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There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of omega 3s for general and immune health. Why are omega 3s so important? What about omega 6 and omega 9 you may ask?
Omega fatty acids either known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) or monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Essential fatty acids are fats that are required by the body for optimal health (survival, really) but are unable to be synthesized by the body and not naturally found in the body.
Omega 3s and 6s are polyunsaturated fats and the only two fatty acids considered to be essential fatty acids. Omega 6s are found in processed foods such as cookie and crackers, corn oil but also foods like walnuts. American typically consume too much omega 6 oil and are deficient in omega 3s leading to a risk for obesity and other health concerns which I’ll cover.
While some whole foods contain omega 6 oils many are found in processed foods which damage health over time. Sources of omega 3s include fish, fish oils and algae oils but also chia seeds and flaxseeds. Omega 3s are known to lower triglycerides in the body which is important because high levels are linked with heart disease.
The benefits of omega 3s are many. Research suggests that omega 3s play a key role in cell membrane function, brain development and eye development. Adequate amounts reduce inflammation, depression and heart disease. Children who have adequate levels of omega 3s endure better brain, eye and immune system development and function. The oil improves the condition of Alzheimer’s disease in patients. Sounds pretty important to me!
Omega 7s and 9s are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and are not considered essential fatty acids because our bodies produce these oils, and aren’t essential for your survival. For example, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and walnuts are good examples of omega 9s. Good sources of omega 7s can be found in fatty fish like salmon, juice from the sea buckthorn and macadamia nuts.
Even though our bodies do create omega 7s and 9s it is still a good idea to consume foods rich in these oils. Why consume omega 7s? A study found that omega 7s (using sea buckthorn) increase telomerase activity and accelerate recovery from burns. I actually covered sea buckthorn oil in my post about non toxic dental care. It’s an amazing plant-based medicine. Omega 7s help regenerate cells and also help our telomeres which are important because research is starting to show that longer telomeres lead to longevity. Shorter telomeres lead to illness and death. (Did you know an easy way to increase the length of your telomeres is by talking a long relaxing way everyday?)
Furthermore, does consuming omega 9s help our health? The 2022 research shows that consuming a diet rich in omega 9s leads to a reduction in inflammation and cancer management. Furthermore a study released in 2017 shows a correlation between omega 9s and improved mortality (with consumption ideal up to a point).
Within each omega grouping (i.e. 3s, 6s, 7s, 9s) there are multiple sub-types. For the purpose of this article, the omega 3s and omega 6 will be covered. Three omega 3s are found in human physiology: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALAs are found in plants and good sources of them include walnuts and flaxseeds. EPA and DHA are found in green algae and fish that eat green algae and sources include fish, fish oil and algae oils. Arachidonic acid (AA) is an omega 6 and has implications for health adversity in some cases.
On a side note, red meat is rich in arachidonic acid though grass fed beef tends to be higher in omega 3 oils.
EPAs are often added to the diet to clean the circulatory system of cholesterol and fat deposits. These along with DHAs help to reduce blood thickness, lower lipid levels, reduce clotting, lower blood pressure and help prevent ischemia (the cause of heart attack and stroke). The result is an improvement in the circulatory system as well as increased blood flow to tissues damaged by lack of circulation. (1)
In cases of endometriosis, it’s such a perfect addition to your healing arsenal because the tissues affected are usually damaged by lack of circulation and blood does not flow easily down there.
What is the connection between Omega 3s, immune function, and endometriosis?
Here are a few highlights regarding the improvement of health and immune function with omega 3s.
It is interesting that omega 3s don’t seem to be able to cure endometriosis, but a substandard amount in the presence of arachidonic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) can lead to severity of endometriosis symptoms. Therefore, according to one study it’s important to have adequate amounts of omega 3s for severity and symptom reduction of endometriosis.
And there’s a lot more proof in the research that omega 3s are beneficial in endometriosis. A 2013 study found that when mice received adequate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in their diet it would suppress cystic legion formation of peritoneal endometriosis. The study concluded that omega 3 oils suppressed endometriosis in mice and in order for you to receive the same benefits you would need to eat a lot of fish and fish oil or supplementation.
Further, the supplementation of fish oil has been found to relieve pain more effectively than ibuprofen (1000mg of fish oil versus 400 mg of ibuprofen).
And then there’s the study that shows the relationship between supplementing with omega 3s and increases in fertility. (This study cites the research).
This study found a statistically significant correlation to endometriosis pain reduction from vitamin D3 supplementation and less significant results from fish oil supplementation. I wrote a post about the importance D3 blood testing for optimal health and pain relief you may want to check out along with 23 other blood tests to get for a baseline.
Much of the effect of essential fatty acids on the body occur when they are converted into prostaglandins. You may have heard about prostaglandins before, namely that using NSAIDs can block them and yet cause additional period pain. Well, it turns out there are two forms of prostaglandins, form 1 and form 2. Form one helps with fighting disease, regulating the immune system and protects the body in many ways. Form 2 is caused by arachidonic acid (omega 6) and this type can lead to pain, inflammation and encourage blood clots. Hm, sound familiar? (1)
Well, aspirin can block form 2, yet it simultaneously blocks form 1 as well. So, products like NSAIDS and aspirin help us in the short term but can also hinder our health in the long term.
These handful of studies provide keen evidence noting the anti-inflammatory, fertility-boosting and pain relieving nature of omega 3 fatty acids. If you are serious about improving your health, are you making sure to eat copious amounts of fish, take fish oil or algae oil? I hope you are as easily convinced as I was as to the benefits of ensuring adequate amounts of omega 3s.
However, not all supplement brands are created equal…
What are the best omega 3s for immune health?
Since omega 3s are essential for health and are not synthesized naturally in the body it’s important to make sure they are a part of your normal diet. But what if you don’t eat enough fish? An easy way to ensure your health is to take a daily fish oil supplement and/or green algae supplement. Taking an omega 3 supplement is helpful for lowering inflammation, reducing blood clots, clearing the arteries of plaque and enhancing your cognitive functioning. If you eat any amount of processed foods, your omega 6s are undoubtedly high, and you need to counter them with omega 3s.
Nutritionists recommend a 1:2 ration of omega 3 fatty acids: omega 6 fatty acids.
I recommend these omega 3 supplement brands to give your health a boost:
While there has been some debate over the years regarding this company’s fish oil (some believed the company did shortcuts or used inferior fish than what they advertised) so far I still believe it to be a quality product. Many others do as well. I’ve been using their various products for close to a decade and when I would get my omega 3:omega 6 ratio blood test I had very positive levels of omega 3s. (Probably also from the amount of fish I eat).
I first came across this brand because of my research on Dr. Westin Price’s practical research on native culture’s optimal health trademarks. His observations and discoveries are fascinating. Sally Fallon helped Dr. Price’s work reach the mainstream through her cookbook Nourishing Traditions and the Weston Price Foundation. One of his findings was the importance of getting adequate amounts of vitamins d, k and a into the diet along with omega 3s from fermented cod livers. Vitamin K was considered an X factor for synthesis and was believed to be found in the rich butter or milk fat in grass fed cows especially that in the spring.
This product contains correctly measured ratios of the vitamins as well as DHA and EPA fatty acids (omega 3 oils). I’ve tried most of the flavors and the chocolate one is my favorite. This product is considered to be a whole food fish oil.
Those folks who left the Green Pastures bandwagon probably found themselves here at Rosita’s brand. Why? Well, for one Rosita fish oil claims to be the only company on the market to use a filtration process to extract the cod liver oil instead of heat. (Heat can cause denaturing). They contain great levels of vitamin A, D and the omega 3s EPA and DHA. As a result their product is very pure and reviewers rave about it not having a fishy taste. Rosita’s is quickly dominating the cod liver oil industry and for good reason.
Vegan? Allergic to certain fish? Want to go straight to the source? Check out the Nordic Natural brand, a reputable brand for fish oils and omega oils.
Fish probably get most of their omega 3 content from the algae that they feed on, so if you want to skip the food chain start at the beginning with this restorer of health algae.
I have also used this brand and have been very happy with the results. The pills are easy to swallow and contain robust amounts of EPA and DHA. I feel great on the product and they offer a quality pure product for omega 3s. I like knowing how the ratios of the different omega 3s breakdown and the bottle lists out the ratios simply.
These are my current and known favorite reputable brands for receiving essential fatty acid omega 3 oils. While there are no such thing as magic pills these omega 3 fatty acid supplements provide peace of mind that you are getting enough of this important nutrient.
Omega 3 oils are not something our bodies can synthesize on its own so it’s vital to receive adequate amounts through our diet. The essential fatty acids in particular the omega 3s have been shown to reduce tumors, decrease inflammation, and bolster the immune system making it essential in diseases and conditions with these elements.
If you suffer from chronic illness or endometriosis, make omega 3 essential oils a part of your daily diet. Taking them could help ensure your level of endometriosis does not progress further, reduce or prohibit tumors or endometrioma lesions from growing, reduce period pain and reduce inflammation in your lower abdomen.
While there is no quick fix or magic pill for chronic illness, there are levers that we can pull to help release the body from its prison of pain and help it start to resolve its challenges or shortages.
Do you take an omega 3 supplement? Have you found a favorite one yet? Comment below and start the conversation!
(1) Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 1993. p 122-124.
Other sources are linked in the article.