Anti-Inflammatory Omega-3s: Are They Good For You?

Anti-Inflammatory 
Omega-3s: Why Are They Good For You?

The importance of omega-3 fatty acids is a relatively recent discovery. During the second half of the twentieth century, extensive research was performed on essential fatty acids, among others by Russian physician Catherine Kousmine (1904–1992). During this time essential fatty acids were known as F vitamins. That name was eventually dropped as it became known that the quantity of vitamin F needed by the body was on the order of several grams a day, rather than the several milligrams or less that is generally the case with vitamins.

Who Was Doctor Catherine Kousmine?

A native of Russia, Dr. Kousmine emigrated to Switzerland with her entire family while still a child. She pursued her medical studies in Lausanne, where she split her time between her medical practice and her research. Her studies led her to the discovery of the cause-and-effect relationship between nutritional deficiencies and the onset of disease. Among other things, she demonstrated the importance of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, which she dubbed F vitamins.

As a deficiency of these vitamins was the basic cause of degenerative diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic arthritis, she recommended daily consumption of “Budwig cream,” a blend of cottage cheese, flaxseed oil, ground seeds, lemon juice, and nuts. This cream was not a miracle cure; it was simply a means of making sure patients fulfilled their daily requirement for vitamin F as well as other nutrients the body needs.

Kousmine’s treatment methods, which have proven to be highly effective, are explained in her books Soyez bien dans votre assiette (Eat Right to Feel Right) and Sauvez votre corps (Protect Your Body), as well as in various books written by her disciples, for example La méthode Kousmine (The Kousmine Method) and Les 5 piliers de la santé (The 5 Pillars of Health) (Jouvence Editions).

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Omega-3s

Among the many properties of the various essential fatty acids—including the omega-3s, the omega-6s, and so on—are the anti-inflammatory effects of the omega-3s. These substances produce the “prostaglandins of peace” whose actions counter those of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins responsible for inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory remedies like plants, aspirin, and cortisone take effect by blocking the activity of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Normally the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins would perform this blocking work. Why wouldn’t this occur? It is because these prostaglandins are not present or are produced only in quantities too small to be effective. It so happens that their production is entirely dependent on nutritional factors.

Prostaglandins, whether pro- or anti-inflammatory, are constructed by the body from essential fatty acids. The term essential underscores the fact that these fatty acids must be supplied by diet, because the body is incapable of synthesizing them itself. When diet supplies an adequate amount of omega-3s, the body easily produces the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins it needs and can control inflammation on its own.


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The situation changes totally when omega-3s are not supplied to the body in sufficient quantity. The body is prevented from producing anti-inflammatory prostaglandins because it is missing the elements that are indispensable for that production. It will therefore be unequipped to control inflammations. This state of omega-3 deficiency is quite common today because most people rarely or seldom eat the foods that are good sources of omega-3s.

A deficiency in omega-3s is of even greater concern given that the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins depends on other essential fatty acids that, in contrast, are abundant in the modern diet, and consequently the conditions for their production are quite favorable. The disparity between the different types of essential fatty acids in the diet accentuates the existing imbalance between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Good Sources of Omega-3s

First- and 
Cold-Pressed Oils

Fatty Fishes

Camelina

Anchovy

Canola

Halibut

Flax

Herring

Hemp

Mackerel

Soy

Salmon

Walnut

Sardine

Wheat germ

 

Other sources: Seaweed or algae like spirulina

The Importance of Fatty Acids

Anti-Inflammatory 
Omega-3s: Why Are They Good For You?The fatty acids necessary for the production of pro-­inflammatory prostaglandins are primarily linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, both omega-6 essential fatty acids. Linoleic acid is abundantly present in commonly consumed oils like corn, sunflower, and peanut. Arachidonic acid is found in products containing animal fats: meats, cheeses, eggs, butter, and so on.

A person who regularly eats meat and cheese—which is a vast part of the population—is consequently supplying his or her body with a large number of the substances necessary to produce the prostaglandins that cause inflammation. Because of their substantial presence in the body, it can react quite strongly against any aggression. Its defensive reactions will be quick, strong, and lasting, because it has everything it needs to defend itself.

People who are equipped in this way are likely to have easily triggered inflammations that take severe forms—sometimes too severe—and are difficult to stop. The lack of omega-3s and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins prevents the body from putting up any effective resistance to the inflammatory response of the other prostaglandins.

Giving Your Body the Omega-3s That It Needs

It may seem surprising that nature offers so few foods containing omega-3s. It could even provide grounds for suspecting that nature is not as perfect and well-orchestrated as is commonly alleged. This, however, is not the case. The foods I have mentioned as sources of omega-3s are simply those that have the richest concentrations of this fatty acid.

Omega-3s actually can be found in many other foods, just in smaller quantities, though when added together those smaller quantities are adequate to provide for the body’s needs. If despite all these food sources an omega-3 deficiency exists, it comes from the fact that these foods (oil-rich seeds, vegetables, and so on) are lacking in the modern diet, and that today’s imbalanced, pro-inflammatory diet greatly increases our need for omega-3s.

While in 1900 the per capita consumption of meat averaged just 10 pounds or less per year, the current consumption of meat is now around 200 pounds a year per person in the United States, while in France it is 175 pounds. Switzerland is more moderate but still high at 130 pounds per capita.

One aspect of anti-inflammatory therapy therefore consists of giving the body the omega-3s it needs to produce ­anti-­inflammatory prostaglandins. This requires a healthy, balanced diet and omega-3 supplements.

Conclusion: Omega-3s Are Effective Against Chronic Inflammation

Increasing the body’s supply of omega-3s is effective primarily against chronic inflammations, rather than acute ones, because it takes the body some time to increase its production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Once they have been produced, however, they head right into battle against their pro-­inflammatory counterparts in order to calm the inflammation. So the anti-inflammatory action of omega-3s is slower than that of medicinal plants or pharmaceuticals like aspirin and cortisone. In these remedies the anti-inflammatory substances are already formed and go directly to work as soon as they enter the body.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Healing Arts Press.
©2014 by Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com


This article was adapted with permission from:

Natural Remedies for Inflammation: A Practical Guide...
by Christopher Vasey N.D.

Natural Remedies for Inflammation: A Practical Guide by Christopher Vasey N.D.In this practical guide to natural remedies for inflammation, naturopath Christopher Vasey explores 18 anti-inflammatory herbs, such as bay laurel, basil, turmeric, and devil’s claw, as well as 15 other natural substances, such as propolis and fish oil. He explains which conditions each addresses most effectively, proper dosage, and the best methods of ingestion. Dr. Vasey explains how, like fever, inflammation is a defensive reaction of the body and also carries out a cleansing process, which natural remedies support but pharmaceuticals can destabilize by contributing more toxins to the internal terrain. He examines 50 of the most common inflammation-related ailments--such as allergies, asthma, conjunctivitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, cystitis, tendinitis, arthritis, eczema, and sciatica--and explains which medicinal plant or food supplement is best suited to safely alleviate unpleasant symptoms while helping the body complete the healing the inflammation was initiated to perform.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


About the Author

Christopher Vasey, N.D.Christopher Vasey, N.D., is a naturopath specializing in detoxification and rejuvenation. He is the author of The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, The Naturopathic Way, The Water Prescription, The Whey Prescription, and The Detox Mono Diet. Visit his website (French language) at www.christophervasey.ch

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