Fish oil is a powerful supplement for the body. The omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for brain function, memory health, and many other functions within the body. In fact, it is also useful for reducing inflammation, which aids with various health needs. Reducing inflammation is especially beneficial in those with brain injuries or after suffering some head trauma.
There’s a reason that doctors recommend taking fish oil supplements, especially if you don’t get enough fish in your diet throughout the week. To be honest, fish is one of the most under-eaten foods, because people prefer chicken and red meat—often because both of them are cheaper options in the grocery stores.
Just how good for reducing inflammation is fish oil really? Why should you start taking it? Here’s all you need to know about fish oil for inflammation reduction and more.
Just What Does Fish Oil Do to the Body?
Before we get into the benefits of inflammation, it’s worth understanding the overall benefits of using fish oil in the diet.
This is one of those additions that is excellent for the brain. The omega-3 fatty acids—as I’ve said—help to protect the brain health. It can reduce the risk of developing dementia or suffering memory problems because it helps to keep all areas of the brain completely active.
A lack of omega-3 leads to the body having too much omega-6, which has been linked to various other conditions. These include asthma, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and many more problems.
Some of the conditions, like IBS, are linked to inflammation in the body. Getting enough fish oil can help to reduce the symptoms, even if it doesn’t completely cure the condition. We’ll get into this more throughout this article.
Fish oil has been shown effective in fighting against cancer—thanks to antioxidants—and will reduce the effects of depression and bipolar disorder. It is a fine balancing act, though. There are some studies that show miscarriages can be avoided through the use of fish oil. This will depend on the amount and type that you take. If you’re pregnant, I can’t stress enough the importance of talking to your doctor first.
Studies Show that Omega-3 Is Good for Inflammation Reduction
Arthritis is commonly caused by inflammation in the joints. The lack of lubrication in the joints leads to the joints rubbing together. This causes the area around them to swell and causes pain.
One study was carried out for 18 months and showed that those who had more fish oil in their diets would see a reduction in inflammation to help their arthritis symptoms. They didn’t have flare-ups in the morning or have to receive other types of treatment. The study was conducted with fish oil and borage seed, as well as some patients taking both. The benefits were noticed to be around the same amount with all three groups, so there’s no need to combine supplements to get extra benefits.
While supplements were used for arthritis treatment, it is possible to get the benefits from eating the right type of fish twice a week. This includes the likes of tuna, mackerel, and other oily fishes. The problem is balancing the benefits and the side effects of high levels of mercury in some of the best fishes.
How does the fish oil work? The omega-3 works by blocking the inflammatory responses in the body. The immune system can’t fight against elements—sometimes natural ones—in the body. Instead, the body releases the anti-inflammatory chemicals into the body, reducing inflammation that is already there and preventing it from happening in other cases.
The omega-3 also helps to boost the circulation in the body, which helps to reduce inflammation. It’s because of this that high blood pressure and heart disease are treated and prevented.
Too Much of a Good Thing Is Bad for You
Some fish have high levels of mercury. This is why many doctors will advise pregnant patients avoid certain ones, including swordfish and shark. You can also suffer from eating too much of the recommended ones, like tuna and mackerel.
Two portions of fish a week is recommended to get the health benefits. This will help to avoid the side effects of mercury poisoning. If you can’t get the two portions through food, you can take supplements but always follow the recommendations from doctors and on the packaging. Like eating too much fish, there are dangers of taking too many supplements.
The recommended amount of fish oil is 3g per day at the most. When you take more, you run the risk of blood not clotting properly. This increases your chance of bleeding out and even internal bleeding.
Your immune system is also affected by overuse of fish oil. The body can’t take in enough of the other minerals and vitamins needed to support the system, so you’re at a higher risk of disease. If you have to have medication to reduce your immune system—common in transplant patients—you run the risk of making yourself extremely ill.
There are some gassy side effects to taking fish oil, even in small amounts. You may experience some nausea and heartburn, as well as belching and loose stools. When you stop taking the supplements or if you take them with meals, you will find in most cases that the common side effects subside. If you do have a meal with fish, avoid taking fish oil supplements.
When it comes to pregnancy, make sure you talk to your doctor first. While taking supplements shouldn’t cause a problem, your doctor will want to know exactly which supplements you’re taking and the amount that you have. If you’re considering fish oil for your child, make sure you discuss this with the doctor too. Taking too much can be harmful, due to the child’s body not being able to counter against as much mercury.
Fish oil use can also increase the symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression, and even diabetes. This is often when taking in large amounts.
If you have a fish allergy, even taking fish oil supplements should be avoided. The supplements tend to be made from the natural oils that come from fish, which could include the elements that cause your allergy.
Combining with Natural Health Treatments
The great news is that you can use fish oil with other natural treatments to help treat inflammation. Using fish oil supplements with olive oil has shown benefits in arthritis patients.
Olive oil, coconut oil, and many other oils that you likely already have in your home are excellent for reducing inflammation in the body. They are full of antioxidants, which have been linked to fighting free radicals that cause cancer, illnesses, and inflammatory responses. Antioxidants within the oils have been likened to ibuprofen by many experts, which is an extremely common anti-inflammatory drug.
Ibuprofen works in same way as omega-3. It blocks the body’s natural response to inflammation and helps to encourage the anti-inflammatory chemicals to be released. They work with the antioxidants in other natural remedies against inflammation.
The oils don’t just help arthritis patients with inflammation either. They will also help to reduce inflammation in the gut and when used topically on the skin in all patients.
Studies are still needed to see the full effects, but some have already proven beneficial. This isn’t like taking extra supplements, as you can use the oils in cooking, through topical treatments, and even for oil pulling.
Defying Death with Fish Oil Use
Did you know that some patients have defied death through the use of fish oil supplements? This was noted in one teenage patient, who suffered traumatic injuries after a car accident. Spinal and brain injuries were both noted, and they led to some inflammation in the areas. The inflammation should have killed the patient, especially the inflammation in the brain.
The parents of the teenager wouldn’t accept that their son was going to die. Instead, they tried various treatments including the use of omega-3 fatty acids—the main component of fish oil. The family believed that it was the fish oil components that helped to heal their son’s brain. The oil helped to reduce the inflammation within the brain and supported other functions to aid with repair and healing.
Brain inflammation will continue unless something happens to stop it. Fish oil helps with stopping the inflammation. The omega-3 tells the body to stop the inflammatory response, which helps to reduce the inflammation within the brain and repair the damage done.
Of course, there are still studies to see how this happens. Patients with traumatic brain injuries have been tested to see how they respond. There are no definite results as of yet, but the studies continue to find out what the fish oil does to the brain and how it can help.
What Do the Studies Say?
So, there’s a mention of the studies, but what do they say when it comes to omega-3, fish oils, and inflammation?
In the elderly, older women with higher levels of omega-3 fats had better brain preservation than those with the lower levels. The study showed that the women could have an extra year or two of maintained brain function compared to their counterparts. In fact, eight years later, the women continued to have higher brain volumes possibly due to the extra fish oil.
However, since there were limitations to the study, like not knowing the full diet or the full health of the individuals—dementia, for example, has a genetic component to it—it is difficult to say that the fish oil was the definitive reason for the increased brain function later in life. Scientists have said that it contributes, though, and it would be difficult to say anything against that. There are links to fish oil slowing down the brain atrophy associated with getting older, which tends to occur more in Alzheimer patients.
When it comes to children, the extra omega-3 has shown benefits in brain function. This study was carried out by giving children the omega-3 and a placebo to make sure that it wasn’t just the thought of getting more. Those who had the higher doses of omega-3 saw the highest spikes in their red blood cells within the brain. These red blood cells are important for increased brain function, which is necessary to grow and develop.
Fighting Against IBS
So, what is the benefit of fish oil against IBS? This is likely due to the irritation and inflammation within the bowel, but doctors don’t fully know. This is because the condition isn’t fully understood yet.
The belief is that those with IBS tend to have low amounts of omega-3 in the body. They also tend to have larger amounts of omega-6. Trying to get the balancing act is essential. Hunter-gatherers tend to get an even balance of the two, and they had fewer problems with cancers and inflammatory diseases. Researchers have suggested that getting a perfect balance—without really thinking about it—was the reason for this.
Very few hunter-gatherers showed signs of suffering from IBS. This could have been linked to not having some of the foods that cause IBS flare-ups, but is also linked to the benefit of getting a healthy and balanced diet.
Of course, fish oil isn’t the only recommendation for treating IBS, but it does help to reduce the inflammation and line the intestines. High-fibre diets and a reduction in gluten are recommended for some. Everyone with IBS is different, and you’ll need to find the exact treatments that work for you.
Fight Against Neck and Back Pain
If you have pain in the neck and back that you can’t quite explain, it could be worth boosting your fish oils in your diet. Most pain is linked to inflammation, especially when it comes to chronic pain. Fish oils can also help to treat those with fibromyalgia.
Studies have shown that some neck and back pain that are nonsurgical problems can be reduced through the use of fish oils—or more specifically omega-3. Patients shared in the study that they were able to stop taking the pain medications because of the natural treatment.
Inflammation causes pressure on the nerves, which leads to pain. Some of this pain can be from other parts of the body but felt in the neck or back. For example, carpal tunnel can lead to pain in the elbow and even higher, while those with chronic headaches can feel the pain in their necks.
It’s Difficult to Get Omega-3 Anywhere Else
Why is it that when we talk about omega-3 we focus so much on fish oil? Well, that’s because it’s very difficult to get the element anywhere else. In fact, most other foods are high in omega-6 and other nutrients but don’t have any omega-3 at all.
Flaxseed, walnuts, and canola have some omega-3, but not nearly as much as fish oil. In fact, flaxseed is the only ingredients that offer more omega-3 than omega-6, except for fish. This is why fish oil is considered the quickest, easiest, and best way to get the nutrients that your body needs.
Some of the other ingredients that are common in the diet are extremely high in omega-6 oils, leading to health problems like inflammation. Vegetable oil is one of the most prime examples of this. It is now commonly used in cooking but doesn’t offer any of the benefits of other oils out there. It’s been linked to health problems, including obesity and heart disease.
With foods so high in omega-6 being consumed so much throughout the day, it’s important to find the best food to balance that out. This is why fish oil is so important, whether you get it through natural foods or supplements.
Do You Need to Take More Fish Oil Supplements?
If you don’t already get enough fish oils in your diet, it’s time to increase the amount. The omega-3 isn’t just good for your memory and brain health. It’s not just going to help boost concentration and reduce the chances of developing dementia later in life. The supplements will help you reduce the inflammation that you experience everywhere.
There are also ready studies that show the effects, both in the old and young. There are patients who have proven that brain injuries can be reversed because of the use of fish oil, and patients who experience less pain on a daily basis because they add more omega-3 in the diet.
Let’s just look at the diets of our forefathers. Before junk food, vegetable oils, and more unhealthy products, we ate a lot more fish in our diet. We didn’t suffer from as many routine health problems that we do today because our omega-3 and omega-6 levels were balanced. We were able to keep inflammatory responses in the body to a minimum and didn’t have to deal with chronic pain, IBS, or many other conditions.
Isn’t it time that you helped your body as much as possible? The best thing about fish oil is that it’s easy to get. You can boost your fish intake to two pieces a week or opt for supplements instead.
If you are allergic to fish, there are other options for omega-3 available. They’re not as good, but at least you’re not completely missing out. If you are pregnant, please do check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on April 03, 2017
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