Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note, where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week we are going to continue our Stay Healthy Protocol Series by talking about Omega 3’s, my second most important supplement behind Vitamin D!
Bottom line, you are going to be healthy and able to fight off viruses if you take care of your own immune system, eat right, stay lean, exercise, sleep, breathe fresh air, and keep your stress levels down. Plus, you’ll be able to prevent things like heart disease and even cancer.
Overall, you’re going to live a better life.
To do this, YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS!
I wish you could get all the vitamins and minerals that you need to keep healthy from the foods that you eat, but I haven’t seen anyone be able to do that.
That’s why supplements are the most important part of my food pyramid. I’ve totally changed my mind on this over the last 35 years of practicing medicine.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
I want to continue this series on the most important supplements you can take that are actually essential, such as fatty acids or Omega 3’s.
Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids which means your body doesn’t make them and you have to have them. Growing up we were taught to fear fats. It turns out that we should fear not consuming fats (except for trans fats). One of the most important parts of my diet guidelines is increasing your good fats!
Omega 3’s are the best of all fats!
THE BEST SOURCES OF OMEGA 3’s
You get some Omega 3’s from food, FISH being the best source. Some plants have one type of Omega 3’s called ALA or Alpha Linolenic Acid. When you think about ALA, think about plants as the source. You get this type of Omega 3 from things like flax seeds and walnuts.
It’s a lot harder to get from plants. The important ones are EPA and DHA (think fish or krill).
DHA is by far the most important one. Most of your brain fat is DHA. It’s important for your eyes and retina as well.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE OMEGA 6 TO OMEGA 3 RATIO
When we talk about Omega 3’s, there are a few terms that are important to understand.
It’s also important to understand Omega 6 and the other different types of fats.
Saturated fats: Tightly packed with no double bonds between the fatty acids. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature – think meat like beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, dairy products and coconut oil.
Unsaturated fats: Loosely packed and tend to be liquid at room temperature. Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are both unsaturated fats. In fact, they are polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats: Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Omega 3’s: Fatty fish, tuna salmon, sardines, trout, flax seeds. flax seed, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Tend to be anti inflammatory.
Omega 6’s: Canola oil, flower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil. Tend to be inflammatory.
The Omega 3’s are generally the anti-inflammatory fats. The Omega 6’s (especially Linoleic Acid) are more inflammatory, although some are anti-inflammatory. On the Cleveland Heart Panel, the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is one of the key markers we look at. It’s one of the best things we do with the Cleveland Heart Panel. Ideally it’s 1:1, but we shoot for 4:1 or better for our patients.
Most people have more Omega 6’s in their body than Omega 3’s. If you have a 4:1 ratio you’re doing pretty well.
THE BENEFITS OF OMEGA 3’s
There are so many benefits that it’s difficult to list all of them. Here are a few of the things we know: Most of these are DHA benefits, but you need both DHA and EPA.
- Combats depression and anxiety (when you think brain think Omega 3’s)
- Improves vision (mostly DHA benefits)
- Protects your retina from macular degeneration and also helps dry eyes
- Insures healthy brain development, even in infants and fetuses. (pregnant women you should supplement with omega 3’s)
- Decreases triglycerides
- Decreases LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases blood clotting
- Decreases inflammation (key to health)
- Helps brain function better
- Decreases metabolic syndrome
- Can help with pain
- Helps joint health
- Safeguards against autoimmune disease
- Decreases Type 1 Diabetes
- Helps with psychiatric disorders like Bipolar Disease and Schizophrenia
- Helps with ADHD
- Prevents mental decline (Alzheimer’s)
- Helps asthma
- Probably decreases risk of cancer
SUPPLEMENTING WITH OMEGA 3’s
The recommended dosing is between 1000-4000mg. I think 1000mg is too low. If you ever see a study that says Omega 3’s don’t work, it’s because they aren’t using enough of it. I take 3000mg myself.
I take the Super Omega 3 Plus from LifeExtension. It has a lot of good things in it like Olive Oil Extract, and Astaxanthin which is good for the eyes and brain. It has fish oil and krill oil (tiny crustaceans you find at the bottom of the ocean). Krill is not going to accumulate mercury. Note: with big fish, think mercury.
I eat a lot of salmon and a lot of fish that are high in Omega 3’s. If you eat lots of fish and vegetables you’re probably going to be pretty healthy. So even though I take an Omega 3 supplement, I still eat a lot of fish that are high in Omega 3’s.
For patients with Covid Long Hauler, I use 4000mg. I push the level. In my opinion, it’s not emphasized enough how much you need. Your brain is mostly fats and water. You want the good fats to be a high number.
There are some prescription Omega 3’s.
These are very expensive unless your insurance covers them. Note: get The Cleveland Heart Panel to see your ratio breakdown.
RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS OF OMEGA 3’s
The quality of the Omega 3 supplement you buy really makes a difference.
I don’t suggest you get them at a big box chain or a discount store. You don’t know how long it’s been sitting on the shelves, or the quality of the fish oil. If you cut into the capsule and it’s rancid, that may be worse than not taking anything. The only drawback is that it’s a pretty big capsule (Barlean’s makes it in a liquid).
Other side effects are that it can sometimes leave a fishy taste in your mouth (not the one I take because it’s mostly krill).
There are some people who should be careful about taking an Omega 3. If you’re on a prescription blood thinner, then be careful. It can increase your risk of bleeding. It thins your blood (which is good), but if you’re on a prescription blood thinner or have a bleeding disorder you need to be careful.
Some studies have shown that it may increase atrial fibrillation. If you’re at high risk for this, be careful. In my opinion, there’s so many benefits that they far outweigh some of these risks.
As I said above, watch out for bad fish oil supplements. I personally love the LifeExtension products.
Omega 3’s are also one of the main things I put my patients on who have Long Covid. It really helps with the lingering effects of it. I use a lot of pro resolving mediators (high doses of EPA and DHA) to treat Long Covid.
I can’t say enough about this supplement and think most people should be on it! Think about these things and check your Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio!