Remember when fats were bad? Well, the millennials are onto something with their avo’ and salmon on toast… Omega-3 fats are incredibly nourishing for our brains and our bodies.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) like omega-3 fatty acids—found in the likes of avocado, almonds, flaxseed oil, and oily seafood—are not only good for lowering cholesterol and improving heart health, but they're a secret superhero when it comes to supporting your whole body health. So if you’re looking for one thing to support your wellness this summer, an omega-3 support might be it!
Before we get started, let’s have a quick recap on the different kinds of omegas–3s and 6s which are essential fats.
DHA & EPA – Active Omega-3s
DHA and EPA are active forms of omega-3 that can be easily accessed by our bodies. EPA and DHA are essential to our wellbeing, but can’t be made in the body, and for that reason they must be consumed from dietary sources such as oily fish, or supplementation with fish oil!
ALA – Inactive Omega-3s
ALA is a plant-based source of omega-3, and when consumed, our bodies partially convert it to EPA and DHA. Nonetheless, ALA still has its own health benefits and can be found in a variety of plants such as nuts and seeds, and some green vegetables.
GLA – Omega 6s
Omega-6s can play a role in brain function, skin and hair growth, bone health, and metabolism as well as keeping our blood sugars in check. However, the standard Western diet contains too much omega-6, and not enough omega-3.
This imbalance is pro-inflammatory.
We know issues arise when inflammation gets out of control and remains in our body for a long time. This is called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly all disease.
Finding balance between our dietary consumption of omega-3s and omega-6s can help us control the inflammation in our body and is one of the ways we can support ourselves in healing from the inside out.
5 Ways Omega-3s Support Your Whole Body Health
- Gut health
Did you know that 70% of our immune system is located in the gut?
Which makes sense, as our gut is the easiest way for an invader to enter our body. And so, the gut is the biggest potential source of inflammation in the body. As we’ve learnt, omega-3 fatty acids are key when it comes to fighting inflammation.
Not only do omega-3s combat inflammation in the gut, a recent study has also found that omega-3s may play a role in increasing the diversity of beneficial bacteria in our microbiome. Having a healthy microbiome, is essential to our overall health and wellness.
Understanding how our entire body system works together is powerful, as we start to realise it is never one area of our health in isolation.
Everything is connected.
And so, when our gut health is compromised, our hormonal system can get out of balance too....
- Hormone Health
Hormones are a slightly more complicated topic, so we’ve broken this down to 3 key hormones omega-3s support:
There are many different oestrogen metabolites, and when it comes to health, it is all about balance and the right ratios.
In PCOS, the estrogen 1:8 ratio is usually too high, so those with PCOS should work with a holistic health professional to find the therapeutic omega-3 dose that is right for their unique health situation.
Again, like everything in the body, it’s about finding balance.
When women’s testosterone levels are out of balance—high androgens (precursor to testosterone) tend to experience stronger PMS symptoms and PCOS.
High androgen levels seen in women may be driven from high levels of inflammation in the body—this may range from internal and external stress, blood sugar dysregulation and a dysbiotic microbiome. Reducing these stressors on the body and using a potent anti-inflammatory support such as omega-3 would be greatly beneficial in supporting the high levels of androgens. In a nutshell, omega-3s can help support regular menstruation and lowers testosterone in women with PCOS.
For men, omega-3s support improved testicular function and can also improve libido.
Balanced levels of serotonin—our ‘happy hormone’ is essential for a healthy menstrual cycle.
During the second half of the cycle, serotonin tends to be lowered in response to other hormone changes. This often results in moodiness and cravings. Omega-3s to the rescue!
EPA actually increases the release of serotonin by reducing prostaglandins, which are inflammatory compounds that inhibit serotonin function. DHA increases the receptivity of serotonin receptors. The combination of omega-3s results in improved serotonin efficacy, which helps overall mood and hormone balance. Sufficient vitamin D is required for this process to be effective.
- Hair, Skins and Nails
Inflammation rears its head again…
Did you know that many skin conditions are signs of inflammation?
Consuming omega-3s supports inflammation of the skin (and of course the whole body), plus, it helps eliminate stubborn acne. If staying head-to-toe healthy is your goal, polyunsaturated fats should be your go-to.
Omega-3s and omega-6s, can both be amazing moisturisers for our skin and hair too, proving to be nourishing, inside and out. The essential nutrients reach both the hair shaft and the cell membranes in your scalp, nourishing the follicles and promote healthy hair growth, as well as add elasticity to your hair, preventing breakage and some hair loss.
Our body is constantly creating energy within the mitochondria of our cells, allowing our body to function on a daily basis. The mitochondria are the part of the cell that is responsible for energy production, so it’s essential they are able to function properly.
ATP is the energy molecule that our mitochondria produce, and it is ATP that every single cell and organ in our body uses to function. Think contracting muscles in your legs as your run..
Omega-3s are incredibly important for providing the structure of our cell and mitochondrial membranes which in turn helps our cells make energy more efficiently.
The outer membrane of the mitochondria has a 1:1 protein to fat ratio, which means that nourishing the outer membrane with essential fatty acids, supports its ability to send energy out for your other cells to use, and enabling clear communication between cells.
To put it simply, when our cells are communicating with ease, our energy levels improve.
Cells with more structural integrity also produce less damaging antioxidants, which can drain our energy levels.
- Brain health
Omega-3 fatty acids, while good for the whole system, are particularly nourishing for brain health. Our brains are about 60% fat, so it makes sense that eating plenty of healthy fats—particularly anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids—is an essential source of nourishment.
And so to wrap that all help succinctly, here’s what we’ve gathered:
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both required by our bodies. But as our bodies can’t produce them, we need to get them from our diets. Especially omega-3s.
- Having more omega-6 than omega-3 in the body can create inflammation.
- The standard Western Diet of processed foods contains a lot of omega-6 and not much omega-3.
- The best way to easily regulate a healthy balance of omega-3s and omega-6s to keep the inflammation at bay, is to eat a diet made up of nourishing whole foods—veggies, quality meat, nuts, seeds—and limit your intake of processed foods which are high in omega-6s.
- Having more an optimal balance of omega 3 to 6 supports inflammation levels, which is beneficial for our whole body from our skin, brains, gut, hormones and everything in between!