GLA for better skin and health
Ashley Koff, RD
Gamma-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid. Known as GLA, it can soothe dry, flaky skin; relieve eczema; and boost the immune system.
We get hundreds of tips every day from glamorous models in product ads telling us what to wash with or spray on for beautiful skin and hair. The models’ skin and hair always look flawless. Most of us know that’s largely thanks to airbrushing or makeup artists. But we might still be surprised to learn that beauty products have less to do with the quality of our skin than the nutrients we take in daily. The essential fatty acid GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) can help us attain naturally better skin and better health. Long used by integrative medicine practitioners in supplement form to address skin complaints such as eczema, as well as general dryness and flaking, GLA also offers preventive health benefits. It may promote a healthy inflammation response and aid the immune system by creating important hormonelike substances called prostaglandins. In addition, GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid, may help reduce blood pressure and alleviate dry eye symptoms. In short, it gives us an inner health and outer beauty boost. The body can make GLA out of linoleic acid from dietary sources such as vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds. In young, healthy people, this is a relatively easy process. However, many Canadians do not get adequate GLA this way. The body can fail to synthesize sufficient GLA due to aging, dietary choices, health conditions, or lifestyle factors such as smoking. Thus, it is often not until one has a complaint about their skin or hair being too dry or flaky, is diagnosed with a skin-related condition, or is dealing with hormone changes that a practitioner who knows about the benefits of GLA will recommend it as a supplement. However, there are other ways to increase GLA intake. We can bite into a delicious form of GLA when we eat hemp, either as hempseeds, hemp hearts, or oil. The added bonus of GLA from hemp is that we get a plant source of other essential fatty acids, omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids help with everything from regulating blood clotting to building brain cell membranes. Shelled hempseeds and hemp hearts are very versatile and can be used to top salads, grains, and soups; made into spreads; and added to cooking and baking. The oil works on salads or can be drizzled over cooked vegetables and grains.