1. OMEGA-3 OILS: Pain, Inflammation, Fibromyalgia, General Myofascial Pain Syndromes.
Mountains of evidence clearly show that special fats known as Omega-3 Fatty Acids (or fish oils) greatly enhance the health of the brain, as well as virtually every cell in the body. Omega-3 fats are a group of polyunsaturated fats commonly found in plants, fish, algae walnuts and flaxseed. The Omega-3 oils consist mainly of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
One big problem is that most of our foods are devoid of Omega-3 fats. And even many times the fish we eat are mostly farm-raised, which means they are fed only meals and grains – so they lack Omega-3 fats and are too high in Omega-6 fats. This health problem has reached epidemic proportions, and we are now paying the price in a huge way.
Although some Omega-6 fats are necessary to health, the balance of Omega-6s to Omega-3s is crucial. Unfortunately, most people consume an overabundance of Omega-6 fats (vegetable oils such as Canola, Safflower, Soybean). And when Omega-6 fats predominate, this encourages the production of ?inflammation-causing chemicals? in the body like arachidonic acid, leukotrienes, interleukins, histamines, TNF (tissue necrotizing factor), cytokines, PgE1 & PgE3 (the so-called bad prostaglandins), and the very powerful NF kappa Beta, and various free radicals.
The Japanese, who many experts say are the healthiest people on the planet, have an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 3:1. In the U. S. the ratio is 30:1. Herein lies the problem. Many Japanese smoke, drink lots of alcohol, work themselves to death and live in a country that is tremendously overcrowded. Yet they have little cancer, little heart disease & little or no depression. Impressive indeed!
Omega-3 fats promote the production of ?inflammation-fighting substances’such as PgE2s which are the good prostaglandins. Omega-3 oils do their magic by utilizing some of the same metabolic pathways as the NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs like aspirin & Ibuprofen). Since so many diseases have now been linked to chronic inflammation, this information is of utmost importance to our health.
In fact, many scientists believe that the major reason for today’s high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, diabetes, depression, menstrual problems, various immune dysfunctions (Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis) and many forms of cancer is this profound imbalance between our intake of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Because of this imbalanced ratio and because we are likely to be one of the 85-95% of people who are deficient in Omega-3 fats, I strongly urge everyone, old & young alike, to supplement with daily Omega-3 fish oils as you would other supplements like vitamin C and calcium. Also important is a diet rich in nuts, especially walnuts, fresh organically grown fruits & vegetables, grass-fed beef, non-farm raised fish such as salmon & tuna that can provide more Omega-3 fats.
Additionally, Olive oil and Coconut oil are two other oils that are beneficial and will not promote inflammation. In fact, I tell all my patients to avoid vegetable oils as much as possible and use fish oils, coconut oil & extra virgin olive oil instead. Grains (whole grains as well as refined carbohydrates), too, should be avoided because they cause inflammation in the body as well.
INFLAMMATION – Aches & Pains, Myofascial Pain Syndromes, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, etc.
Occurring in our country today is a process that is affecting every man, woman & child. It is called – inflammation.? Sometimes it is called ‘silent inflammation? or ?fomenting inflammation.? If you have not heard of this yet, you will. This insidious process is the underlying cause of just about every chronic disease diagnosed today, including pain syndromes.
Fibromyalgia and all of its attending problems, general myofascial pain syndromes, muscle spasms, and the little aches & pains we all get as we get older or as we go about the activities of daily living affect us all. Well, I am here today telling you this may be common but it is not normal. Common, yes. Normal, not!!
The common Western diet is very high in vegetable oils (Omega-6 oils). These oils are in everything. This type of diet creates the basis for our silent inflammation epidemic and is the underlying cause of 95% of our aches & pains.
In one study, 125 patients who were diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and facet arthropathy in the lumbar or cervical spine were prescribed fish oil supplements. These patients had been taking fish oil for an average of 75 days to see if they could get off their pain meds. Three-quarters of them were taking 1.2 grams, and the rest 2.4 grams daily.
Sixty percent of the respondents said they had stopped taking their NSAIDs for control of pain, and 60% said their overall pain improved compared with how it was before starting the supplements of fish oil. Eighty percent of the subjects stated that they were satisfied with the improvement in their pain, and 88% said they would continue to take Omega-3 supplements.
No significant side effects were reported, except for loose bowel movements in two cases.
What these findings mean
There are scientific reasons why fish oil supplements should work in these patients. In disc disease there is marked inflammatory reaction at the site of the herniated lumbar discs, according to Dr Maroon, one of the authors of the study. ?The inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-1 alpha, interleukin-6 and tissue necrosis factor-alpha are routinely found at the site of disc rupture and markedly enhance arachidonic acid, which is known to cause pain,? he said. ?Omega 3 fatty acids limit the release of arachidonic acid and the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PgE1 & PgE3).?
However, we should not accept this study as evidence that Omega 3 fatty acids will always work in this condition.
Maroon JC, Bost JW. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish-oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurology 2006;65:326-331.
I chose this study because of how effective Omega-3 oils were found to be for a more serious type of pain – Interveterbral Disc Herniations.
Folks, the amount of Omega-3 oils given to the patients in this study is about one-third to one-half of what scientists say we should be taking daily. And the researchers in this study still got great results with serious pain associated with disc lesions. You can, therefore, see how effective fish oils probably are in alleviating less serious pains & discomfort. Medical researchers say the amount of Omega-3 oils we should consume daily is 4 grams. In some very stubborn cases of pain syndromes, I prescribe 10 to 12 grams of Omega-3 oils daily until the condition is resolved. Then we cut the amount back to about 3 to 4 grams daily as maintenance.
Fish oil supplements taken in the doses we recommend in our office can thin the blood. This can be a healthy thing. However, many of my patients are prescribed blood thinners like Plavix & Coumadin. My strong suggestion to these people is to get off these dangerous blood thinners and use a blood thinner that won’t kill you – fish oils. Consult your physician about the use of fish oils.
Sidenote: MSM and Fish Oils
Many of you know that I have been using MSM powder in my practice for almost 12 years. This product has transformed many lives by alleviating much pain and discomfort. Now that we are combining MSM with higher dose fish oil supplements to our general supplement program, we are getting absolutely fantastic results in general & specific pain relief, reduction of inflammation, and modulating & elevation of mood.
Adding anti-inflammatory foods that contain the right type of fats in your diet will impact pain and inflammation in a positive way. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in cold water oily fish like salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds (the whole seeds, not the oil), and pumpkin seeds and will help to reduce inflammation. Adding omega 3 essential fatty acid supplements in the form of fish oil capsules or fish oil liquids will also help reduce inflammation and pain. I see this kind of positive impact everyday in my patients; improved moods & the reduction of aches & pains in as little as 10 days.
At the turn of the 20th century, the ratio of Omega-6 fats to Omega-3 fats in the typical American diet was somewhere between 2-to-1. Today the ratio hovers between 30 to 1, and one study even shows women having a staggering 45-to-1 ratio. Experts now know the brain works best at a 1-to-1 ratio.
At first glance, it might seem that you simply need to increase your Omega-3 intake and otherwise continue your present diet. But studies tell us that’s just not enough. Doing so will reduce the healthful benefits of Omega-3. You must eliminate as many Omega-6 fats (vegetable oils) as possible, replacing your present vegetable oils with extra-virgin olive oil & coconut oil.
And you should check all of the processed foods you eat to determine which oil was used to make the product. As you read the labels, you will see that virtually all foods use vegetable oils. This is especially true of breads, cakes, pies, cookies, chips, french fries, and other fried foods.
Remember that Omega-3 fats can be easily oxidized and the oil must be kept in the refrigerator. Taking vitamin E when you take your Omega-3 supplement will protect the oil from oxidizing and thereby enhance its effectiveness.
2. BRAIN FUNCTION: MOOD, DEPRESSION, ADHD and VIOLENCE
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, essential fatty acids comprised mainly of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). They are essential because the body cannot make them and must be obtained via dietary sources.
Researchers have documented the dramatic progression of major depressive illnesses over every decade of the 20th century. It might shock you to know that severe depression is occurring more often in younger people – even pre-teens.
In fact, those born before 1945 were 100 times less likely to suffer from major depression at age 45 than those born after 1945. Even during the Great Depression, the condition was much less common.
So what’s causing this spike in major depressive illness in the United States? Russell Blaylock, M.D., in his monthly newsletter states that the change in our diet is one major factor. Prior to World War II, people ate more vegetables, more wild meats, and fish – all foods high in Omega-3 oils. Surprisingly, meats were once abundant in Omega-3 fats. That is because in the past, cattle grazed on plants that were rich in Omega-3 oils. Today’s cattle are grain-fed, leaving beef with hardly any of this health-enhancing substance.
Studies reveal a link between the introduction of seed oils (vegetable oils) – such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean and canola oils – and increased depressive illness in the United States. Seed oils contain mostly Omega-6-type fats, which have been shown to cause the disorder.
Omega-3s: Depression and Bipolar Disorder
For several years, researchers have noted a correlation between Omega-3 deficits and severity of depression. Patients with the lowest levels of essential Omega-3 fatty acids tend to be the most severely depressed, while healthy control subjects are more likely to have normal levels of Omega-3s, as measured in red blood cell membranes. In a recently published clinical paper, researchers in the Netherlands reported that subjects with low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (and high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios) were significantly more likely to be depressed than those whose levels of Omega-3s approached a more balanced level. The study group consisted of more than 3,000 adults over the age of 60, and inflammation and arteriosclerosis were ruled out as confounding factors. The finding, researchers noted, ‘suggests a direct effect of fatty acid composition on mood.?
Other researchers also have confirmed a definitive link between consumption of Omega-3s and mental health. Studies have examined either blood or adipose tissue levels of Omega-3s. They have consistently revealed a correlation between low levels of Omega-3s and depression. Omega-3 supplementation has proven effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression or as an adjunct to therapy with modern drugs, especially in bipolar disorder. But there appears to be a point at which Omega-3 supplementation may be too little, too late. Supplementation appears to be largely ineffective in cases of major depression. One small but well-designed study found no significant benefit from treatment of major depression with DHA versus placebo. Even in these cases, however, Omega-3 supplementation may provide a boost to standard therapy, particularly in treatment-resistant patients.
Recently researchers have found alternative treatments based on a connection between bipolar disorder and low dietary levels of Omega-3 fats. At the Centre for Mental Health Research in Melbourne, Australia, studies found that high Omega-6 blood levels coupled with low Omega-3 levels were linked to more severe depression.
It is vital to remember that Omega-3 oils are a principal component of cell membranes, especially in the brain.
Studies at England’s University of Sheffield linked low Omega-3 fat levels in red blood cell membranes to depression, and other analyses have confirmed this. Omega-3 fats fight depression by altering the brain’s neurotransmitters, increasing serotonin receptors and boosting dopamine levels in the frontal lobes.
A study published in the 1999 issue of the Archives of Psychiatry found that bipolar patients on a high Omega-3 fat diet remained symptomless longer, improving in every measure of function as opposed to those on conventional diets. And depressed patients on such a diet also responded better to their medication.
Diets low in Omega-3 fatty acids seem to destroy the brain’s synapses and dendrites (connections) in the very same area of the brain. This again emphasizes the importance of Omega-3s in protecting against depression as well as associated brain shrinkage and memory loss.
Several epidemiological studies clearly suggest that adequate Omega-3 fatty acids may be an important protective factor in depression. Correlation, however, does not prove causation. To add to the strength of the epidemiological studies, scientists have examined the levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood cells and fat storage cells of those with major depression.
Four studies have shown that those with depression do indeed have lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood. One of the studies showed that the lower the level of EPA, the more severe the clinical depression. In addition, a recent study showed that patients with depression have 35 percent less DHA in fat storage cells versus healthy controls.
Brain Diseases and Omega-3
We know there is a demonstrated connection between several brain disorders and diets low in Omega-3 fats yet high in Omega-6 fats. Consider one study’s finding that schizophrenic patients who ate more Omega-3 fats had fewer severe symptoms and responded to medications better with fewer side effects.
Other studies consistently indicate behavioral disorders in those lacking Omega-3 oils in their diets. Supplements of Omega-3 fats reversed these abnormal behaviors.
Some studies have linked Alzheimer’s to low Omega-3 and high Omega-6 diets.
Parkinson’s, like Alzheimer’s, is considered a brain-inflammation disorder and has also been linked to poor dietary habits. Omega-3 fat – especially the DHA component – has been shown to protect against excitotoxicity, the central mechanism in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Two other diseases are growing at an alarming rate – attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. Studies show that sufferers of both have significantly lower levels of Omega-3 fats in their diets.
Anger, Violence and Omega Fats
Levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats seem to influence behavior greatly. One study of boys aged 6 to 12 found that those with the lowest Omega-3 levels demonstrated more episodes of violent and angry behavior plus problems with impulse control.
In one study, young adults were given DHA supplements. This significantly reduced their aggression toward their peers. Conversely, Omega-6-rich diets raised the incidence of violent deaths, including suicides.
Omega-3 Oils: Helping Control Aggressive Behavior
In a prison setting in 2001, an American scientist published a study that found a direct link between high Omega-3 intake and low murder rates. He discovered that antisocial behavior, assaults, and other aggressive acts dropped by around 35% for those people
who took the Omega-3 supplements.
These Omega-3 fatty acids promote neurons to grow in the frontal cortex of the brain. This region controls impulsive behavior, and lacking Omega-3s could enhance violent impulses that wouldn’t necessarily exist if this cortex had its proper supply of nutrients.
Severe depression can result in some women after giving birth. The feelings can be overwhelming, accompanied by thoughts of violence or suicide.
Many recent studies show that Omega-3 fats are so important to the baby’s growth – especially brain development – that the child will often inadvertently rob the mother of hers. If the mother’s diet is already lacking, she could become severely deficient. A mother loses the most Omega-3 during the last trimester of the pregnancy, as this is a period of accelerated brain growth for the baby. And the more children a woman has, the lower her Omega-3 level. That means her last baby will get the lowest amount, unless she supplements her diet.
Low Omega-3 levels in pregnant women and nursing mothers may be one of the major contributing factors to postpartum depression, along with inadequate levels of natural progesterone after delivery.
Thus, a mom’s post-birth levels will be so depleted that major depression can result. The neurotransmitter serotonin is essential to calming the brain and its emotions. Since Omega-3 fats regulate the brain’s levels of serotonin, deficiencies can lead to anger, violence, or suicide.
Baby’s Brain Health
We knew more than two decades ago that Omega-3 fats were critical to a baby’s brain development. This was especially true of a particular part of omega-3 fat called DHA, which accounts for a large portion of the fats in brain cell membranes.
A recent study made it clear that the absence of DHA causes the chemical makeup of the baby’s brain to change drastically, affecting brain function and possibly leading to other health problems later in adult life.
The study found that a baby’s brain begins to absorb DHA from the mother’s blood at an accelerated rate during the last trimester of pregnancy, and this is critical to brain formation and function. Most importantly, researchers discovered that a decline in the mother’s Omega-3 stores could deplete the baby’s supply within the short span of two weeks. This tells us that development of a baby’s brain is absolutely dependent on a mother maintaining a steady diet high in Omega-3 fats.
Children & ADHD
Fish oil improves the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) without any of the side effects of drugs like Ritalin and Concerta–and more effectively– a study by the University of Adelaide in Australia found.
When 130 children between the ages of 7 and 12 with ADHD were given fish oil capsules daily, behavior dramatically improved within three months. Further:
* After seven months, the children were not as restless and showed improvements at school
* Improvements in concentration and attention improved by one-third
* After 15 weeks, 30-40 percent of the children taking fish oil had improvements
* After 30 weeks, 40-50 percent improved
* Children taking placebo capsules were later switched to fish oil and subsequently also experienced improved behavior
Improvements were still being seen after the study ended, which suggests the fish oils may have long-term effects. When the researchers compared their results to studies of Ritalin and Concerta for ADHD, they found that fish oils were more effective.
One study of children born of mothers whose intake of Omega-3 fats was adequate both in the uterus & in the mothers? milk states that when the baby, after weaning, maintained an adequate intake of Omega-3 fats in its diet, by the age of 4 had IQ scores 20% higher on average than other children whose intake was inadequate.
These facts clearly show that Omega-3 fats, especially the DHA component, are essential for the proper growth and development of a baby’s brain. Even short-term deficiencies could significantly harm the baby’s brain function for life.
The richest dietary sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are ocean fish oils, especially sardines, anchovies, salmon and mackerel, walnuts, and chia seeds.