Complementary Medicine

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The Importance of Fish Oil to Your Health

Grandma called fish "brain food" for good reason.

Dear Readers,

Over the last two centuries, the American diet has seen a major drop in omega-3 consumption. This has occurred for many reasons - not least of which being the rise in saturated fats used in food processing, and the switch from grass-fed to grain-fed beef. The result has led to major health problems for Americans.

Grandma Called Fish "Brain Food" for Good Reason

If you suffer from depression, poor memory or a number of other conditions, there's a good chance that you suffer from omega-3 deficiency and would benefit from adding fish oil to your diet. With most of the brain being made of fish oil (as DHA), it's not surprising that consuming fish oil has been shown to reduce existing depression and help with postpartum depression, ADHD, bipolar illness and even schizophrenia. Even in healthy people, supplementing with fish oil decreases anger and anxiety and increases vigor while also improving various types of attention, cognitive and physiological functions - including overall mood.

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Especially Helpful in CFS and Fibromyalgia

Fish oil levels are unusually low in people with CFS or fibromyalgia.  Although many with these illnesses find fish oil supplementation to be very helpful, many also find it to be a bit tricky to take because of having to take so many fish oil supplements to meet their dosage needs and the "fish burp" digestive issues that sometimes result.  It's an unfortunate side effect that occurs in some cases, but not enough so that CFS and fibro patients should forgo this important dietary need.    

Relieves Pain from Inflammation

If pain is associated with inflammation (and most pains are), it is important to realize that omega-3 fish oil also plays a critical role in suppressing excess inflammation in our bodies. This deficiency is one major reason why people are suffering from pain. Taking fish oil can decrease this excess inflammation - resulting in wonderful relief from pain.

A quick test to see whether your body's inflammatory system is on overdrive? When you get a paper cut, it should quickly go away and be forgotten. If it gets red and you still feel the pain an hour later, you might benefit from taking fish oil.

Want to Live a Long But "Youthful" Life?

Fish oils have been shown to significantly decrease heart attack and stroke risk, our nation's biggest killer. This is because fish oil helps keep the blood vessels that feed every cell in your body working well, leaving your body healthier overall.

Getting Fish Oil from Foods or Supplements

I've recommended fish oils for many years. The benefits of omega-3s for heart health, mental well-being, pain, and more make fish oil seem like a clear natural choice. With fish oil being so important, I recommend people get at least 3-4 servings of salmon, tuna, sardines, herring or mackerel weekly.

If you find that getting the fish oil you need through meal planning is difficult to do, adding a supplement is a great alternative. Unfortunately, this can lead to taking a lot of pills (often 10-12 a day), which is both obnoxious and expensive. In addition, there is some concern over mercury and other contamination that may be present in some fish oil supplements, and many (if not most) brands are simply rancid (a major cause of fish burps).

Fish oil has many benefits to your health, so it's important that you not overlook including it regularly in your diet.  Consider the tradeoffs of getting your fish oil from foods versus supplementation, and make an informed choice of which way to go.  Either way will be a smart decision.

 

 

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, researches treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

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