Omega Fatty Acids and Inflammation

Omega Fatty Acids and Inflammation

Omega fatty acids are found in the unsaturated fats that we eat. There are omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 types. We need to get them from our diet as we do not make them.

We care most about omega-3 and omega-6, as these relate to inflammation. They’re commonly mentioned with regard to oily fish and fish oils.


When we hear “inflammation,” we might automatically get concerned. But there are different types of inflammation, and inflammation can even be health supportive! For instance, when we get a cut, we want inflammation to occur as this is what will drive healing. But when the body is done healing, we want the inflammation to stop. Omega-6 drives the inflammation while omega-3 flips the switch back off. Yet many of us don’t have the necessary omega-3 fatty acids available to quell inflammation, but possess an excess of inflammatory omega-6s. This is when we can find ourselves with systemic, health-harmful inflammation.

One way that we can support our bodies in reducing chronic inflammation and promoting only acute inflammatory processes is by rebalancing our omega intakes. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids share receptors in our cells, which means they compete with one another to be used. When there are more omega-3s than omega-6s available, then the body will draw upon omega-3 first and use inflammation in an acute way. However, when there is a huge pool of omega-6s to draw from and only minimal omega-3s, then the body will use the omega-6s first. This leaves no shut off switch for the inflammation, and conditions such as heart disease, cancer, allergies, diabetes, depression, and many other conditions occur.

Ideally, our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio will be 1:1, or even 4:1. However, this isn’t the reality for most Americans. In fact, it is common for Americans to have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1, or more!


Where do omegas come from?

Omega fatty acids are found in a variety of polyunsaturated oils and fats.

The omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils like corn, canola, sunflower, and safflower oils; vegetable shortening; deep fryer oil; margarine; and nuts. (Does this make you wonder why the government is then promoting margarine, corn, and canola oils as “healthy”?) Conventionally raised animals also have a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in their fat content. These are all foods to eat minimally. While we still need some of these fatty acids in our diet, the best ones to focus on are in whole foods such as nuts and seeds. The omega-6 containing oils are often highly processed and chemically treated, rancid, deodorized, and are no longer real foods, so should be avoided.


The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna, sardines, anchovies, egg yolk, chia seeds, sea vegetables, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, raw walnuts, wheat germ, hemp seeds, freshly ground flaxseeds, and cold-pressed flaxseed oil. While soybean and canola oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids in theory, these are rancidified by the time they are processed, so avoid them. Pastured meat and butter also contain some omega-3s. These are truly where to spend your daily calories.

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