Fish oils have now been prescribed and used for several health conditions for many years. Some conditions are
- Autoimmune disorders
- Mental Health problems such as depression
- Poor cognitive function
Fish oils belong to a class of Fatty acids called Omega 3’s What are Omega – 3 Fatty acids?
The human body requires essential fatty acids derived from two polyunsaturated fats – linolenic ( omega -6 oils) and alpha-linolenic acid ( Omega -3 oils ). These fatty acids are called “Essential Fatty acids “’ because they are genuinely essential to typical cell structure and body function. Both essential fatty acids function as components of nerve cells, cell membranes, and hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins and Essential Fatty acids are essential for example –
• Regulate steroid production and hormone synthesis
• Regulate response to pain Inflammation and swelling
• Regulate the flow of substances in and out of the cell
• Regulate nerve transmission
• Are the primary energy source for Heart muscle
• Mediate Immune response
• Dilate or constrict blood vessels –hence have an effect on circulation
Examples of Omega 6 oils are Safflower, grape seed, sunflower and corn oils. These oils can be converted to pro-inflammatory prostaglandins that can promote inflammation and disrupt cellular function.
Examples of Omega 3 oils are Fish, Krill and flaxseed oils. These are converted in the body to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins or less inflammatory compounds and can promote cellular health and function.
They are called Omega- 6 or Omega- 3 depending on the amount of carbon ring structure to the fatty acid. One can even have Omega -9 Fatty acids with nine carbon rings!
The issue is in our society that most people consume more omega -6 than omega three oils and foods that contain Omega -6 Acids, like red meat. This creates an imbalance within the body’s tissues leading to cellular disruption and pro-inflammatory diseases.
Why is it essential to consume the right amount of Omega -3 in one’s diet?
Since Omega -3’s are” anti-inflammatory in nature” and assist with cell membrane health, consuming fewer 3’s than 6’s can lead to various health disorders.
Generally, the ratio of Omega -6 to Omega -3 should be in the balance of about 4:1, but most Australians have a ratio close to 20:1. This is a gross imbalance that contributes to health issues such as but not limited to –
• Osteo Arthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis
• Autoimmune diseases and inflammatory disorders
• Dementia and Neurological disease
• Cancer and
• Behavioural disorders and Mental illness
• Dermatitis and Eczema
• Hormonal disruption and Hypertension
This list is only a small part of the disorders affected by an imbalance in essential fatty acid ratios.
What are the benefits of consuming Omega -3 fatty acids?
They all contribute to the proper functioning of cells and organs of the body and, as listed above, help with healing many disorders. Omega -3’s contribute to correct balance ratios required by the body to maintain the health of the cells.
Are there any adverse effects from consuming Omega – 3 fatty acids?
Occasionally consumers will complain of a fishy aftertaste or reflux that is now alleviated with enteric-coated capsules which dissolve in the lower intestine. Of course, if too much fish oil is taken at one time, then since it is an oil, nausea may occur due to the liver being overwhelmed at that time. It is more likely to happen to seniors whose digestion is often impaired.
Benefits of Omega -3 consumption in depression.
It is hard to get a lot of Omega -3 in our diet unless we consume oily fish every day then it makes good sense to supplement in small daily doses. The amount taken will vary as to whether one wants to consume for good health, which may be 2 ( 1000mg ) capsules a day or 15 capsules a day for treating inflammatory diseases like Arthritis or Autoimmune disorders. ( in which case liquid oil is generally used instead of capsules, i.e. 15ml day )
According to Dr Michael Murray N.D, a Health researcher and Naturopathic Physician, “Fish oils have a role to play in treating or preventing depression and to have positive effects for patients with depression as well as in Bipolar disorder.”
The importance of Omega -3 fatty acids to brain function relates to their role in the Phospholipid composition of the nerve cell membranes. Studies have shown that
Fish oils influence –
• The fluidity of brain cell membranes ( what they allow in and out of the cell, either toxins or nutrients )
• Neurotransmitter synthesis and binding and signal transmission
• The activity of Key enzymes that break down neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and adrenalin. ( it is thought that depression is a result of not having enough serotonin or dopamine in the brain )
These have been described as above, but in my clinic, Omega –3’s supplements are prescribed quite often for various disorders, but they take time to work. For example, in treating dermatitis, one would allow eight weeks for some effect to occur and use in high doses. Once a healing effect has taken place, then the dosage can be reduced to maintain that healing. For depression, they would be used in conjunction with other supplements like StJohns wort and Activated B group vitamins as part of a supplement program.
References: Michael Murray N.D – Encyclopaedia of Nutritional supplements –Prima Press and www.doctormurray.com
Peter Farnsworth N.D
www.Adelaidenaturopath.net.au revised 2/11/21 For a free health analysis; please book through the website