When looking to improve your joint health, omega-3s are usually one of the main supplements you will come across, and that’s for good reason.
Omega-3s are a type of fat that we can’t make in our bodies, so we need to get this essential nutrient from our diets. Research consistently shows the benefits of increasing the intake of omega-3s in supporting our health where any form of inflammation occurs, including joint health in the treatment of arthritic conditions.
Chronic inflammation lies at the root of many painful joint problems. Omega-3s have particular affinity for bringing inflammation back into balance. Dietary sources include nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds and in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies. When we consume these foods containing these types of fats, our bodies convert them into powerful anti-inflammatory compounds.
Omega fats ratio
Modern day Western diets unfortunately typically lack omega-3s and instead include higher levels of omega-6 which is another type of essential fat. Omega-6 however, can be converted into more pro-inflammatory compounds which is not good news for joint health. For anyone wanting to address painful inflammatory joint problems, bringing inflammation back into balance should be an important focus. Addressing the omega-3 and omega-6 balance is a key component in allowing this to happen.
An ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 would be 4:1, however a typical Western diet today may consume a ratio of around 15:1 or even more! Scientists suspect that this distorted ratio of fatty acids may be one of the most damaging aspects of the Western diet. In addition to joint problems such as arthritis, it may also be a key driver in serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and many types of cancer.
Creating more balance
Increasing intake of omega-3 is generally agreed to be the best way to help bring the omega 6:3 ratio back into balance. Addressing this ratio can help support to reduce inflammation which can have significant benefits for joint health.
Eating more nuts, seeds and oily fish will help but also comes with some drawbacks. The plant sources of omega-3 contain a type of omega-3 called ALA. The human body is inefficient at converting ALA into the active forms – EPA and DHA which are more readily absorbed. Therefore, animal sources such as fish are usually better choices, but can often be contaminated with harmful pesticides and toxins. Vegan options containing EPA and DHA can be found in algae.
Taking a daily supplement of omega-3 oil that has been purified to remove harmful toxins helps to overcome these problems. Multiple studies have taken place and demonstrate supplementation can improve joint health and reduce pain and inflammation.
What about omega-6?
As mentioned, omega-6 and omega-3 are both required nutrients and are most effective in the right ratio. So, this isn’t about excluding omega-6 from the diet completely, however levels may need to be reduced. Also, look to get your omega-6 intake from more healthier sources. The most common source of unhealthy omega-6 is from vegetable oils, in particular sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil. Reduce these and replace them with healthier sources which can be found in walnuts, peanut butter, tofu, hemp and sunflower seeds, safflower oil, avocado oil and eggs. Other unhealthy foods which contain high amounts of omega-6 fats and should be avoided include processed foods and snacks, fast foods, cakes and pastries and fatty and cured meats.
A high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, relative to omega-3 may encourage a number of chronic diseases. Optimising the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 can help to reduce these risks. Begin by reducing omega-6 fats by avoiding vegetable oils high in omega-6 and the processed foods that contain them. Increase intake of foods high in omega-3 oils and consider taking an omega-3 supplement if you believe your food intake of omega-3 is not satisfactory.
If in doubt, always consult with a professional. Nutritionists and naturopaths are on hand at Holistic Room to support you on your journey, finding and connecting with the right practitioner is quick and easy, search here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will point you in the right direction.