The benefits of omega 3’s are an underrated nutrient that many people in the US are deficit in. One literary review states
Although omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in autoimmune disorders, inflammatory diseases and heart disease, they are generally underrepresented in the American diet. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids — whether in food sources such as walnuts, flax seeds and fatty fish (including salmon and sardines), or in supplements — is associated with decreased morbidity and mortality.”
In the last decade, I have done a lot of personal research trying to figure out how to keep my family healthy and prevent chronic illnesses that seem to plague too many people in our society today. Nearly all of it boils down to either genetics (which I can do nearly nothing about) or nutrition (which we can do a lot about.) Of course, Omega 3s are not going to fix or prevent anything by themselves. However, with this knowledge, we have the motivation to incorporate them into our daily eating, or at the very least supplementation.
Symptoms of Omega 3 deficits
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficits include:
- poor memory
- dry skin
- heart problems
- mood swings or depression
- poor circulation
Natural Sources of Omega 3’s
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia Seeds
Omega 3’s decrease Inflammation. This alone is probably why it is so beneficial to prevent so many illnesses. Many chronic illnesses are related to chronic inflammation. The Omega 3 fatty acids stop the enzymes that cause an inflammatory response in the body.
Reduction of the chronic inflammation from Omega 3’s means there is a reduction in progression of diseases like such as
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Diseases of the skin and joints
- Progression of autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis (source)
Prevents Anxiety & Depression
Anxiety and depression use to be looked at as a strictly psychological problem. However, with more evidence out there, many doctors and researchers are coming to the conclusion that many peoples anxiety and depression could be linked to nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Sears from psychology today states
it may be caused by radical changes in the American diet in the past 40 years. These changes have resulted in what I term the Perfect Nutritional Storm”
He states that nerves in the brain can become inflamed (just like any other part of our body) and cause these psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, along with even schizophrenia and Alzheimers disease. This is due to an imbalance of omega 6’s and omega 3s. In short, we consume too many 6’s and not enough 3’s.
Here is a great article on how Omega 3s and DHA/EPA can help prevent postpartum depression, with basically the same concept. Omega 3s reduce nerve inflammation inside the brain.
Vital in Baby Development
DHA and EPA are a type of Omega 3s. This research review goes over all the importance of Omega 3’s and fetal development. They are essential to baby’s vision and neurological development. It speculates that many women do not consume enough fish or seafood for adequate levels of DHA. To complicate this, it’s often recommended that pregnant women avoid seafood during pregnancy, as concern for mercury contamination is a concern. (Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it could inhibit brain development.) There are some fish that are considered safe during pregnancy. These are usually the smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies.
My favorite prenatal Omega 3’s are these ones. They are a bit pricier than other brands but they are great for pregnancy, plus they’ll last you 3 months. They are GMO-free and made from small fish to decrease mercury contamination. The biggest thing for me, they are very small for fish oil pills with no flavor at all. (So important during those horrible morning sickness months! (These are the ones I took during both my pregnancy’s.)
Can help Relieve Joint Pain
Another one of the many benefits of omega 3’s is reduced joint pain. This study examined surveyed people with chronic back and neck pain. 125 people were asked to take 1200mg of fish oil daily (some of those people doubled the dose). Of those, nearly %60 stated they were able to stop their NSAID use because their pain had improved on the fish oil. It does this by inhibiting the production of the inflammatory cytokines that are responsible for arthritic pain. (source)
As a nurse, I have seen many people with chronic back pain who take daily over the counter medications just to be able to function. That being said, NSAID use (Ibuprofen and Tylenol as examples) can come with tons of side effects. (Stomach bleeds and liver failure in extreme cases.) It’s exciting to see a possible alternative to the drugs with a more natural supplement (or even better, dietary changes) that doesn’t have the side effects, except better health!
So what to do now?
Start increasing your Omega 3 foods. If you know you aren’t getting enough in your diet, it may be time to start taking a fish oil supplement. My favorite brand for this is this one. If you’re pregnant, then these ones.