Omega-3 fats can regulate inflammatory processes and responses. Researchers recently investigated omega-3s and other fats (such as omega-6 fats and alpha linolenic acid) to see if their consumption was associated with a reduction in mortality due to inflammatory diseases.
More than 2,500 participants were tracked over a period of 15 years. Their diet was assessed using a food-frequency questionnaire.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
"Women in the highest tertiles of total [omega-3] intake, compared with those in the lowest tertile of intake at baseline, had a 44 percent reduced risk of inflammatory disease mortality ... In both men and women, each ... increase in energy-adjusted intake of alpha-linolenic acid was [also] inversely associated with inflammatory mortality."
Most people realize that inflammation plays an important role in the development and progression of nearly all diseases. That is why anti-inflammatory diets and nutrients are so widely utilized. However, your body can also use controlled inflammatory processes to optimize your health
When your body's inflammatory process works correctly, it prompts your body's white blood cells to protect you from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses through a type of inflammation. This type of acute inflammation will help heal your body of injuries and infections, and is responsible for the redness, pain and swelling that often accompany such conditions during recovery.
There are times, however, when your immune system may mistakenly trigger an inflammatory response when no threat is present, leading to excess inflammation in your body that can fester silently for years until disease develops. All of the following conditions are linked to chronic inflammation (the type of illness is typically dependent on which organs the inflammation is impacting):
Omega-3 Fats Help Curb Inflammation
Eating oxidized or rancid fats and sugar will increase inflammation in your body. Conversely, eating healthy fats such as animal-based omega-3 fats or the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) tends to reduce inflammation.
The above featured study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that women with the highest intake of omega-3 fats had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying from inflammatory disease compared with women with the lowest intake. It is also because omega-3s interfere with inflammation that they are able to help cancer patients maintain and even regain lost muscle mass.
Omega-3 fats produce anti-inflammatory fats called resolvins. Research suggests resolvins may control inflammation by:
- Stopping the passage of inflammatory cells to inflammation sites
- Turning on other inflammatory cells
Omega-3 fats have also been shown to reduce T-cell-mediated inflammation, in part, by suppressing T-cell (a key immune system white blood cell) activation and proliferation.
The Type of Omega-3 Fat Matters
Remember, not all omega-3 fats are created equal when it comes to inflammation.
Plant-based omega-3 sources like flax, hemp and chia are high in ALA and are important sources of nutrients, as we all need ALA. However, the key point to remember is that ALA has to be converted by your body into the far more essential EPA and DHA by an enzyme in which the vast majority of us are deficient.
So, I believe it is essential to get some of your omega-3 fats from animal sources, and research suggests that animal-based omega-3 fats are also those that will give you the best anti-inflammatory effects.
According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition:
"Among the fatty acids, it is the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which possess the most potent immunomodulatory activities, and among the omega-3 PUFA, those from fish oil -- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- are more biologically potent than alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)."
Unfortunately, fish supplies around the world are found more contaminated every year as increasing numbers of fish test positive for mercury, PCBs, toxic metals like lead and arsenic, and radioactive substances like strontium -- so I do not recommend eating fish to get your valuable animal-based omega-3 fats.
Instead, your safest and most cost-effective choice for bumping up your omega-3 fats is taking a high-quality Antarctic krill oil.
Krill oil is superior to fish oil because it contains phospholipids that dramatically improve DHA and EPA absorption over fish oil. It also has a very powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin, and omega-3s bonded together in a way that keeps them protected from oxidation. Many popular fish oil brands are already oxidized before you open the bottle. Krill oil is also 48 times more potent than fish oil and contains vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
Further, harvesting krill is FAR more sustainable and earth-friendly than harvesting fish for fish oil.
What About Anti-Inflammatory Drugs?
Conventional medicine's go-to treatment for inflammation is anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin and NSAIDs. I, however, strongly advise against them. I was among the first to publicly warn against these drugs in the late '90s, including Vioxx, which ended up killing more than 60,000 people from strokes and heart attacks.
Statins are also now frequently prescribed to individuals who have normal cholesterol levels if they have elevated C-reactive protein levels in order to combat inflammation and presumably reduce their risk of developing heart disease. But taking a statin in this case will NOT resolve the underlying problem causing the increase in inflammation and will expose you to an abundance of statin-related side effects.
The third drug often given to people with inflammation is the corticosteroid prednisone.
This immunosuppressive drug, though necessary in some extreme cases, is associated with VERY serious long-term side effects such as cataracts, bone loss, weakening of the immune system, and many others. One of the most serious complications from prednisone is the risk of osteoporosis, which occurs from the bone loss. Although prednisone is indeed occasionally needed and can actually be lifesaving, it is nearly always a poor choice to use long term.
Prednisone will cover up the disease, but it is the underlying dysfunction -- the cause of the disease -- that must be repaired.
Please be very careful about using this drug. As long as you use it less than two weeks the risk is very low. But if you use it longer you would be FAR better served by finding a skilled natural care clinician to help you find natural resources that address the cause.
Natural Tips to Lower Your Risk of Inflammatory Conditions
Lifestyle changes such as those noted below are very effective at reducing chronic inflammation in your body:
- Focus on eating a healthy diet. This includes avoiding pro-inflammatory foods like trans fats, fried foods, sugar, fructose and grains, foods cooked at high temperatures and oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs).
- Get plenty of high quality, animal-based omega-3 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil that is chock full of these beneficial omega-3s.
- Optimize your insulin levels. If your fasting insulin level is not lower than three consider limiting or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Most people are not aware that vitamin D deficiency is associated with inflammation, so you will want to be sure your levels are in the healthy range by getting proper sun exposure, using a safe tanning bed or taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to lower inflammation without any of the side effects associated with medications. High-intensity exercises like Peak Fitness are optimal.
- Quit smoking. Smoking hardens your arteries and increases inflammation. But research shows you can reverse all the damaging effects to your arteries within 10 years of quitting. However, be sure you get your diet under control first so you don't fall into the trap of trading cigarettes for unhealthy junk foods.
- Make sure your waist size is normal. If you're a woman with a waist measurement of over 35 inches or a man with a waist of over 40 inches, you probably have high inflammation and should take steps to lose weight.
- Have healthy outlets for stress and other negative emotions. High levels of stress hormones can lead to the release of excess inflammatory chemicals, so be sure you use tools to help deal with your current stress and resolve past emotional challenges as well. Meditation, prayer and my personal favorite the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) are all useful stress management techniques to try out.
Additionally, if you are suffering from pain related to inflammation, such as joint pain, you should know that there are safer alternatives to drugs for temporary relief. For several safe and effective suggestions, please see this link for anti-inflammatory alternatives. If you're taking animal-based omega-3 fats, you're already a step ahead as they are an extremely effective form of natural pain relief.