Why Fish Oil?

Fish oil is one of the most widely discussed supplements out there today! We carry it in our office and our entire staff supplements with it everyday. But what is it good for?

Fish oil contains Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s). EFA’s are “essential” because your body can not make them, so you MUST eat them. They are required in your body and you need them to be healthy. EFA’s are broken down into a few categories, mainly Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. Omega-3’s are broken down further into EPA and DHA (eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid).

Why do I need them?
Omega-3’s are naturally anti-inflammatory. This is incredibly important because research shows that most, if not all, chronic illnesses that plague our population are related to/caused by chronic inflammation (ex. asthma, allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart & cardiovascular disease, etc.). Unfortunately the basic “American Diet” is very high in Omega-6’s, which are pro-inflammatory. As a result we are exposing ourselves to foods that are creating constant, chronic inflammation which could be making us sick. Omega-3’s do not occur in high enough concentration naturally (because we were never meant to consume so many omega-6’s) so we need to supplement our diets.

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Can I just avoid Omega-6’s?
That is a great idea! Unfortunately Omega-6 rich ingredients are used in virtually all of the foods that are widely available for consumption, so they are very difficult to avoid. These ingredients include grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn and sunflower oils. These are typically the components of “vegetable oil”. Vegetable oils are frequently used in processed foods to make them more palatable so you should avoid anything that comes in a can, bag or box! This also includes anything that is deep fried, since oil is used to fry the food. They are also used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine and other types of spreads. High fructose corn syrup, or just corn syrup goes hand and hand with this category and should be avoided as well. Grain fed animals for meats should be avoided too. Some other foods that are considered pro-inflammatory are red meat, sugar, alcohol, refined grains (bread and pasta!), artificial food additives such as MSG, aspartame and other sugar substitutes. You should avoid these items as much as possible, but at the very least limit your intake of them.

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Can’t I just eat fish?
Fish were known for their high levels of EPA/DHA because of the diet they consume when in their natural habitat. However, most fish available to consumers are farm raised, and they are usually fed corn feed! Corn is very high in Omega-6’s so the concept of eating fish to get Omega-3’s is completely defeated when the fish you are consuming is farm raised. Eating wild caught fish will remedy part of this issue. But you would still have to consume a large amount of fish to offset the high amount of Omega-6’s in most diets. Also, eating that much fish raises the concern of being exposed to too many environmental toxins. Supplements are purified of toxins so they may be safer.

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What about ALA?
ALA or alpha-linolenic acid is converted in the body to EPA & DHA. It is found in flax seed oil. However, the conversion of ALA into EPA/DHA is not very high. So for a higher concentration of EPA/DHA most turn to fish oil. Flax seed may be a good alternative for those who do not wish to consume animal products. There are some EPA/DHA supplements that are algae based for those individuals as well. Check out Algae Omega from Nordic Naturals here! We do not stock this product but we can always order it for you.

The take home message here is that you want to allow your body to maintain balance and homeostasis. By eating a diet high in Omega-6’s you are putting yourself at a deficit right from the get go. You are placing your body in a pro-inflammatory environment which shifts you from balance into stress. This stress activates your parasympathetic nervous system which detracts from your body’s innate, normal and natural ability to stay healthy. The end result is sickness and disease.

Eating a healthy diet, low in Omega-6’s will give you a strong foundation on which to build your health. Supplementing with Omega-3’s will further strengthen that foundation. Getting adjusted regularly will protect your nervous system from the other stresses we encounter on a daily basis. If you can keep your Omega-6 ratio down your adjustments will be more effective because then we can focus on helping you achieve optimal health as opposed to reversing the damage your diet is doing. Keep an eye on the blog later this week for help picking out an Omega-3 supplement!

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