Balance Inflammation with Omega-3s

Balance Inflammation with Omega-3s

Posted on 17. Jan, 2010 by in Nutrition

You may already know that the essential fatty acids (EFAs) in fish oils are great for supporting a healthy heart and a healthy brain. But the benefits of these fats don’t stop there! There are many more reasons to include fish oils in your supplement regimen each and every day. In fact, daily intake of omega-3 fats in fish oil is associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases and is even recommended in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Inflammation Factor

Why are these fats so important? Much of the answer has to do with balancing inflammation. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), have a beneficial effect on your inflammatory response. Through several mechanisms, omega-3s regulate inflammation. They allow the body to produce the proper inflammatory response needed for healing, but not excessive inflammation, which would increase the discomfort of painful conditions like arthritis.

Arthritis Relief

You may be surprised to discover that according to research conducted in Europe, the most effective arthritis pain reliever is not among the most commonly prescribed arthritis pain medications: It’s fish oil. After a review of 225 studies dealing with diet and inflammatory diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis), researchers determined that fish oils were effective pain relievers.

This is incredible news for the 46million Americans who suffer from the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis. According to the researchers, these fats significantly reduced joint inflammation, relieved morning stiffness, and reduced the number of painful joints in RA patients.

In several studies, fish oil was so effective patients were able to discontinue or greatly reduce their use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and other arthritis medications.

Fish oils may help with other types of aches and pains, too. Preliminary studies show that people who take omega-3 supplements like fish oil may experience a significant decrease in muscle soreness after prolonged periods of exercise.

Adding fish oils to the diet may even reduce chronic neck and back pain. In one study, participants were given fish oils providing EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to relieve chronic neck and back pain attributed to degenerative disc disease. After one month, 59 percent of the patients had stopped taking their prescription NSAID medication, 60 percent reported an overall reduction in pain, and a similar percentage stated that their joint pain had lessened. Eighty percent were satisfied with the improvement and 88 percent claimed they would continue using the fish oil supplement. They experienced no significant side effects.

A Monthly Pain

The omega-3s from fish oils may help relieve painful menstrual cramps. Among the most common gynecological complaints, menstrual cramps are a leading cause of missed school days among adolescent women. There’s evidence that menstrual pain is caused by the action of inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes upon the uterus. A clinical trial involving 42 women between the ages of 15 and 18 experiencing significant menstrual pain examined the impact of dietary fats on menstrual pain. After two months of daily supplementation with EPA plus DHA or a placebo, reports of pain decreased in the fish oil group. No change was observed in the placebo group. Compared to the placebo, the amount of painkillers consumed during menstruation dropped by more than 50 percent during the fish oil treatment. Researchers conclude that supplementation with fish oil has a beneficial effect on menstrual pain in adolescents.

Breathe Easier

Another condition made worse by excessive inflammation is asthma. In a study of 29 children with asthma, those who took fish oil supplements for 10 months experienced an improvement in their symptoms compared to children who took a placebo.

Fish oils’ benefits extend to those who suffer from exercise- induced asthma (EIA). People with this common form of asthma (it affects about 10 percent of the general population) were able to reduce their symptoms to a point of not being noticeable by eating a diet supplemented with fish oil, according to research from Indiana University. Around 80 percent of people with asthma have exercise- induced bronchoconstriction. In the study, the post-exercise lung function of adults with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma improved by about 64 percent when they consumed a diet supplemented with fish oil capsules for three weeks. One of the key findings from the study was that the diet supplemented with fish oil reduced cells responsible for airway inflammation and subsequent obstruction. Also, the use of inhalers was reduced by 31 percent.

Research suggests that omega-3fatty acid supplements decrease inflammation and improve lung function in adults with asthma. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. In excess, they tend to increase inflammation and worsen respiratory function. Omega-6s are found in the vegetable oils added to most processed foods. A healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is about one to four, but the typical American diet provides more than 10 times our requirement for omega-6 fats, making fish oil supplements and a balanced diet particularly important for anyone with asthma.

Choosing a Supplement

Fish oil in capsule or liquid form may be a better source for healthy fats than the fish that produce it because it can be purified to remove mercury and other toxins. I have long recommended that people consume one to four grams of EPA and DHA from fish oil each day. But I always stress that we must only use clean oils that carry a freshness and purity guarantee right on the label. Look for this statement: “This product is regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency, and purity by an independent FDA-registered laboratory and has been determined to be fresh, fully potent, and free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCBs, and 28 other contaminants.” Start supplementing your diet with fish oils today for overall health—and the added benefits may surprise you.

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About the author:

Jolie Martin Root is a Licensed Practical Nurse, a Licensed Nutritionist, and a Medical Journalist in private practice in Denver, Colorado. She counsels and educates about the role of nutrition in integrative medicine. A prolific writer, Jolie’s articles have been published in many magazines and newsletters. A highly respected radio personality, Jolie is host of “Health Line” heard Monday Mornings at 11 AM on AM 1040 in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach, Florida. She is also the co-host of “Food for Thought” heard Saturdays at 5PM on WMCA AM 570 New York City and simulcast on KNEW AM 910 San Francisco.

- who has written 4 articles on Health e Times.


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