Essential Fatty Acids for Allergies and Beyond
Consuming adequate and balanced amounts of the right fats – omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids – is critical to good health. Essential means the body cannot produce them and has to take them in from outside sources – either through food or supplements. For both seasonal and year-round allergy sufferers, EFA’s are just that – ESSENTIAL and necessary. Even dogs and cats with conditions like allergic dermatitis benefit from EFA supplementation.
What do EFA’s do?
Essential fatty acids play a very important role in helping reduce and prevent inflammatory conditions such as eczema, and psoriasis as well as the prevention of arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cancer and heart disease; they improve the softness and smoothness of your skin and provide many other health benefits. Essential fatty acids are important components of the outer skin or membrane of every cell. The membrane determines which chemicals and nutrients will be allowed to enter and exit the cell; within the cell membrane essential fatty acids are continually activated and converted into prostaglandin hormones, a process that allows essential fatty acids to supply their disease prevention and anti-aging effects to a wide range of tissues within the body. They also:
- Support the production of secretions of digestive enzymes.
- Help make the lubricants that allow joints to move effectively.
- Help transport cholesterol in the blood.
- Help immune function in fighting infection.
- Help balance the immune system and prevent allergies.
- Ensure adequate bone formation and repair.
How much do we need?
We need more omega-3 than omega-6 in a ratio of about 2:1. A typical Western diet contains only small quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Modern food processing destroys a lot of the essential fatty acids. The imbalance in the diet of omega-3 to omega-6 places a physiological burden on the body. To get sufficient omega-3 to balance the ratio you would need to eat at least three to four servings of salmon per week. Omega-6 fatty acid is found in abundance in our food supply. It is contained in most plant foods and in virtually all vegetable oils. It is harder to get sufficient alpha- linolenic acid (ALA). The richest food sources of ALA are flaxseed and flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, pumpkin seeds, soy beans, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. If your diet contains sufficient linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha- linolenic acid (ALA) then your body is usually able to produce the other omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that it needs.
What depletes our EFA’s
- Consuming trans-fatty acids (found in brick margarine, shortening, commercially baked goods and processed foods and foods containing partially hydrogenated oils)
- Consuming too much sugar
- Alcohol consumption
- Viral infections
- Genetic anomalies
How EFA’s can help
Omega-3 fish oils have an important role in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Diets that are rich in fish oils lower blood pressure as well as the bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. They also raise the good cholesterol (HDL). These factors have been shown in accepted studies to significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is often effective in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, allergies, dermatitis and eczema. It also reduces the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome like breast pain, bloating, depression and irritation. Docosahexanoic (DHA) is particularly important for pregnant and nursing mothers. Growing babies depend on their mothers for their DHA.
Most individuals suffer unknowingly from an essential fatty acid deficiency or imbalance, thanks to modern agricultural and food processing methods and the typical North American diet. Take a good look at your current consumption of healthy oils in your diet. If you aren’t certain that you are consuming enough of the right types, in the appropriate relative proportions, we urge you to supplement your diet with a high quality supplement. Be ready for allergy season by starting on a regiment ASAP.
At the Healthy Choice Compounding Pharmacy, we’d like to help ensure you reach the optimal essential fatty acid nutritional status and can recommended professional-quality fish oils that are free from mercury and other impurities. Stop by or call and speak to , our Supplement Manager 914.238.1700.