Omega 3 Fats and Inflammation

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Omega-3 fats, Omega-6 fats and Inflammation

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.  

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.

Symptoms of low omega 3 essential fats

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 

Adequate omega-3s may 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)