As a player of the Irish tin whistle, I love St. Patrick’s Day, with its celebration of Irish music, dance, and culture. However, today I wish to shed some light on its shadow side, the very heavy drinking that St. Patrick’s Day and the Irish in general are known for.  Some cultures seem identified with alcohol, and Ireland is no exception. It’s like it’s in the blood…..and it turns out that this is almost true. 

According to some research, discussed by Joan Mathews Larson, PhD in her 1993 book Seven Weeks to Sobriety, then titled Alcoholism: the Biochemical Connection, people from Gaelic or Scandinavian backgrounds actually have a disruption in how they metabolize vegetable oil (Omega 6 fatty acids), leading to a profound depletion in a conditionally essential fatty acid, called GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid). This genetic disruption can lead to a deep dark depression from birth in susceptible people, which, oddly enough is only relieved by alcohol! I won’t bore you all with the biochemical details, but they can be found in both of her books, as well as in research by David Horrobin and Charles Bates. 

Suffice it to say that I was one of these people! My father was from Denmark, and my mother was from England. I started drinking in my 20’s because alcohol temporarily relieved the very serious depression from which I had suffered since young childhood. I organized my days to make sure that something alcoholic was always waiting for me when I got home. It didn’t take much – half a beer for instance, but this half a beer quickly became necessary to my well-being. By my late 20’s, I was an addiction counselor and realized that this dependency was actually a problem, but I was unwilling to stop since I was so afraid of the resulting depression. Finally, Joan’s book was published, and I found myself on her pages! It turns out that this missing fatty acid is actually to be found in the seed of both Evening Primrose flowers and Borage flowers. I started taking these oils, which are available from any vitamin store, and my depression receded enough that I could stop my alcohol use. For 35 years, I have faithfully been taking 240 mg of GLA from Borage oil every single day and the few times that I stopped taking it resulted in both depression and alcohol cravings crashing back in. 

If this also seems to be you, please PM me and let me know how GLA supplementation helps you. 

Have a delightful and sober St. Patrick’s Day! 

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