Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Inflammation

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Inflammation

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are two very important substances for the inflammatory process in the body.

Researchers know through tests like the CRP (C-reactive protein) that prolonged arterial inflammation is a precursor to atherosclerosis, Lupus, asthma, multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and in many types of cancers. Left untreated these inflammatory conditions can result in severe organ damage.

However, inflammation has a good side. It is triggered when there is tissue injury or an infection. During these events, mediating cells are produced like prostaglandins, mast cells, and macrophages, for example. These substances flood the area to quarantine, destroy, and begin the healing process. Without a functioning inflammatory process, infections would spread like wild fires throughout the body resulting in sepsis (blood poisoning). Death occurs from massive organ failure. What is causing such a dichotomy?

The problem lies in an over-reacted inflammatory response to the agent-causing trigger, which causes more damage than the agent would have caused. For example, allergies and autoimmune diseases are examples of an over-reaction to a less harmful or non-infectious agent. The problem is exacerbated by the production of antibodies against antigens from autoimmune disorders, which continue to damage long after the inflammatory response was triggered. There is help though in a small oil capsule called Omega-3.

Omega-3, also known as an essential fatty acid reduces inflammation while its counterpart, Omega-6 triggers inflammation. The body cannot produce these substances on its own; it must be supplied through diet. Researchers at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, among many other studies, have found that the typical American diet contains considerably more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids, about 25 times more!

Read more about the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids

Surprised? Good. Finding balance between these two essential fatty acids is one of the answers to maintaining a healthy body. For those diagnosed with inflammatory-related conditions, changing your diet to include Omega-3 rich foods, while reducing the intake of Omega-6 will show dramatic effects.

Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Naturopath, not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Many herbal and homeopathic remedies can actually be contraindicated in many health conditions, with certain prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities.

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Linda Mundorff, MPH, MSN, ND, RN, CNC, CTN has worked in health care for over 25 years as a registered nurse, health educator, associate professor, and a naturopathic doctor. She holds several degrees in health education, public health, nursing, and naturopathy. She is a certified nutritional consultant and a board certified traditional naturopath. Dr. Mundorff is the author of several books, including Memories Of My Sister: Dealing with Sudden Death, Medical Terminology: A Student Workbook. Her latest, Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living, is an innovative health guide, which helps the reader learn how to regain control of their health by discovering the practical effectiveness of combining alternative and modern medicine.