February 5, 2016
Why Essential Fatty Acids Are ESSENTIAL!
Many of my patients often come in complaining of similar symptoms and I would be willing to bet that you or someone you know may suffer from them, too.
Let’s take a quick poll to determine whether I’m on to something.
Would you check YES to any of the following symptoms?
- Poor Memory
- Mood Swings
- Depression or Unhappiness
Yes to one or more of these symptoms? Then this post will be of benefit to you!
is something that is common to every chronic disease
. The fact that chronic diseases are skyrocketing indicates that inflammation is also widespread. Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand.
Wondering where I’m going with this? Well, hang tight because I’m about to explain how it’s related to the aforementioned symptoms.
One subset of chronic disease that are particularly on the rise are brain related disorders
. Disorders that cause poor memory, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and so much more. And unsurprisingly, these disorders are the victim of rampant inflammation!
These symptoms such as sleep issues, brain fog, and moodiness have become so common that we have come to accept them as a normal part of aging.
Wrong, wrong, wrong
! These symptoms are not reflective of normal aging but rather, are signs of accelerated aging and suggest a serious problem.
In most cases, one can trace the demise of brain health to our modern lifestyle which often consists of high carbohydrate diets, processed foods loaded with neurotoxins, “bad” fats, digestive problems, chronic stress, and lack of sleep.
It is an exhaustive list but what I’d like to touch in this post is one diet related cause in particular and that is an Essential Fatty Acid deficiency
Fatty acids are crucial to our diet because they fight inflammation
in the body! Fighting inflammation is the key to slowing down or even eliminating the onset of chronic disease and the demise of brain health!
Essential fatty acids are fats that must be obtained from our diet
because our body just does not have the ability to make them on its own. Meaning you have to either obtain them from your diet or in the form of supplements or both.
These fats are critical for healthy brain function and are required for various functions:
- Dampening inflammation
- Improving blood vessel health
- Healthy skin production
- Healthy brain and nervous system function
Approximately 60% of the brain is made up of fat and every cell in the body has a membrane composed of fat. I hope I am making myself very clear when I say that fats are very, very, very important!
The crucial thing to remember is that the type of fat you eat directly affects the composition of your brain and cells.
Three of the biggest culprits for a essential fatty acid deficiency are listed below:
- A diet high in Omega 6 fatty acids! These are found in processed foods, heated vegetable oil, processed vegetable oils, and hydrogenated fats (used in boxed and fast foods). These types of fats do not increase your intake of essential fatty acids! In fact, they actually make the membranes of your nerve cells become rigid and unresponsive. This ultimately leads to improper neuron function, brain inflammation and degeneration, and other symptoms of poor brain function. This happens because the neurons lose flexibility and fluidity, thus rendering them less efficient at their functions. Omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to have pro-inflammatory effects which creates an ideal environment in the body for many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. Our ancestors ate a diet that had a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 2 of close to 1:1. This is in stark contrast to the ratio of 25:1 in today’s average diet! Researchers recommend a ratio that ranges from 1:1 to 4:1 is best for optimal health and prevention of disease.
- Heat! The problem here lies in the fact that most people predominantly use fats for heating/cooking their food. Unfortunately, the heat causes the EFAs to change structure, making them much less nutritious. When oil starts to break down, free radicals form, along with other harmful compounds. This all increases inflammation. You’re also not getting much usable EFA content from oil if you’re heating it, nor are you getting much out of those dry roasted nuts! If you need to use oil for cooking your food, always use an oil with a high smoke point such as coconut oil or grapeseed oil.
- High carbohydrate diets! These diets are inflammatory because these foods are quickly metabolized into glucose (sugar). This causes a continual spiking and crashing of insulin. High insulin or even insulin resistance is at the heart of almost all chronic disease because it can trigger or worsen inflammation within the body. When you continuously eat a carbohydrate-rich diet, you tend to eventually displace essential proteins and fats from the diet creating deficiencies of these nutrients. This can have a double whammy effect on the body resulting in a multitude of health conditions. Research continually links a high carbohydrate diet to high levels of metabolic hormones such as cortisol and insulin. High levels of these hormones have been linked to all types of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
I hope this helps you better understand the importance of fatty acids, the problems with a fatty acid deficiency, and some of causes of this deficiency. Now that you know why this is so important, the question is, “what can you do about it?” Fortunately, the answer isn’t as difficult as you may think!
Here are some quick tips on how to increase fatty acids and help ensure that you are not deficient:
- Limit your intake of fried foods, processed vegetable oils, and partially hydrogenated fats.
- Eat more cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, black cod, and blue fish.
- Eat more nuts and seeds (but not dry roasted!).
- Eat grass-fed animals as they produce meat and eggs much higher in omega 3s than animals that are confined and raised on grains.
- Supplement with fish oils. This can be complicated and I will leave it for another post to discuss in further detail. Just keep in mind that if you take a multivitamin, you should know that EFAs from nuts, seeds, and fish cannot be put into a powder filled tablet.
Making these changes can reverse an EFA deficiency and allow the fire of inflammation in chronic disease to be put out. This allows the appropriate fluids and nutrients to pass through the membrane and support the metabolic needs of the brain cells. This ultimately results in improved nervous system communication and leading to better brain function, memory, mood and health.
I hope this helps explain why essential fatty acids are so important to your diet. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. Happy Eating!