So unless you’ve been living in a remote cave on a deserted island for the past several years, you’ve heard or seen adds and reports on why you should be taking Omega-3 fats. Even medical doctors (who receive no education in nutrition in med school, only a couple electives) have been recommending them for their patients claiming health benefits. Blah, blah blah! So what’s the big deal?? Are they really that good for you? Do we all really need to be on them?? In a word…YES!! SOoooo lets talk about why…
The first main thing to bring up is that the reason they are called “Essential Fats” is that you do not produce these fats on your own. They are essential to function and repair of many of the body’s systems, but you don’t produce them naturally so you have to get them either out of your diet or in supplement form.
So where are fats used in the body? Well….the real question is more where are they not used in the body. The main organ in the body that utilizes fats (especially omega 3 fats) is the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerves). The brain is made up of 60% fat, and the nerves are encapsulated by a fatty sheath called myelin. The myelin sheath is responsible for the transmission of the signal the nerve is sending out to the different parts of the body. No myelin = No signal. Think of nerves as electrical wires that the signals (electricity) run down. The myelin is the insulation around that wire that allows it to fire correctly. You also use the omega-3 fats in the muscles for repair of the tissue and lubrication to the tendons and joints. The fats act like grease to help the joints move correctly. Without proper amounts of omega-3 fats in your diet, you won’t absorb your nutrients like calcium the way you are supposed to and can become deficient.
Another huge function of these fats is the production of all our sex hormones. In women AND men, fats are the building blocks of all of the sex hormones produced in the body. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone….just to stay basic. These fats, along with other good fats you take in via your diet, are processed in your liver and are used as building blocks for these hormones. Hormone imbalance issues are rampant in our culture these days and many of the problems associated with hormone issues could be corrected with good quality fats.
Here are some common symptoms of omega 3 deficiency:
The good, the bad, the ugly….
1. Hormone Imbalance: Like I just said, you need these in order to keep your hormones balanced. No fats=jacked up hormones…just a fact. So this whole “low fat diet” thing is ridiculous and not a little dangerous, especially if you are a female. You need plenty of fat (good fat) to keep you going. Fat has the highest calorie count for energy production (9 kilocalories).
2. Skin Conditions: Any condition that shows up on the skin can begin with a fat deficiency. Dry skin, eczema, cracking skin, psoriasis, little bumpy rashes, and itchiness all happen when your diet is lacking in the essential fats you need. This is primarily because your skin is made up of a lipid (fat) bilayer that helps to keep moisture out and bring nutrients in.
3. Mental Illness: Since the brain is 60% fat…any deficiency can effect the function of your nervous system. This can lead to conditions like memory loss, depression, mental fatigue or “foggy brain”, mood swings, ADHD, or anything else effecting your chemicals in the brain. The reason is because a decrease in fats effects the firing and production of all the “feel good” signals in the brain. Things like serotonin and dopamine help us feel more relaxed and de-stressed during our crazy lives. We need the production of these to remain level if we’re to have level emotions and moods.
4. Joint and Muscle pain: Fats are essential for healing the body’s tissues, especially after an injury or damage to the body. If you are low, then the body won’t have what it needs to take care of the repair of your tissue. Therefore, inflammation builds up in the joints and in the muscles due to the lack of repair and causes excess pain and soreness. Joints get really stiff and “creaky” when you have too few fats because they help to lubricate your hyaline cartilage…found in most of your joints.
5. Cardiovascular Disease: Lack of good fats in the body is one reason your heart and circulatory system will become congested and sluggish because there are not enough essential fats to keep the whole system lubricated and to keep the blood thin. Omega-3′s are natural blood thinners (good to keep in mind if you are on blood pressure meds) so a lack of these will lead to thicker than normal blood and possible high blood pressure due to the increased pressure required to pump the thicker blood.
So these are just a few of the conditions associated with not getting enough good fats. So enough about what is caused by not getting them….where’s the best place to get them?? Well, there are two different sources to get your essential fatty acids: 1. Animal Fats 2. Plants
Sooo, where can I get them??
1. Animal Sources: The BEST source of omega 3′s are from animals because your body doesn’t have to convert it to be able to use it in the body. It is a ready source of fats your body can use immediately to help with function and healing. Best sources of fats for Omega 3′s in animals is fish oil. You can get good fats from Salmon, Cod, Tuna (bagged better, not canned to stay away from the aluminum), sardines. Most people aren’t going to eat enough fish to get what they need and frankly, most people aren’t going to buy the best quality because of the price so the better option really is to just supplement with them. We carry Innate Choice Omega Sufficiency fish oil in the office because it has the most specific ratios of fats for what we need and it is the purest oil we’ve found. Really great company…incredible product. We carry it in a liquid or in capsules so you can get it either form. Adults take 1 teaspoon a day as a maintenance dose or 4 capsules a day. Kids take usually 1/2 of the adult dose depending on their age and weight.
2. Plant Source: You can also get your omega 3′s from a plant source. Best couple places to do this is from Flax Seed Oil and Borage Oil. I wouldn’t really even mess with trying to get these out of the diet…you’d have to eat so many flax seeds (ground, not raw) that you’d hate them!! So I recommend Udo’s Choice Blend. It has flax oil and borage oil together so it is a really complete product with all the different plant based essential fats (ALA, GLA, LA). You can get it at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Central Market. We also carry it, but just don’t really keep it in stock. Your body can never convert enough of the plant fats to satisfy what it needs in the body so I really just recommend getting them from fish oil. It’s good to get the plant some to force the body to do the conversion, but the end result is the fats found in fish oil….so why bother?? Now, if you have chronic digestive issues you might want to start off with flax oil because it is a really good digestive healer due to how it coats the intestines…kind of like fix-a-flat for a tire.
So hopefully that sheds some light on the omega 3 issue. Like I said, most people are really familiar with this topic, but I wanted to hit on it a little just to show what we recommend to keep you balanced. It’s really amazing how many people are not on omega 3 fats, especially after all the research and studies that have been done. Do yourself a favor and add these important fats into your diet.