Essential fatty acids are the number one recommendation for anyone who has, or wants to prevent common chronic diseases today, such diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. And they are very helpful in improving immune system function to increase energy and reverse some of the damage seen in diseases such as lupus, fibromyalgia, and MS. What types of fat are in your diet?
If you have dry skin, stiffness, concentration problems, or hormonal imbalances you may be lacking in a type of fat that is essential to health. Essential fatty acids are those fats that the body needs; yet cannot synthesize itself. Many types of fat are unhealthy fats, yet some are beneficial and necessary. In fact, cutting all fat from the diet is actually harmful to health.
Essential fatty acids are needed to metabolize other types of fats that are not good for us. Saturated fat is a harmful fat that is found in many types of red meat and dairy foods. Yet, the worse types of fats are the partially hydrogenated oils found in snack foods. These types of fats, found in most processed foods, are converted to trans-fatty acids when heated, or oxidized. So when you make boxed cakes or brownies you create trans fats when you bake these partially hydrogenated oils that are included in the mix so that the box can sit on your shelf indefinitely. These are the types of fat that increase cholesterol in the arteries.
The good fats, called essential fatty acids, are important in many metabolic processes, including energy production. Since the body cannot produce them, they must be consumed in the diet to optimize health. The essential fatty acids are the omega-3 (linoleic) and omega-6 (linolenic) polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Every cell in the body is like a tiny factory, taking in raw materials from the surrounding fluid and sending out various chemicals. Everything going into or coming out of the cell has to pass through the cell's membrane. The membrane depends on essential fatty acids to remain fluid and flexible. Without them, the membrane becomes stiff and unable to do its job.
Essential fatty acids are also important to bring vital oxygen to muscle cells and they enable the cells to more easily absorb nutrients needed for recuperation. In one study of 63 patients with fibromyalgia, essential fatty acid supplementation resulted in a 74% reduction in pain in patients after 1 month, and 85% after 3 months.
This is a list of the benefits realized by regular use of essential fatty acids:
? Improved cholesterol levels
? Lower blood pressure
? Improved memory
? Increased circulation
? Reduced joint stiffness
? Reduced dryness of the skin
? Improved immune system function
? Less inflammation
? Balanced hormones
? Depression reduced
As you can see, fatty acids are essential for metabolism and health. Flax oil is the richest vegetarian source of omega-3 fats. It is commonly used in salads in place of other salad dressings. Flax oil shouldn't be used for cooking, as high heat damages the fatty acids. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish oils from salmon, tuna, cod, and mackerel.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in many vegetable oils such as borage, flaxseed, walnut, soy, corn, sunflower, and are especially abundant in evening primrose oil. These omega-6 acids help to soften dry skin and relax tense muscles.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids need to be supplemented in the diet. The ideal ratio of these fats is 2 parts omega-3 to 1 part omega-6 to reduce inflammation and pain, and to improve energy metabolism. Increasing the amount of fish oils and flax oil will help especially get the omega-3 fatty acids into the metabolism. 2000 mg. of flax oil is usually equivalent to 2 capsules or 1 tablespoon, and is the recommended minimum per day.
The omega-3 and omega-6 need catalysts to be absorbed in the body. These catalysts are vitamins B3 (niacin) and B6, vitamin C, and the minerals magnesium and zinc. When there is a deficiency of these nutrients then the essential fatty acids will not be absorbed well. Also when too many saturated or trans fats are part of the normal diet then supplementation of essential fatty acids is less effective.
A combination of essential fatty acids, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants, are all needed in your daily diet, or on whole food supplement form, to make the metabolic changes that reverse many chronic disease symptoms. Supplementing with sufficient amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in balance will help you absorb the other nutrients you take in from your foods, and can make a great improvement in your overall health and vitality.
Jane Oelke, N.D., Ph.D. is a Traditional Naturopath and Doctor of Homeopathy in southwest Michigan. She is the author of "Natural Choices for Fibromyalgia" and "Natural Choices for Attention Deficit Disorder." She is a professional speaker on natural health topics. She can be contacted at DoctorOelke@aol.com or through her website at http://www.NaturalChoicesForYou.com