How to Use Omega-3’s and Fish Oil to Reverse Joint Pain and Heal Your Gut
You’ve probably heard the term “Omega-3 fats.” You’ve also probably heard about “fish oil” and how it’s supposed to be good for you.
But if you’re like most people, you probably don’t understand WHY there’s so much hype around omega-3’s and fish oil.
Well, I’m so happy you’re reading this now, because understanding them can help you feel a lot better and potentially save your life.
In a nutshell, the biggest benefit of a diet that’s high in omega-3 fats is that it greatly reduces chronic inflammation.
Ah yes… inflammation. The vague, popular word that so many people are talking about. But for good reason. Inflammation plays a role in just about every unwanted health condition we know about!
Joint pain? That’s inflammation your body can’t get rid of, whether it’s in your shoulders, wrists, lower back, knees or elbows.
IBS or other digestive issues? An inflamed gut will ensure these problems never go away!
Alzheimer’s? Brain inflammation is a hallmark factor for this disease.
Autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system’s reaction to systemic inflammation.
And lastly, chronic low grade inflammation is involved in every stage of heart disease, setting many people up for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes
So we’ve got LOTS of motivation to keep inflammation down.
While some inflammation is good and necessary to survive, most people in the U.S. are WAY over inflamed.
And that’s where omega-3 fats come into play.
But to understand why omega-3 fats are so important, you also need to know about omega-6 fats.
Both omega-6’s and omega-3’s are polyunsaturated fats, but they have very different effects on your body. Omega-6 fats are PRO-INFLAMMATORY nutrients, while omega-3 fats are NEUTRAL for inflammation.
In other words, omega-6 fats are nutrients that help your body create inflammation.
Remember, inflammation is supposed to be a good thing and we need it to survive. For example, inflammation helps you heal from a sprained ankle and helps create scabs over open wounds.
But like I said, most people are way over-inflamed and it’s causing major problems. And a big part of this is caused by eating too many omega-6’s, and too little omega-3’s.
In fact, the omega-6 fats COMPETE with the omega-3 fats for the same activating enzymes. So if you’re not eating enough omega-3’s, the omega-6’s are going to use up almost all the activating enzymes and create a whole lot of inflammation.
So with these two fats competing with each other, the RATIO of 6’s to 3’s in your diet is crucial.
A HIGH ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s will lead to higher levels of chronic inflammation. And a lower ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s will promote healthier, balanced levels of inflammation.
In the past, our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed close to a 1:1 ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fats. And while we maintained these ratios, we also had lower rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
But the problem is that most people now consume HIGH ratios of omega-6’s to omega-3’s, and it all started in the late 1800s.
Before the late 1800s, our ancestors relied on high quality animal fats, such as lard, tallow and grass-fed butter for cooking. These fats are very nutritious and have healthy levels of omega-3’s. (Yes, the bad reputation that animal fats have gotten from conventional media is very undeserved, but that’s another topic!).
But then, cottonseed oil was introduced by cotton factories, as they tried to make profit from what used to be waste…
“What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890.” — Popular Science, on cottonseed oil
This trend continued, and Crisco (soybean oil, AKA vegetable oil) was introduced in the early 1900s. And to encourage people to use Crisco instead of animal fats, it was heavily marketed as a cleaner, healthier alternative.
And Americans really bought into this, buying 60 million pounds of Crisco from 1912-1916. But there was a major downfall… These newer oils have VERY high amounts of inflammatory omega-6 fats.
And now, vegetable oil is in almost EVERYTHING, and is estimated to make up 20% of the calories consumed across the U.S. And to make things worse, safflower oil and sunflower oil have become more popular, which have even more omega-6 fats than vegetable oil.
So with this major change in fats, the average ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fat consumption has skyrocketed.
The ratios of 1:1 and 4:1 soon became 8:1, then 10:1, and now many are as high as 20:1! Most people today fall somewhere between 12:1 and 20:1, which is about 400-600% higher than it was 150 years ago!
And with so many omega 6 fats taking up all the enzymes to cause inflammation, people are more inflamed than ever!
It’s no wonder that so many people now seem to have some kind of ache or pain. In fact, it’s now accepted as normal and just a part of aging.
Unfortunately, most people just learn to deal with the pain.
But with the right knowledge, you can do A LOT to reverse chronic inflammation!
So what can you do to stop it?
As you’d probably imagine, this involves a healthy diet and limiting omega-6 fats.
- Instead of using vegetable oil, margarine, sunflower or safflower oil, cook with olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or even pork lard and beef tallow.
- Read ingredient labels. If they have these oils in, don’t buy them for regular consumption. A rare treat can be OK, though. (In general, it’s still best to limit processed and packaged foods with long ingredient labels).
- Eat foods with high amounts of omega-3 fats.
Some great choices are grass-fed beef, wild caught salmon or sardines, and pasture raised eggs. Flax seeds and some other plant sources have omega 3’s, but they unfortunately lack the DHA component, the most important part of omega 3 fats.
And the quality (grass-fed, pasture raised, etc.) actually is important here, as they’re higher much higher in omega-3’s because they’re coming from healthier animals. But more on that in another post!
While maintaining a healthy diet is the biggest part of keeping good omega-6:omega-3 ratios, fish oil is a great tool to utilize.
But not all fish oils are created equal!
First, you want to make sure that the omega-3’s are in triglyceride form, and NOT ethyl ester.
Second, you want to look at the amounts of DHA and EPA (the whole reason we’re trying to get omega-3’s).
You want a HIGH percentage of the omega-3’s to be coming from DHA and EPA. Here’s two different labels so you can see.
As you can see, the label on the left has 5g (5,000mg) of total fat per serving. And if you add the EPA + DHA, you’ll get a total of 2752mg of EPA and DHA. That means 55% of the fats in this supplement are coming from EPA and DHA. That’s fantastic!
But on the other label, if you do the same calculation, you’ll see that you’ve got 600mg of EPA and DHA, per 3g (3000mg) of fat. Which is just 20% coming from EPA and DHA.
You can look for other brands that meet these guidelines, but my favorite is the Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Liquid (it actually tastes fine and is lemon flavored – and my clients haven’t complained). They also have gel caps, which are easier for travel and more costly, since 5 gel caps = 1 single tsp of the liquid.
How to use fish oil to reduce inflammation FAST.
If I’m starting with a client who’s coming from a fairly Standard American Diet, I’ll usually recommend starting out with some fish oil, especially if they have joint pain or stomach issues.
A good rule of thumb is to take 1g of fish oil per % body fat, for just two weeks, with a maximum dosage of 30g. So if you’re at about 10% body fat, that’d be 10g of fish oil. And if you’re at 20%, then that’d be 20g per day (but only for two weeks – definitely not long term).
Then, after two weeks, you can cut the dose in half, and follow that for 1-3 months.
This “mega dosing” in the short term can be very effective to help get a quick start in reducing inflammation. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve heard of joint pain just “disappearing”!
(It’s important to note, that these clients were ALSO working on their diet and other things, and not relying on fish oil as a magical cure – because it’s not.)
And by the time 2-3 months have passed, you’ll have ideally adopted a healthier diet and started to limit oils high in omega-6 fats!
But after the “mega-dosing”, I rarely recommend supplementing with more than 1-2g of fish oil per day.
Taking large amounts of fish oil for years can have negative effects and I wouldn’t recommend it. But if used wisely, the benefits can be phenomenal!
And there you have it. Omega-3 fats are SO important if you want a healthy life and can reduce the risks of major diseases down the road.
-Omega-3’s aren’t pro-inflammatory like omega-6’s, and they block omega-6 fats from causing too much inflammation
-It’s best to AVOID oils high in omega-6 fats, such as vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, margarine, crisco, etc. This is the #1 most important thing when it comes to having a good balance
-Eating high quality proteins, such as wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, and pasture raised eggs can get good omega 3’s into your body
-Supplementing with a good amount of fish oil can be a great idea when you’re just starting to reduce omega-6 fat intake, and increase omega-3 fat intake
But there’s much more to the inflammation picture than omega 3 and omega 6 fats.
And some of the biggest root causes can only be found through really specific functional lab testing. So if you really want to get to the root causes of what’s causing your inflammation and gut symptoms, then I highly recommend you schedule a FREE troubleshooting call with me.
With your health in mind,