Omega 3 Fats and Inflammation


Omega-3 fats, Omega-6 fats and Inflammation

By Leigh Wagner, PhD, MS, RDN, LD

Essential fatty acids are required for the body to carry out inflammatory and anti-inflammatory activities in the body. We think of inflammation as a bad thing, but we actually need inflammation to survive. Short-term or “acute” inflammation is essential: if we are burned or get cut, we want inflammation to occur to allow the immune system to heal the injury as quickly as possible. After the injury is healed, the inflammation should resolve.

Where the problem occurs is when there is chronic, non-resolving inflammation. This occurs for a number of reasons (eating a standard American diet of highly refined foods, inadequate physical activity, stress, poor sleep, etc.), but one way that we can help with the body’s ability to resolve inflammation is by having adequate omega 3 essential fatty acids.  

What are omega 3s?

Omega 3 fats are found naturally in nuts, seeds, fish and grass-fed or pasture raised meats and poultry. Including at least a serving of omega 3 fats daily in the diet is a good idea. But, if your omega 3 levels are deficient, you may need an omega-3 supplement (either a fish oil-derived supplement or an algal version).  Here are the foods to start eating more often. If you think a supplement would be helpful for you, reach out to your healthcare practitioner who could help you find the best (and most appropriate) form of an omega 3 supplement for you.

What are the symptoms of low omega 3 fatty acids?

  • Anxiety and/or depression

  • Chronic pain

  • Poor or prolonged wound healing

  • Rough and/or dry skin

  • Susceptibility to illness

Plant sources of omega 3s

  • Leafy green veggies (spinach, chard, kale, broccoli

  • Ground flaxseed (“flax meal”)

  • Chia seeds

  • Walnuts

Fish and meat sources of omega 3s

  • Free range/pastured chicken

  • Free range/pastured eggs

  • Grass-fed/pasture-raised beef

  • Halibut

  • Herring

  • Mackerel

  • Oysters

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Trout

  • Tuna 

What can omega-3s potentially help and or alleviate?

  • Anxiety

  • Hair growth

  • High blood pressure

  • Chronic pain

  • Depression

  • Immune system resilience

  • Joint pain

  • Skin problems (eczema, psoriasis, rough and/or dry skin)