What’s going on with all the hype for fish oil and omega 3′s in our diets? As supplementation trends go, fish oils and omega 3′s are increasingly popular. This is important dietary awareness and a trend worth following for many reasons.
Traditional diets which are the foundation upon which all our biological activities are adapted included predominantly whole foods, leafy green fresh vegetables, fruits, well prepared legumes and grains and wild or free range meats. Around the world, the diets of a century ago included a much higher ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids than we have today. Now, the standard American diet is very high in plant oils, processed grains and animal products fed on grains. This results in a much lower ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 oils. When the balance is tipped this way, it creates an environment which tends to be pro-inflammatory and negatively effect multiple systems in the body.
This imbalance of fatty acids in the body can be a major contributing factor to inflammation and pain. This can result in arthritis, skin issues, heart disease, stroke, circulatory disorders and poor mental function. Proper balance of fats is especially important for pregnant women and children as the developing brain is dependent upon this balance.
So shall we all start glugging down the bottles of omega 3 oil to prevent these diseases? Not so fast, as not all oils are created equal. Fish oil is highly beneficial but be very careful that it is toxin free variety. Damage from methylmercury can easily outweigh the benefit of the oil. Flax oil is taken by many as well but has far too much omega 3 for sustained use and can result in an omega 6 deficiency over time. Supplementation of a good quality omega 3 source may be imperative to your health, particularly if you have already developed cardiovascular disease or chronic inflammation. However, the nutritional component is the foundation.
Check out this link for great food ideas for omega 3′s:
Corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and most animal meats (except fish), refined plant oils and some nut/seed oils enter the bloodstream and act like hormones affecting tissues throughout the body. An increased amount of omega 6 fatty acids in the body will constrict airways, reduce circulation, increase inflammation, increase pain sensitivity, increase swelling and make the blood more thick and increase clotting.
A standard intervention in allopathic medicine to address this imbalance of omega 6 oils that has resulted in these changes in the body is to take an aspirin a day. This blocks the cascade of events that results from high omega 6′s. However, simply blocking the pathways does not correct the imbalance and is also blocking the beneficial activity of the omega 3′s in the body.
My favorite additions to a routine diet to support a healthy omega 3 balance include:
- seaweeds – wakame and laver especially
- vegetables – cabbage, spinach, radish sprouts, butterhead lettuce, grape leaves
- fish – wild Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel, farmed rainbow trout
For the best understanding of what your body needs, I always recommend having an individualized consultation with your favorite Naturopathic Doctor in order to put together the right balance to meet your ever-changing needs.