Friday, 25 March 2011
A simple way of making yourself much healthier
Take fish oils.
We are designed to run on a good balance of the essential oils: omegas 3, 6 and 9. In the wild, our natural diet provided this. But because our diet is now heavily skewed towards the omega 6 oils (sunflower, grain fed animals etc), which are pro-inflammatory, we are no longer running on what we are genetically designed for - and so weak genes can be triggered.
So what is fish oil? It is the Omega 3 oils EPA and DHA and ALA. EPA is the part of the omega 3 oil that reduces inflammation. DHA is the part of the omega 3 oil that is in the brain and eyes and improves their function. The brain is about 60% fat – and that fat is mostly DHA. See appendix for ALA.
Here are 7 ways that fish oils are good for you:
Omega 3 oils keep the walls of the cell flexible. There are more than 100 trillion cells in the human body (!) and each cell could be viewed of as a mini factory – nutrients and messengers go in and waste goes out. With a diet full of transfats, rancid fat and skewed towards the omega 6 oils, the cells harden and cannot function efficiently. So on an individual basis, the shortage of Omega 3 in the body may have a different expressions: weight gain in some, skin problems in another (eg eczema), sleep disorders, circulation problems, brain disorders, immune dysfunction (ie leading to auto-immune conditions). The list is as long as people; hence the statement all disease known to man is improved by the addition of high quality fish oil.
The second way fish oils improve health is by balancing out eicosanoid production. Eicosanoids are signalling molecules produced throughout the body and similar to hormones, exerting complex control over many bodily functions. The family of eicosanoids most heard about is probably the prostaglandins. Eicosanoids are produced from both omega 3 and omega 6 oils and counter balance each other:
So for the body to function effectively, there needs to be an equal balance of omega 3:6 in the diet. And today’s diet makes this very difficult to achieve, resulting in a dangerous imbalance towards the problems on the right hand side column. The excess of omega 6 type eicosanoids is further exacerbated by high insulin levels, which, by a different pathway, also produces the omega 6 type of eicosanoids.
The third way fish oils improve health is by lowering C-Reactive Proteins (CRP). This is a group of proteins that increase rapidly in the blood as a response to infections and inflammation. High CRP levels damage the walls of the blood vessels and form blood clots and so can lead to heart attacks and strokes. High CRP levels are a good predictor of a recurrence of heart attacks and strokes or of an artery reclosing after being opened. People with colon cancer were found to have higher levels of CRP in their blood than those without. It seems that elevated CRP is a predictor of a high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. So the addition of fish oil to the diet is a safe and effective way of lowering CRP levels.
Fourth way: by positively impacting upon cholesterol by lowering VLDL (very low density lipoproteins – these are the dreadful things that fur up the arteries) and raising HDLs (high density lipoproteins – a simplistic description is that these act like pan scrubbers to the arteries, clearing away plaque build up). Plaque in the arteries leads to heart attacks/strokes. Taking fish oils is a fabulous way of reducing the plaque without risking the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Fifth way: fish oils are adaptogenic to the blood. An adaptogen is something that improves something as needed. So in this case if the blood is thin, it helps thicken it and if it is too thick, it thins it. If the blood is of good quality, it has no effect upon it, neither thickening nor thinning it. It will help reduce blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide, which helps dilate the blood vessels (the tubes in the body that carry the blood either away from or to the heart) and reduces inflammation in them.
Finally, DHA has a good effect upon the brain and the eyes . The membranes (cell walls) of the brain cells are composed of a thin double layer of fatty acid molecules - principally DHA. DHA is also the fatty acid of the retina of the eye. As previously stated, EPA and DHA are vital to keep cell walls fluid so they can function properly. DHA is used in all parts of the brain, so low levels affect motor control, memory, cognition, nervous system development (this does continue with age) and the actual function of the brain. Low levels are also associated with psychiatric disorders such as depression, anger, hostility, suicide and they are also associated with the development of Alzheimers disease and general age related decline.
Good DHA levels are absolutely critical for a pregnant or nursing mother. The placenta preferentially selects DHA from the diet to feed the growing baby’s brain and eyes. And where DHA intake is inadequate, the first child gets the best of the mother’s supplies. For subsequent children, the supply is increasingly inadequate leading to impaired intelligence/behavioural problems etc.
There is also the importance of DHA in sperm. DHA is found in the tail of the sperm. Again, its importance lies in the cell fluidity and, because it is found in the tail, good DHA levels are vital for good motility so the sperm moves both fast and strongly.
The good news is that increasing DHA levels reverses these problems – usually completely in children, sadly not always completely in adults – but always significantly.
The next blog explains why it is vital that the oil is manufactured in Norway or California to avoid toxicants. It is a fat lot of good taking fish oil that is laced with solvents!
ALA. This is the variation of omega 3 found in vegetables – for example hemp or flax. It does convert to EPA and DHA in the body. There is disagreement about the importance of ALA in brain function. At issue is the conversion of ALA to DHA (or EPA in the body). Children lack the ability to do this conversion at all. This apart, remember all omega 3 oils are very fragile and there is a real problem with rancidity with all these oils. They will not take any heat, have to be used quickly once opened and kept refrigerated – but, obviously, fish oil in capsules does not need refrigeration.. Also, just as with fish oils, you have find a source you completely trust to risk taking ALA as a supplement to avoid rancidity or toxicity.
Transfats interfere with the production of eicosanoids generally. The above is further insulted by taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatorys), eg Ibuprofen and Aspirin. These things work by inhibiting the production of omega 6 eicosanoids. They do reduce inflammation and pain but they seriously disrupt eicosanoid balance leading to bleeding, usually in the guts. So if, instead of reaching for a pain killer, a high quality fish oil was taken regularly, then inflammation and pain would reduce in the body making you healthier and not weaker.