A Supplement We Suggest for PMS & Menopause
By Leah Kleinschrodt, MS, RD, LD
April 20, 2021
Can you count on the struggle with PMS symptoms like clockwork? Or are you in the throes of menopause and feel like a walking furnace and chest freezer all at once? Let’s not dwell on the negative. Instead, let’s talk about one of my favorite tools to combat these uncomfortable symptoms (plus, night sweats, mood swings, I’m talking about those too among others!) that come from hormonal disturbances.
For these uncomfortable, rollercoaster symptoms I often recommend a special fatty acid called GLA-160. Gamma linoleic acid (GLA) is a type of fat in the omega-6 family. We need a proper balance of essential fatty acids from omega-6 in our body to thrive. Omega-6 (and Omega-3) are called “essential” because we can’t make it within our bodies, therefore we must consume it from food or supplements. Think of the GLA supplement as a ready to use (activated) form of omega-6 that nourishes your cells and decreases inflammation. Anytime you can reduce inflammation in the body, you’re doing yourself (and future self) a huge service! Less inflammation means fewer hormonal rollercoasters during the month.
Ok, bear with me because this gets a little science-y. A deficiency of essential fatty acids, like GLA, isn’t a good thing. It causes low prostaglandin levels (signaling molecules that regulate certain body functions, like menstruation) and high sensitivity to prolactin (a reproductive hormone in the brain). In women, prolactin is higher in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This means more intense PMS symptoms as you get closer to your period. No fun … but GLA to the rescue! The linoleic acid in GLA helps to increase prostaglandins, which in turn helps to relieve PMS and makes your hormonal cycle through the month a smoother ride.
Studies have shown up to 3,000-6,000 milligrams of evening primrose oil (a form of GLA) to be safe and effective. If someone is really struggling with PMS symptoms, I commonly recommend 4-6 GLA softgels per day (4,000-6,000mg) of GLA-160 to fully supply the body with this crucial fatty acid.
In my early days as a dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, I met a regular client who swore that taking GLA had completely gotten rid of her hot flashes. With her enthusiasm in mind, and research supporting this claim, I always share this option with my clients in peri-menopause and menopause who are struggling with those infamous hot flashes. Research supports the use of GLA for reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes and who doesn’t love that result? The amounts used in these studies were fairly small, at 500-1,000mg per day. So 1 softgel of GLA-160 per day (which is 1,000mg) may be sufficient for some women. Others may need more, especially if they struggle with vaginal dryness or other dry skin, hair, and nails in menopause.
If you can relate to the struggling of hormones, wherever you are in your cycle or menopause, consider trying GLA and watching how you feel. I always tell my clients that no supplement (especially fat-based supplements like this one), can produce overnight results. Many studies used GLA for at least 8 weeks, and we often recommend taking GLA consistently for 3-4 months before re-evaluating your symptoms and potential benefits.
For more specific help in dosage and our many nutritional recommendations, I’d encourage you to schedule a virtual nutrition consultation with me or any of my fellow nutritionists or dietitians. We have helped hundreds of women navigate their hormones and feel better along the way – there is hope for you too!
For more information on PMS and menopause, check out these resources:
- Read: 5 Hormone-Related Symptoms That Often Go Ignored
- Listen: Menopause Relief
- Inspiration: “So far, I’ve lost 27 pounds* and several inches. I feel so much better in my clothes. My hot flashes happen now only once or twice per day, which is an amazing improvement!” – Elaine’s story