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The one supplement most experts recommend to almost everyone—no matter your age, height, weight, or gender—is omega-3 fatty acids. Because of their wide-ranging health benefits, omega-3 supplements are the closest thing we have to a miracle pill. But why? Simply put, omega-3 fatty acids are essential.
The body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from your diet; however, omega-3s are different. They’re considered “essential” fatty acids because the human body requires them for good health but cannot make them on its own. That is, the only way to obtain omega 3s is to get them from our food. And yet, our SAD (Standard American Diet) is almost devoid of this critical nutrient.
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Omega-3 Deficiency and Chronic Health Problems
Chronic degenerative diseases don’t develop overnight. An insidious process occurs when the body is subjected to inadequate nutrients over a long period of time. In this case, months or even years of omega-3 deficiency can lead to one or more chronic health conditions—arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and even certain types of cancer.
The key is to recognize and reverse the symptoms of omega-3 deficiency before a serious illness ensues. So, what are the symptoms of a lack of omega-3? And, more important, do you have any of the symptoms?
10 Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms
- Soft, peeling, or brittle nails (or slow-growing nails)
- Attention deficit, restlessness, poor concentration, or poor memory (in children and adults)
- Depression, anxiety, or mood swings
- Dry, flaky, cracking, or callused skin
- >Dry eyes
- Dehydration, thirst, dry mouth/throat, or frequent urination
- Dry, dull, or brittle hair (also dandruff or “cradle cap”)
- Stiff or painful joints
- Excessive ear wax
- Allergy symptoms (eczema, asthma, hay fever, hives, etc.)
Rather than ask yourself, “What are the symptoms of a lack of omega 3?” perhaps the better question is: What are the benefits of omega-3? Evidence-based research studies support these health benefits:
- Decrease inflammation in the body
- Reduce anxiety and depression symptoms
- Improve cardiovascular health (reduce triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, and prevent plaque build-up in the arteries)
- Reduce ADD / ADHD symptoms (improve concentration)
- Improve eye health
- Promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
- Reduce memory loss (dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s disease)
- Improve bone and joint health
- Promote integumentary health (reduce oil, improve skin hydration, prevent acne)
There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids used by the body:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Most of the ALA in our diets come from flaxseed, chia seeds, olive oil, and nuts such as walnuts. Once such foods are consumed, the body converts ALA to EPA and then to DHA.
However, EPA and DHA are the two types of omega-3s that have the most health benefits, with DHA being the most beneficial by far. DHA supports brain and mental health, improving cognition, memory, and focus. While EPA isn’t as vital as DHA, it’s still used by the body to help maintain circulatory and cardiac health. It also aids in brain health by increasing blood flow and influencing hormones.
The highest concentrations of EPA and DHA are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardine, halibut, and herring, as well as other seafoods such as algae or krill, some plants, and nut oils.
Attempting to get enough omega-3 from food sources can be challenging for two reasons: 1) Many people simply do not like the taste of seafood; and 2) Our modern day fish supply contains unhealthy levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants. As a result, many nutrition experts recommend a person get a maintenance dose of 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA (added together) on a daily basis in order to significantly reduce the risks for depression, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping for omega-3 supplements:
- Do not consume fish oils if you take blood thinners.
- Make sure your omega-3 fish oil is free from mercury, PCB, and other contaminants.
- Search for a fish oil from “wild” fish rather than “farm-raised” fish.
- Start with 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day; a therapeutic dose of 3,000 to 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day is recommended for inflammatory-related conditions.
Are you experiencing the symptoms of a lack of omega-3? If so, begin increasing your consumption of this essential fatty acid via your diet or omega-3 supplements. Don’t wait any longer! You can prevent a wide range of deleterious health effects in your future by starting to reverse your omega-3 deficiency symptoms now.
Hungry for more? Read “Know Your Fats: Balancing Your 3-6-9 Omega Ratio.”
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