The previous blog about GLA or borage oil covered how this important nutrient helps maintain the health of the membranes in the body. This blog explores the role of GLA in the balancing act the body does to maintain appropriate inflammatory response to illness and injury, its role in good heart health and how it helps with dry eye syndrome.
In my old blog posts, I wrote an important blog about fish oils or omega 3 oils in playing their part in this balancing act. To sum up, on a daily basis the body needs a mixture of omega 3 and omega 6 oils, collectively called essential fatty acids. With today’s emphasis on omega 6 plant oils such as sunflower or rape seed oil,1 this mixture gets unbalanced and the body lacks the essential ingredients to make a group of molecules that tell the cells in the body what to do – for example whether to produce or reduce inflammation, whether to expand the arteries or contract them. This group is called collectively eicosanoids and each group of eicosanoids has opposing partners, one made by the omega 3s and the other by the omega 6s. For interest and so we can spot the names when some doctor tries to blind us with science, eicosanoids comprise prostaglandins, prostacyclins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes.
GLA or gamma linoleic acid fits into all this by coming under the omega 6 group of essential fatty acids, but it should be made in our body out of the other omega 6s in the diet. Unfortunately this enzyme responsible for this gets disabled by high insulin levels caused by a sugary and starchy diet and by transfats2. The best dietary sources of GLA are borage oil, as covered in the previous GLA blog, so therefore somewhat rare in our food intake. And so we end up low on GLA.
GLA has particular activity in the eicosanoids that prevent blood clotting and tell the veins and arteries to dilate, so a vital part of heart health. Some eicosanoids, the leukotrienes, have a constrictive action on the throat and produce allergic rhinitis – a runny nose caused by allergies, and so are associated with asthma and allergies. GLA has an inhibitory effect on these leukotrienes.
Two other important actions of GLA include its anti-inflammatory activity and its positive effect on such auto-immune conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Sjögren’s syndrome – or dry eye syndrome. In this latter common condition the body produces immune cells that attack the glands that produce both saliva and tears. So what starts out as an annoying bit of dry eye can end up in tooth loss as the saliva glands dry up and the teeth lose that vital protection.
So in 2006 I had my eyes lasered and was told that I had dry eye. And I was also in and out of the dentist needing fillings and so on. I had put the dry eyes down to the hard contact lenses I had worn for the past 28 years. It was around that time that that I started studying with Charles Poliquin and so started taking fish oils, GLA, magnesium and so on regularly and in large quantities . In due course my dry eye vanished, my teeth have stabilised and my gums are in excellent condition. This blog makes it clear as to why these things have improved.
We do have to commit to wanting good health. What we eat produces our energy levels and health. For whatever reason, general nutritional guidelines do not help and seem to encourage unbalanced essential fatty acids, fear of all fat and avoidance of red meat. There seems to be a blind faith in the power of pharmaceuticals, heedless of the many side effects. And we also have become poor at reading our body’s many cries for help; dry eye, getting up in the night to pee, getting a bit of arthritis, slowly sinking energy levels, asthma, high blood pressure and so on. So 3 good ways to start digging ourselves out of this mess include cooking food from scratch; digesting that food properly and getting a good balance of the essential fatty acids by eschewing the rape seed oil for other oils such as olive or avocado oil, and taking high quality (molecularly distilled) fish oils and some borage oil. Then our hearts will beat soundly, we will breathe freely and our eyes glisten with health.3
- Sunflower oil and most vegetable oils are examples of polyunsaturated fats. [↩]
- Transfats are margarines – oils that should be liquid but have been made solid by heat so their chemical structure changes to being closer to a plastic. These things have dreadful consequences for our health, but they give products a long shelf life, which is what matters to the food manufacturers and people can be conned into thinking that a solid olive oil is somehow good for them. [↩]
- Sources: Jonny Bowden, Living the low carb life. Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions. The PDR for Nutritional Supplements. And Wikipedia. [↩]