OMEGA-3 . . . What Inflammation?

Inflammation is the most underrated health problem in the United States. Today, more Americans are suffering from inflammation than ever before. Inflammation has become the underlying root cause of the majority of health conditions we are seeing in the modern day. Research has shown that chronic, prolonged inflammation is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pain.  

As a chiropractor, I see patients with chronic pain every day, and we all know that opiate drugs are not the solution. Data has shown that over 100 million American adults live in chronic pain. It is extremely important for us to know how to manage inflammation to provide a better solution for pain syndromes. 

What causes inflammation? 

Most people think inflammation comes from some type of trauma or infection but actually, it can arise from injury on a cellular level inside the body. When cells are damaged, our immune system responds with a cascade of events which results in inflammation. The most common contributing factor is the food we eat. The modern day American diet is high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, as well as processed and pre-packaged foods. Soy and corn products are also culprits in this cascade.    

At the end of the day, it is all about balance between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Although omega-6 is an essential fatty acid that our body requires, its proinflammatory properties can be destructive when we consume too much. The optimal ratio between omega-6 to omega-3 should be 4:1 whereas most Americans average at 16:1. Some studies have shown the ratio to be as high as 20:1. 

How does this cause chronic pain?

Every pain syndrome, no matter if it is acute or chronic, consists of an inflammatory profile as an underlying issue. Although there are many factors that contribute to pain, the major signaling chemical is Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). PGE2 is an end product of the omega-6 fatty acid Arachidonic Acid (AA) which is also responsible for inflammation. 

What can you do?

The first step to a balanced diet is to identify the foods that are “trouble-makers” and avoid consumption of proinflammatory products. Substitute sunflower oil, corn, and soy products with organic, grass-fed butter, coconut, and olive oil. Eat raw, whole foods instead of pre-packaged foods. 

Here is a list of foods that are high omega-3 fatty acids:

Omega-3 fatty acid fortified eggs and milk, fish oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, ground flax, salmon, and pumpkin seeds. 

Supplementation is a great way to increase your omega-3 intake. Fish oils are a great alternative as they contain an abundance of EPA and DHA. 

Can we absorb all these nutrients?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that our body is unable to produce naturally, meaning we can only source them from our diet. However, nutritional consumption is only half the battle. The ability to absorb and utilize these fatty acids is the latter half. It is possible that you are ingesting a good amount of nutrients, but because your body is unable to absorb them, they are being excreted and wasted. 

Co-factors such as coenzyme Q10 can supplement your body’s ability to absorb and utilize omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other potential health benefits such as supporting cardiovascular health.