Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

Cornerstones of Nutrition: Omega-3s

You may have heard that Omega-3s are an essential part of our everyday nutritional requirements, particularly DHA and EPA. I consider them one of the foundations for optimal health. But what are these and how do we get them?

Omega-3s are also called fatty acids. They are in the oils that often come from fish. That’s why some people think of them as fish oils, though our bodies can manufacture DHA and EPA from another type of fatty acid known as ALA.

ALA comes from plant food like flax and walnuts, but the conversion process to DHA and EPA is slow and limited. Many people lack the enzymes necessary to make this transformation and this declines with age. Yes, eating fresh-ground flax seed helps, but direct consumption of DHA and EPA is our best choice.

DHA and EPA are called “essential” because they impact every biological process in our body, but we can’t produce enough on our own. They are vital for brain function, as well as to support our cardiovascular system and blood sugar metabolism. They are important for optimal eyesight, healthy skin and connective tissue. Fish oils are even shown to battle inflammation and enhance our immune system.

If you experience dry, itchy, or flaky skin, poor sleep quality, poor circulation, eye discomfort, and mood imbalance, you may be depleted in omega-3s.

You can get Omega-3s from eating marine life from cold waters. Make sure your selection considers the level of toxins that are associated with some sea food. Heavy metals, pesticides and PCBs are not what you want to be adding into your diet. Good choices are algae, anchovies, oysters, and sardines. If you get salmon, look for wild caught.

The best thing is to eat ocean fish regularly. I particularly love fresh Alaskan salmon and my family is pretty happy I don’t eat a lot of sardines at home. Since I don’t eat sea food often enough, I also supplement with concentrated fish oil. I consider 1 gram a day the minimum and take 4 grams a day myself in a 2:3 ratio.

Not all fish oils are created equal. There is a tremendous difference between purity, freshness, ingredients, potency, ratios and absorbability. Oxidation is a big deal. These fish mostly come from the waters close to Chile or Norway, so if your oil goes rancid during manufacture or distribution you could dramatically increase your oxidative stress and inflammation. This is the opposite of what we are after.

Toxins do get concentrated during manufacturing. Even products that meet international standards can have low levels of toxins. As such, I like to use omegas that have no detectable toxins, particularly when addressing brain health and inflammation. But this is hard to distinguish just from the labels.

Pay attention to whether the oil is in ethyl-ester or triglyceride from. The most common and cheapest form is ethyl-ester, but that is more resistant to the digestive enzymes that break down fat. Thus making it harder to absorb. Want more information? Stop on by.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug.

Photo Pezibear / Pixabay

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

copyright 2008 - 2017