If you haven’t heard of gamma-linolenic acid, you are not alone. I had never heard of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) until a few years ago and was surprised to learn that is an important fatty acid for health due to its ability to reduce inflammation. GLA is an omega 6 fatty acid; however, it is a little different from other omega 6 fatty acids. Unlike most omega 6 fatty acids, GLA is not considered essential because the body is capable of making it through a conversion using linoleic acid. Although the body is capable of manufacturing GLA, it is actually easy to become deficient, especially if the body doesn’t have enough magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6, which are all needed for conversion. There are very few food sources of GLA; however, this anti-inflammatory fatty acid can be found in borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil, and hemp products, which can all be used as supplements for specific health problems.
1. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful arthritic condition that has symptoms of joint pain, joint swelling, and morning stiffness. The anti-inflammatory actions of gamma-linolenic acid have been shown to be quite helpful for relieving these symptoms. In fact, one study demonstrated significant improvement in joint pain, stiffness, and grip strength. In order to work, GLA supplements need to be taken orally. You can’t just massage evening primrose oil onto your joints and hope for the best. However, when taken orally, these supplements do help in one to three months. The only thing GLA won’t do is stop the joint damage that occurs from rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Diabetic Neuropathy
One of the serious consequences of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy, which results from nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy can be extremely painful in severe cases. One of the reasons researchers believe diabetic neuropathy occurs is because linoleic acid is not effectively converted into GLA, resulting in a GLA deficiency. Taking GLA supplements has been shown to decrease symptoms of nerve pain after 6 months, especially for diabetics whose blood sugar is well regulated.
Evening primrose oil is widely used in Europe, orally and topically, for the treatment of itchy, thickened skin that results from eczema. Eczema is primarily an inflammatory skin condition, which is why the GLA in evening primrose oil is effective. Usually, GLA supplements are taken in a 500 milligram dose twice a day to help with eczema but, like most cases, it does take time. If you want to try GLA supplements for eczema, you need to wait six to eight weeks to see if it has helped.
Hypertension is characterized by having high blood pressure, which can be quite problematic. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes, which are very serious consequences. Ideally, you want your blood pressure to be less than 120/80. To achieve this, people with high blood pressure should decrease their salt intake and increase their potassium intake. They can even take GLA supplements, which studies indicate can relieves high blood pressure. One study followed men taking black currant oil, and found that the men did have a decrease in blood pressure.
Premenstrual syndrome, PMS, has a range of symptoms including breast tenderness, irritability, and fluid retention. It occurs after ovulation ends and is related to the hormone changes that take place during this time in a woman’s cycle. If you have PMS you are probably waiting in anticipation to hear what GLA can do for you. GLA can be helpful for reducing the symptoms of PMS. Although it is not effective for everyone, one study found that 45 percent of women supplementing with GLA had a decrease in PMS symptoms after three to six months of use.
Evening primrose oil has long been used as a home remedy for allergies. Not much is known about using GLA for allergies; however, it has been shown that women and children who are prone to allergies have fewer levels of GLA. This indicates that the home remedy of evening primrose oil may have validity. It is a harmless treatment for allergies and may help with rash, stuffy nose, itching, and watery eyes.
7. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that has no cure. It affects the lining of the large intestines, resulting in open sores or ulcers. It is also characterized by pain and frequent bowel movements. GLA has been shown to decrease the inflammation in the large intestines that causes the terrible symptoms. This is really good news, because people with ulcerative colitis are often put on powerful steroids that have terrible side effects. For those whom it helps, GLA offers a way to at least reduce the need for these medications.
As you can see, a variety of conditions can be helped by GLA. Its anti-inflammatory effect can be very beneficial. If you are considering supplementing with GLA, you don’t want to take more than 3,000 milligrams a day. Doses higher than this can actually be inflammatory. So, stick with the thinking that a little goes a long way. Would you consider taking a GLA supplement?