical molecules that bind to receptors on the surface of cells and trigger positive responses at the cellular level. I experienced these benefits firsthand recently when I started to treat an old rotator cuff (shoulder) injury of mine with a combination of two therapeutic peptides — Body Protecting Compound-157 (BPC-157) and Thymosin Beta 4. Look for a separate blog post about this later this month. For now, I’m going to share what you need to know about the use of therapeutic peptides in a medically-supervised plan of care.

What Are Therapeutic Peptides?

Peptides are short strings of amino acids — much shorter than protein molecules and easier for the body to absorb and break down. Therapeutic peptides are those that are bioactive and have a beneficial effect on the body. Some common peptides are available in over-the-counter supplements, such as collagen peptides for skin health, and creatine peptides, which may help build strength and muscle mass. Some therapeutic peptides are natural or derived from natural sources; others are synthetic — manufactured in labs.

Pharmaceutical companies have developed a wide variety of natural and modified peptides into medications that act as hormones, growth factors, neurotransmitters, ion channel ligands, and anti-infective agents. One example is insulin, which is a peptide hormone produced by the pancreas.

Semaglutide (also known as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus), which is commonly used to control blood sugar and support weight loss, is another therapeutic peptide that you may have heard of. More than 60 peptide medications have been approved for use in the United States and other major markets.

Using Therapeutic Peptides to Treat Specific Medical Conditions

Peptides are now being used in plans of care to treat many illnesses and diseases, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
  • Fatigue
  • Colitis
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Cancer
  • Chronic infections (including Lyme disease, sinusitis, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and cytomegalovirus)
  • Diabetes and other metabolic dysfunctions
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Mold illness or environmentally acquired illness (EAI)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Neurodegenerative conditions (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, etc.)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
  • Insomnia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Joint injury
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Ulcers

Features and Benefits Associated with Using Peptides

Other reasons why your healthcare provider may recommend using peptides in your plan of care include the following:

  • Safety: Peptides, which help the body self-regulate the amount of a substance (such as growth hormone) the body produces, are unlikely to cause serious side effects because they don’t build up in tissues.
  • Broad applications: Numerous peptides are available for treating a broad range of illnesses, diseases, and dysfunctions in the body.
  • Ease of use: While many peptides are injected under the skin with a small needle, some can be taken in the form of a nasal spray.
  • No withdrawal symptoms: Stopping and starting treatment is easy.

Many of my patients take various therapeutic peptides, alone or in combination, to address a variety of health issues. Depending on the peptides they’re taking and the reason for taking them, most have reported improvements in how they feel, including the following:

  • Improved memory
  • Increased energy
  • Sleep benefits
  • Clearer thinking
  • Better physical performance
  • Improved body composition
  • Less muscle and joint pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Faster recovery after strenuous physical activity
  • Education in shoulder, knee, hip, and neck pain
  • Improved digestion

Type of Peptides

Peptides are prescribed on an individual basis considering one’s health history, lab and test results, and current health concerns. In the following sections, I describe the peptides most commonly prescribed.


Thymosin stimulates the conversion of white blood cells called lymphocytes into T cells — a specific type of white blood cell that protects the body against bacterial and viral infections. Thymosins (or thymic peptides) help to modulate immune function, making them useful for treating chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Two thymosins are commonly used in peptide therapy: thymosin alpha 1 (Tɑ1) and thymosin beta 4 (Tβ4), as described in the following sections.

  • Thymosin Alpha 1 (Tɑ1): Thymosin alpha 1 (Tɑ1) protects the immune system and improves its ability to recognize and respond to disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms. Medications containing Tɑ1 have been approved for clinical use in more than 35 countries (including the U.S.) with few reports of any adverse side effects.
  • Thymosin Beta 4 (Tꞵ4): Thymosin beta 4 (Tꞵ4) is present in all human cells, but in higher concentrations in wound tissue and in blood cells that play a role in healing wounds. During the wound-healing process, Tꞵ4 is involved in a range of processes for regenerating tissue. Tꞵ4 has been helpful in treating stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, cardiovascular damage resulting from reduced blood flow, and even multiple sclerosis. Tꞵ4 is great for healing and recovery of soft tissue, including ligaments, tendons, and joints.

BPC 157

Body Protective Compound (BPC) 157 is normally produced in sufficient quantities in the digestive system, which has a direct connection to brain health. BPC supports patients with digestive problems including esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and ulcers. It is also used to support patients who have been exposed to mold and suffer from joint pain or memory loss. BPC 157 can also aid in the treatment of many chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Ipamorelin and CJC 1295

Ipamorelin and CJC 1295 are two different peptides used in combination to stimulate the release of growth hormone (GH) by the pituitary gland. Ipamorelin is a growth hormone releasing peptide (GHRP), which inducesthe release of growth hormone. CJC-1295 is a growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH), which amplifies the release of growth hormone.

Unlike other GHRPs, Ipamorelin does not affect the release of cortisol, acetylcholine, prolactin, or aldosterone, thus minimizing the adverse side effects of other growth hormone therapies, such as increased hunger. Likewise, CJC-1295 amplifies the release of growth hormone with a minimal effect on cortisol and prolactin levels.

Using Peptides to Deliver Personalized Treatments

Peptides, which are sometimes referred to as secretagogues— substances that promote the release of other substances — communicate with various parts of the body to release substances that the body needs in order to function properly. As a result, my functional medicine team and I often use peptides when developing personalized plans of care, because they enable the targeting of specific dysfunctions in the body’s systems, including the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system, and the immune system.

The Doctor Says: Peptides alone are insufficient in restoring health. Effective treatment requires a personalized plan of care that addresses multiple lifestyle and environmental factors.

Therapeutic peptides can be valuable tools in the process of healing, but they are not the only tools. Improved nutrition, exercise, and sleep; detoxification; stress management; and other forms of treatment often play an integral role in a patient’s personalized plan of care.

If you’re suffering with a chronic health condition and have seen multiple doctors without experiencing much (or any) relief, I strongly encourage you to consult with a functional medicine-trained healthcare professional. Don’t settle for a 15-minute visit that ends with you receiving a prescription for one or more medications developed merely to alleviate symptoms. Get a full work-up that begins with discovery and provides you with a personalized treatment plan that addresses the underlying cause(s) of your symptoms.

– – – – – – –

About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Lewis has 20 years of experience practicing nutritional and holistic medicine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), Dr. Lewis has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa and elsewhere.