You’ve probably heard that omega-3 fatty acids are great for your health. Omega-3s are the reason why it’s a good idea to take a fish oil supplement. What you may or may not know is that not all omega-3s are created equal.
There are three different types of omega-3s and they all do something slightly different in the body.
Overall, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, support hormone balance, promote good brain health, boost mood, and reduce symptoms and progression of many diseases including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and more.
The Omega 3:6 Balance
Omega–3s have a counterbalancing partner, omega-6s. If you think of omega-3s as an anti-inflammatory, you can imagine omega-6s as inflammatory. While we need some omega-6 fatty acids for proper brain function, healthy skin, hair, and bones, as a country we get far too many omega-6 and not enough omega-3s.
In fact, your omega-3 and omega-6 levels should exist in a balanced ratio, close to 1:1. However, due to the Standard American Diet and the high levels of industrial seed oils (corn, soy, canola, etc.) we consume, most Americans have a ratio closer to 1:20 or worse. This disproportionate balance of omega-3s to omega-6 fatty acids contributes to systemic inflammation, poor fat metabolism, weight gain, and obesity. Fortunately, research has found that negative impacts of a poor omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can be reversed by taking more EPA and DHA, which are found in good fish oil supplements.
This is great news for anyone interested in significantly improving their health.
To better understand the importance of omega-3s, let’s take a step back and fully understand how all of this happens in the body.
What Exactly Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Your body is pretty good at making materials it needs for critical functions. However, there are some substances which are considered essential, meaning your body must get them from food. They are vital to your health but cannot be made by your body. Essential omega-3 fatty acids are a good example – they’re needed for creating and maintaining cell membranes, synthesizing hormones, and regulating gene expression.
There are 11 different types of omega-3s and they all have slightly different roles in the body, though there are some overlapping characteristics. However, there are three omega-3 that is considered the most important, and they include:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – ALA supports heart health and creates beneficial brain cholesterol. ALA needs to be converted to EPA and DHA to be used but your body is inefficient in this process. The person needs sufficient levels on vitamin B1, B6, zinc, and magnesium for the conversion to be fully effective.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – EPA is responsible for reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, and improving mood.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – Of all the omega-3s, DHA gets by far the most attention for its role in brain function. DHA is also important in maintaining your retinas.
For your best health, you should be sure you’re getting enough EPA and DHA because these are active forms of omega-3s needed by your body and brain. EPA and DHA are mostly found in marine plants and animals such as fish, krill, and algae.
Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Omega-3s
It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3s for your overall health. This is why fish oil is one of the most recommended supplements.
How do you know if you’re getting enough omega-3s?
Well, first your diet should be low in industrial seed oils (such as canola, soy or corn oil – which is what most restaurant use when you go out to eat) and conventional beef, which is two of the biggest sources of omega-6s.
To counterbalance this, you should eat more olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, butter or ghee, and nuts and seeds high in omega-3s. My favorite seed that is not only rich in Omega 3s but also helps estrogen metabolism is freshly (I want to stress the word “freshly”) ground flax seed.
Since restaurants typically use industrial seed oils and conventional beef, it can be difficult for anyone to be sure the have a good omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Keep an eye out for some of the signs and symptoms that indicate you aren’t getting enough omega-3, such as:
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Skin issues
- Brain fog
- Heart problems
- Poor circulation
- Vision problems
In my experience, there isn’t one way of knowing you are deficient as the symptoms listed above can be due to many other factors. I’ve found that it’s best to just start taking a top-notch quality of fish oil and see how it helps you.
My Personal Anti-inflammatory Experience with Fish Oil
I experienced the anti-inflammatory benefit of fish oil after a major surgery I underwent in August 2017. I had a simultaneous double hip replacement and wrote about the experience and the pre- and post-surgery protocol I used – which proved to be highly effective as I recovered, according to my surgeon, extraordinarily quickly. As I’m writing this article, I’m in the Italian Alps skiing just 5 ½ months after the surgery on advanced blue trails with no pain or physical limitations.
Right after the surgery, I would experiment by not taking the fish oil for a few days to see what happens. Not surprisingly, the pain would intensify. After going back to taking the fish oil, I would feel the inflammation subsiding within a day.
The anti-inflammatory benefit of fish oil does not have to just happen to pain – it is an umbrella term that, when addressed, can benefit a person’s overall health; from hormone production, mood to skin and hair quality.
Fish Oil for Optimal Hormone Balance
Omega-3s are needed for hormonal balance because they are used in hormone production and function. Because your body needs these important building blocks to prevent hormone conditions, research is finding that supplementation with omega-3 is effective in the prevention and treatment of hormone related disease, especially in women.
Additionally, omega-3s are very effective against inflammation, which often accompanies hormone related conditions. Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, so much so they have even been found to be more effective than NSAIDs in pain treatment of arthritis.
The three most common hormonal related conditions that benefit from omega-3 supplementation include:
- Menopause symptoms – Omega-3s supply the necessary building blocks for hormone production and function, which helps reduce frustrating menopause symptoms. Research has found omega-3s help with hot flashes and post-menopausal depression.
- Thyroid dysfunction – Since most hypothyroidism is actually caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, inflammation is usually a contributing factor. Omega-3s are very effective in fighting autoimmune disease related inflammation. Studies have found that patients with autoimmune disease who supplement with omega-3s experience decreased disease activity, a reduced need for anti-inflammatory drugs, and significant benefits overall.
- Adrenal deficiency – Most women with adrenal problems are highly inflamed, which fish oils help alleviate. Research also shows that EPA can help regulate the dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and restore homeostasis. Though we could use more studies on the specific effects of omega-3s on adrenal deficiency, these two mechanisms are promising.
Other hormonal conditions that benefit from omega-3 supplementation include:
How to Pick a Safe Omega-3 Supplement
A major concern surrounding omega-3 supplements is that because they are sourced from marine animals like fish and krill, they have the potential for contamination and oxidation.
First, if the fish used aren’t carefully sourced and a species at the bottom of the food chain there’s a higher risk for heavy metal toxicity. This is the same reason it’s not a good idea to have sushi every day.
Second, fish oils that aren’t properly processed and stored can oxidize. Oxidation occurs when fish oils are exposed to heat, oxygen, or light without anything to stabilize the product. Not only does oxidation cause the fish oil to lose some of its therapeutic qualities, but it also causes fatty acids to turn into oxidants or sometimes free radicals. Oxidized phospholipids and free radicals can cause inflammation and cellular damage.
While it’s always important to buy high-quality supplements from reputable brands, this is especially true when it comes to your fish oil. For this reason, I carry a fish oil supplement I know to be of the highest quality.
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Why I Don’t Recommend Flaxseed Oil
Proponents of flaxseed oil recommend it as a vegetarian option and a rich source of Omega 3s. Here is the catch: flaxseed oil not only gets oxidized extremely quickly (this is why it’s sold in black bottles, in the refrigerator) but it is only high in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
To reap the full therapeutic benefits, ALA needs to be converted to EPA and then DHA with the help of a number of vitamins and minerals, namely: vitamins B1 and B6, zinc and magnesium. Given how many people are deficient in these nutrients, this conversion won’t happen.
Furthermore, most of the reliable studies showing tremendous medicinal benefits (see the References below) have been done on EPA and DHA and not ALA.
Here is the good news: cold water fish and fish oils contain high amounts of ELA and DHA so your body gets the benefit right away.
The Omega 3 Fish Oil I Use
The Hormone Balance Nutritionals’ Essential Omegas is a potent product made from Alaskan pollock. Each capsule contains 600mg of EPA and 400mg of DHA. There is a minimum of 90 percent triglyceride-bound omega-3 fish oils, meaning it’s better absorbed and more readily available than other fish oils.
Furthermore, the Hormone Balance Essential Omegas supplement is molecularly distilled, which removes any remaining heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, PCBs, and other contaminants.
There are other great fish oil supplements available, I just strongly recommend you do your research and find a high-quality one. This is how you ensure your fish oil is providing you the maximum benefits without unintended harm. You can read more about How to Trust a Brand of Supplements here.
Fish Oils in a Triglyceride Form
Essential Omegas uses the TruTGTM advantage – it contains fish oils in the triglyceride (TG) form —the same way they naturally occur in fish. Most mass-marketed and lower-priced fish oil supplements come in the ethyl ester (EE) form. These are less expensive and more convenient to produce, but they are not as readily recognized, digested, and assimilated as the TG form.
In order to receive the maximum benefit from omega-3 supplementation, it is critical to provide these fats to the body in the same way they are found naturally in fish. It is only when consumed in this natural form that they are most easily digested and assimilated. This TruTGTM advantage is especially effective at promoting healthy omega-3 levels in the body.
Purity Issue (Mercury and PCBs)
Having a long history of struggling with mercury (and lead) toxicity, I take fish oil research very seriously – this was the foundation for the product formulation.
Essential Omegas includes mixed tocopherols, which protect these fragile oils from oxidation and rancidity. Additionally, these fish oils are molecularly distilled and filtered to ensure purity and to maximize the removal of metals, pesticides, PCBs, and other contaminants.
My Daily Supplement Protocol
Many of you have asked what supplements I take every day. I try to keep it as simple as possible and take only what I really need. Essential Omegas is one of the 4 supplements I take every day; the other ones are magnesium, vitamin D (with K1 and K2) and B complex.
There are far too many benefits of omega-3s on your health for you to miss out on this easy addition.