Omega-3 Fatty Acids

North Shore Acupuncture and Natural Medicine - Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Inflammation, Autoimmune Disease and Cardiovascular Health

Today, I would like to discuss how Omega-3 fatty acids impact your overall health. Last blog, I discussed the three main sources of omega-3 and how diet and/or omega-3 supplements have many positive impacts on your health and wellness.

Omega-3 and Inflammation

The human body is impacted by inflammation in 2 ways:

Acute Inflammation: a biological response to anything harmful. The causes can be of physical, biological, chemical or psychological in nature. Commonly understood examples are:

Physical: Burns, trauma, physical injury, exercise

Biological: infection, stress

Chemical: Alcohol or chemical irritants i.e. bleach

Psychological: Excitement, fear

During acute inflammation, the body responses in a number of ways, but the most common are pain, heat, redness, swelling, itchiness or loss of function. Acute inflammation is the first line of defense, and the response is short-lived and ceases once the stimulus is removed (i.e. chemical irritant is washed off). If acute inflammation is prolonged then the immune response continues and becomes chronic in nature.

Chronic Inflammation: Chronic inflammation occurs when inflammation persists for an extended period of time. Long-term inflammation can contribute to every chronic Western illness i.e. Heart Disease. Since Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce production of substances linked to inflammation, it is strongly recommended to use a omega-3 supplement or eat foods high in Omega-3's. Studies show omega-3 supplements reduce the risk for inflammation. Health benefits include reduced risk of heart disease, heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer.

Omega-3 and Cardiovascular Health

Unfortunately, the world's leading causes of death are heart attacks and strokes. Countries that have a high Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio (2:1 - 4:1) have extremely low rates of these diseases. Western countries such as, the United states typically, have a Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio much higher! (16:1 - 40:1 or higher). Studies show that diets that have a healthy Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio are less likely to suffer from inflammation including, body pain, low energy, excessive mucus production, skin rashes, and many other signs!

If you are not eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids it's extremely important to offset the ratio by taking a fish oil supplement.

Omega-3 and Autoimmune disease

A healthy immune system attacks germs like bacteria and viruses, but in the case of an autoimmune disease, proteins called autoantibodies attack the individual's healthy cells. There are many types of autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes to name a few. The cause of the immune system attack varies from individual to individual. Omega-3 fatty acids can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation. There are many health benefits for an individual suffering an a type of autoimmune disease to take Omega-3 fish oil supplements or to increase possible sources of Omega-3 in their diet. Many placebo-controlled trails of fish oil supplements in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefit, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs (Simopoulos, 2002).

Stay tuned for Blog 2!

Blog 2: Will focus on Mental Health and Sleep

  • Overall Mental Health and Alzheimer's Disease

  • Depression & Anxiety

  • Improving Sleep