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Minding your EFAs — knowing their role in reducing inflammation

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 18:41:00
5 / 5 (2 Votes)
Article by:
Aryana Farsai
High-quality concentrated fish oil with abundant omega-3s. Photo by Aryana Farsai.
Even if your diet is balanced with an assortment of healthy foods, it is still important to consume two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid — LA — an omega-6, and alpha-linolenic acid — ALA — an omega-3. These are essential because the body cannot make them, however many people choose to consume EFAs for health reasons. Different EFAs soothe different types of inflammation.
  
In a brief overview of common areas of inflammation, inflammation can surround joint tissues, be in the digestive tract, or even be in the skin — think about eczema. For as many different areas of the body as there are, there can be as many areas of inflammation.
   
Fatty acids provide the nutrients for the body to make prostaglandins, these are cells that increase or decrease inflammation in the body.
   
Essential fatty acids should be consumed throughout one’s life in order to promote health and longevity. Those who are older in age, or who suffer inflammatory conditions, can benefit from a higher dose of EFAs. The suggested serving can be double the label claim for a suggested dose. For example, if a serving size is two softgels, then taking up to 4 softgels a day if over 40 years old can be a good thing. EFAs take time to replenish in the body, and if you start earlier with supplementing EFAs, then you can mitigate some age-related inflammation.
  
When starting EFAs, expect for it to take from a few weeks to a month or more to receive benefits, based on total consumption. That means if you take four capsules of fish or flax oil a day, you will receive greater benefits and more rapidly than by taking two capsules a day.
  
There are many excellent reasons for choosing to supplement with one of the omega fatty acid products on the market, including ones that have higher concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. These fatty acids are found in fatty cold-water fish that produce them from alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, obtained from plants or seaweed sources.
   
In this article, I will explain the differences between these oils and their role in inflammation reduction.
  
First, while understanding that fish oil is the easiest way to get a good amount of two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA — it is not absolutely necessary to consume these in a fish oil supplement.
   
You can choose to consume flax oil that is high in ALA, because the body naturally converts it into needed EPA and DHA. Several supplement makers will list the press date on the bottle — and that is something that is really important for flax oil, since it is imperative not to consume oil flax after being open 1-3 months because of oxidative stress spoiling the oil. A good rule of thumb is twice the length of time as the number of servings. For example, if you buy a 30-serving bottle, you should try to consume it within 60 days for best freshness. A flax oil compound is a living molecule, and oxygen degrades it over time. This can be mitigated by consuming it fresh, or in capsule form. Always use the “Best By” date or “Expiration Date” to determine if your flax oil is still good to consume or not. If your liquid flax oil changes in taste to an acrid bitter taste, discard it immediately.
   
You can choose DHA and EPA that come from algae as well, so it is a good choice for vegetarians. There are several manufacturers that specialize in algae oil, but watch out for the serving size, it could be up to 4 a day to get the right amount of EFA and DHA.
   
EPA is essential for the cardiovascular system, and can help smooth the arterial walls of blood vessels — improving vascular health. EPA concentrates hold upwards of 600 mg of EPA per serving, but athletes and people with circulatory or joint inflammatory conditions may need to consume twice or more that suggested dose.
   
DHA is the fuel of the nervous system, the gas that drives nervous system impulses around the body. The brain uses DHA in every function, and about 500 mg a day is said to help memory, lower inflammation in joints, and promote healthy inflammation response.
  
Gamma linolenic acid, or GLA, is an omega-6 that is commonly made from the borage flower. GLA is highly recommended for people with a history of eczema, and other skin irritation or over-dryness. Black Currant Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Black Seed Oil all have a high level of GLA, and when consumed regularly, can have a profound benefit in reducing inflammation of the skin. GLA moisturizes all the mucous membranes, especially eyes, and it can be advisable for people with eye concerns such as dryness, or other irritations.
   
Sea buckthorn is very high in omega-7, and it can also help with eczema. It comes in seed oil softgels and also in a juice — which is quite refreshing, and it is very good to reduce all types of inflammation, especially skin inflammation.
  
Here is a quick guide for making the right supplement choice easier, and suggested daily doses.

1-2 tbsp. oil flax oil — for everyone, regardless of dietary preference; it gives ALA.
1-2 softgels evening primrose oil — for persons with extra dry skin, eczema, eyes; it gives GLA.
1 softgel black seed oil — for persons with extra dry skin, eczema, eyes; it gives GLA.
1 – 2 softgels sea buckthorn oil, or 1 ounce sea buckthorn juice.
Fish oil — EPA/DHA Concentrate. 2-4 capsules, or 1-2 tsp. liquid, or 1 tbsp. smoothie — it gives DHA, and EPA.

Inflammation can happen systemically, or at different points around the body – at any age. While it is true that generally we get more inflammation as we age, it is not specifically true that this has to be the case. I have met many people who would have been prone to specific areas of inflammation had they not chosen to alter their diet and lifestyle to become less sedentary, and to practice good decision-making skills when eating foods. Lastly, an adequate source of supplementation of a decent quality to enhance health over time is advisable.
   
Remember, these guidelines are given as instructions on what and how to take anti-inflammatories if you decide to take them. However, always check with your doctor first, as your MD will know your personal history and will be able to advise you if you have any medical condition that will affect your taking any of these aids to reduce inflammation in the body.

 
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