Raging the War Against Inflammation with High Potency Omega 3s
If you want an everyday supplement that is going to provide your body with excellent wellness support, it is no secret that fish oil can be a good option. Beyond supporting general wellness, however, fish oil with EPA and DHA may deter inflammation, especially when both agents are balanced in the formula.
Inflammation should be a well-balanced occurrence that takes place only when the body is at risk. However, a lot of conditions and everyday habits can actually disrupt the balance and cause heightened levels of inflammation. Could fish oil help? Let's take a closer look at fish oil, inflammatory conditions, and even new research that shed light on just how important a good fish oil formula can be.
Fish oil is a supplement with such profound benefits that it really should be deemed as a staple of care to support general wellness. The oil contains important dietary sources, specifically two important omega-3 fatty acids known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA).
In nature, omega-3s occur as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), mostly found in plants, and as EPA and DHA from cold-water fish like salmon, trout, shellfish, and mackerel. Our bodies can convert ALA to the more potent EPA and DHA, however, many people lack the proper enzymes to make the conversion possible. To add insult to injury, omega-3s are not so abundant in the average American diet any longer. And it is for this reason that fish oil supplementation is sorely needed for just about everyone, especially for those who are at risk for certain types of chronic inflammation.
Some of the most common conditions that can cause chronic inflammation in the body include:
While inflammation is often perceived as a bad thing, this natural biologic action is how your body responds when it is under attack or is under stress. For example, when your skin is wounded, inflammation helps to fight off bacteria that could potentially cause an infection. However, chronic inflammation represents something amiss; usually, chronic inflammation is a good sign of a serious illness. With that being said, targeting inflammation can sometimes help deter the symptoms associated with serious illness and disease.
How does inflammation occur?
To better understand how inflammation occurs, you have to take a look at why inflammation occurs in the first place. As noted, inflammation is a necessary bodily function, and, in many ways, a layer of protection that kicks in when the body is fighting some perceived irritant or threat. For example, if you get a tiny splinter, your finger swells reddens, and hurts. This is the body's way of trying to get rid of the foreign object.
The process behind what causes inflammation is rooted in the immune system. When a threat is perceived, the immune system sends out pro-inflammatory mediators like histamine, cytokines, and bradykinin. These mediators dilate blood cells and irritate nerves. In return, extra blood flows to the injured site to promote healing and protection and nerve responses tell you something is wrong because you feel pain.
The body actually releases both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory mediators. Anti-inflammatory mediators actually support the resolution process after inflammation has occurred. In other words, they switch off the inflammation process. However, inflammatory actions with pro and anti-inflammatory mediators can go haywire in some cases and cause chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.
Likewise, certain chronic diseases, such as those listed above, can affect the immune system response and generate chronic inflammation within the body because the balance between pro and anti-inflammatory mediators is disrupted. For example, people who have type 2 diabetes may have more problems with inflammation because the disease increases pro-inflammatory markers in the blood and organs by altering anti-inflammatory markers.
Fish oil has long been recognized as something that could offer anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, the supplement has been examined in several studies for its potential to target various conditions that can lead to chronic levels of inflammation in the body. When it comes to fish oil, inflammation imbalance may even be a natural target for the supplement.
EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to support health and wellness on a number of levels. These important nutrients are actually associated with everything from fetal development to cardiovascular function, but they are not naturally present in the body. EPA and DHA may also positively affect aspects of things like anticoagulation, peripheral artery disease, weight management, and cognitive function. Therefore, dietary intake of both omega-3s can be especially important to good health. So, what are EPA and DHA exactly, how do they differ, and is one more beneficial than the other?
Eicosapentaenoic acid is a fatty acid that can be converted from another fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in the liver. However, only about 15 percent of the ALA is ever converted into EPA or DHA after it is consumed in foods like flaxseed and certain nuts. Therefore, supplementing with EPA in the form of fish oil can ensure practical levels of the important nutrient in the body. EPA is thought to be an important inflammatory mediator.
Docosahexaenoic acid can also be created from dietary intake of ALA, but intake of ALA is even less likely to yield DHA than EPA. DHA is particularly important to the structures that make up certain cells but is found most abundantly in the brain, in sperm, and in the retina. Higher concentrations of EPA and DHA combined may help to balance inflammatory activity.
A cross-sectional clinical trial was completed at the end of 2020, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, that took a much closer look at the roles of EPA and DHA in balancing the inflammatory response. The study actually followed 21 participants over the course of 34 weeks who were given a daily provision of either DHA or EPA. The participants were all considered obese and had been diagnosed with low-grade inflammation. DHA was actually shown to be stronger against inflammation in the body than EPA, while EPA seemed to be more balancing.
The primary conductor of the research, Jisun So, had this to say about the study findings:
“In our bodies, there is always this balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory proteins, and we found EPA was better than DHA at enhancing that balance,”
This new information is important to note because many of the fish oil products available on the modern market are high in EPA but may have little or no DHA at all. In order for the supplements to effectively target chronic inflammation, there must be a good balance of both fatty acids and not just one or the other. In fact, the two omega-3 fatty acids may affect unique aspects of inflammation, which means they may offer more benefits when they are taken at proper ratios together.
Are there any negative side effects of fish oil?
Fish oil is generally safe for most people. One thing fish oil can offer that is often a concern with adding fish to the diet is the fact that fish oil rarely contains mercury, which can be problematic in fresh fish. If you have an allergy to shellfish, it will be important to discuss your supplement plans with your doctor. It is not completely clear as to whether taking fish oil could cause an adverse reaction if you have an allergy.
Fish oil may cause a few side effects, such as experiencing a fishy aftertaste in your mouth or even a bit of gastrointestinal upset, but these problems are rare. Make sure you take the proper dose of fish oil, as taking too much may increase the risk of bleeding or stroke.
Are there specific fish oil benefits for men vs women?
Some previous research has supported the idea that fish oil may be especially important for men. For example, men have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease that may be targeted by omega-3s and fish oil has also been shown in animal studies to potentially support sexual health. However, both EPA and DHA are good options for wellness support, regardless of gender.
How much fish oil should I take to lower cholesterol?
So far, fish oil supplements are thought to help elevate good HDL cholesterol levels, but they may not lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. Nevertheless, the supplement may help lower triglycerides by as much as 15 to 30 percent. Triglycerides are a form of fat in the blood that can lead to higher bad cholesterol levels. While there are no recommended daily intakes of fish oil specifically for any specific condition, there are recommendations for omega-3 intake. Most people should get between 250 and 500mg daily of combined EPA and DHA.
Are there any negative side effects of fish oil?
To get the most from a fish oil or omega-3 supplement, it is always best to trust brands that integrative practicing physicians and pharmacies recommend. One of the more noteworthy brands that offer an adequate balance of EPA and DHA is OrthoMega. One OrthoMega softgel provides 820mg of EPA and 50mg of DHA as natural triglycerides, the preferred form with superior absorption. The formula also contains vitamin E and rosemary, which may help to encourage natural absorption, purity, and freshness.
Don’t get hooked on a subpar fish oil formula. Take the brand that our pharmacists trust (and use).