Why Omega Fatty Acids Are Essential For Combatting Inflammation

What if I told you that one of the best solutions you have to combatting inflammation – that biological response that leads us to so many dangerous health problems – is fish?

Fish oils are the popular nickname for something called omega fatty acids. There is so much talk in today’s world about these fish oils and omega fatty acids. We constantly hear about how good they are. We see marketing like “contains essential omega-3 fatty acids” all the time.

Yet, are all of us exactly sure what it all means or why omegas are so good? Did you even known how it improves the body’s inflammation?

Well I’m here to clear up any confusion! I will show you why you need to get more of one type of omega fatty acid (hint: 3!) and possibly lower another type of omega fatty acid (hint: 6!) to reduce the inflammation in your body.

Let’s dive into the whole concept of fish oils (which don’t have to come from fish, by the way!) and see exactly how they are powerhouse healers for our body.

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First Off – What Are Omega Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are essentially the “building blocks” for the fat we have in our bodies. When we eat fat, our body breaks it back down to the fatty acid form, which then goes into the blood. Since there are different types of fatty acids and since some help and others can harm, the type of fat we consume is extremely important.

Here are some of the omega fatty acids you can find in what we eat:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: This is the golden omega, and the key to lowering inflammation. We will focus on it entirely in the sections below. You can get these from both animal and plant sources.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: While you need some omega 6 fatty acids, too much can cause harm in the body and increase inflammation. Unfortunately, we often have too much due to a diet high in corn, cottonseed, and sunflower oils.
  • Omega-9 fatty acids: This omega acid is considered non-essential. It is manufactured by our bodies. Though consuming omega 9 fatty acids through oils like olive oil can still improve overall health.

Let’s hone in on those omega-3s. There are actually different types of omega-3 acids that we will focus on:

  • Oil-eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

EPA and DHA are the most potent and effective when it comes to anti-inflammatory benefits. ALA is still good (and should be consumed regularly!), but it doesn’t make the same punch of the other two.

RELATED: 8 Herbal Teas to Help Beat Inflammation 

How Do They Affect Inflammation?

When you consume omega-3s, these fatty acids will actually change your body’s cell membranes for the better. They can even alter your gene expression. And they re-adjust the omega-3/omega-6 ratio.

You see, cells that deal with inflammation are often too high in omega-6 fatty acids. This increases inflammation. Over the years, this omega-6 imbalance has gotten worse with a societal shift in our diet. Soybean oil itself is all over our fast food, and our processed foods are stuffed with omega-6 rich oils. These two types of food are the cornerstone in most American diets.

But here’s the really interesting thing: having the ideal amount of omega-6s in the body can actually fight inflammation. The key, then, is to find the right balance of 3 and 6. In our current food culture, the best way to do this is to adjust the ratio by adding more omega-3 acids. (Cutting down on omega-6 is also important – more on that later!).

Studies show just how anti-inflammatory these omega-3 fatty acids are – so much so that they know they are considered “useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.” This includes:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Lupus
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Major depression
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • And more

These studies have shown that these omega-3s not only improve the symptoms of these conditions, but they also allow people to reduce their use of anti-inflammatory drugs.

And let’s be clear – the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids do not stop at fighting inflammation. They can also improve:

  • Insomnia
  • Menstrual pain
  • Skin conditions
  • Anxiety
  • Bone health
  • And so much more

How To Get More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It should be clear by now that most of us need more omega-3 fatty acids in our diets to reduce inflammation. Luckily, there are two easy ways to make this happen. You can start today!

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1. Eat Them: Foods High In Omega-3

The ideal way to consume omega-3 fatty acids is through your diet. Unsurprisingly, the best sources of “fish oils” is…well…fish! Here are some top seafood options for high omega-3 content:

  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Anchovies

Experts recommend eating these types of fish about two or three times a week for their anti-inflammatory benefits. But it doesn’t stop with fish. This is especially good to know for vegetarians or vegans. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids through seeds and nuts like:

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Hempseeds
  • Flaxseeds

There are some oil choices that are really high in omegas too:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnut oil

As our world discovered that we need more omega-3 fatty acids to improve our health, they started fortifying common foods with these essential fatty acids. You can commonly find fortified omega fatty acids in:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Bread
  • Pasta

You can often find fortified omegas in margarine as well, but margarine comes with a whole long list of potential health problems. It’s better to stick to grass-fed butter or oil.

There are also plenty of sources of ALA, that other omega-3 that isn’t as effective as DHA or EPA. But they are still important. Some top choices include:

  • Leafy greens (kale and spinach)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower and broccoli)

RELATED: Vitamin D Has Surprising Anti-Inflammatory Effects On The Body, Studies Suggest 

2. Supplement Them: How To Choose The Right Supplement

Though eating your omegas is key, taking a fish oil supplement is a great choice too.

Your omega fatty acids supplement should have a combo of both EPA and DHA (if it also has ALA, that’s fine – but it must have the other two). You may also want to look at choosing a krill oil supplement instead of a fish oil – it can be more effective. Watch this video to learn more:

The biggest complaint with taking these fish oils supplements is indigestion. You swallow it, and a few minutes later you are burping up a fishy taste. It’s extremely unpleasant, but there are steps you can take to avoid it:

  • Choose a high-quality brand: This is not the supplement to buy cheaply. Invest in a good brand. If you follow all the rest of the tips below and still have that fishy aftertaste throughout the day, try switching to a different brand to see if that helps.
  • Try the liquid: It may seem counterintuitive to swallow a big sip of fish oil, but the real fish burp problem comes from the capsule. If you don’t like the taste of the liquid, just brush your teeth immediately afterward.
  • Take it with a large meal: I never take fish oils on an empty stomach; I don’t even take them with a snack. The key is to take it along with a big meal that will help digest and absorb the oils. In fact, I sandwich the supplement by eating half of my meal, taking the pill, and then eating the second half of my meal.
  • Take baby steps: When you are just starting out, take only one pill a day until you manage to avoid the fishy regurgitation. Once you’ve mastered that, you can move it up to two pills.
  • Freeze It: The Arthritis Foundation recommends freezing your fish oil capsule to limit that aftertaste.

How Much Omega Fatty Acids Should I Be Getting?

Maybe you’re thinking – “Eh, I eat fish sometimes, my inflammation probably has nothing to do with omega fatty acids.” But you may want to think again. Some estimates believe that around 90% of people have less omega-3 fatty acids in their body than they should have.

So how much should you be getting?

Well, there’s not one agreed-upon number. But some suggest aiming for 250 to 500 mg. Certain health conditions may require even more.

Instead of focusing on hitting a certain number, focus on creating a diet shift. Incorporating more fish into your lunches and dinners. Adding chia seeds and flax seeds to your smoothies or morning oatmeal, etc. And, of course, adding a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement to your routine.

How To Cut Down Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Let me say again that the right amount of omega-6 fatty acids is really good for your body and even good at controlling inflammation. The way for us to get to that right amount is increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids we get (and we are now all pros at knowing how to do just that!) and decreasing the amount of omega-6 oils we are consuming

Here are a few ways you can lower your omega-6 intake:

  • Cut out fast food or greatly reduce it
  • Cut out processed foods or greatly reduce it
  • Limit the use of corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower oil in the products you buy. Do not cook with any of these oils at home.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids = Less Inflammation

So now is the time to boost your omega-3 fatty acids. Start immediately. The anti-inflammatory effects are so well documented and tested that it should be one of the first things any person does to lower their risk of inflammatory diseases and/or reduce the symptoms of the inflammatory conditions they already have.

While taking this all-natural step to reduce inflammation, don’t forget about other all-natural supplements that can also help. Some of my personal favorites include turmeric and vitamin D. A great choice to combine the goodness would be EU Natural’s Primal Joint Support & Anti-Inflammatory.

Lowering inflammation is absolutely essential for your health. It’s time to make some changes.

Read Next: The Inflammation and Depression Connection