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8 Ways To Find-out If Your Fish Oil is Actually Working


Written by Dr. Jewel Alfoure, ND

There are Plenty of Fish in the Sea!

Yes indeed, there is plenty of fish in the sea, and there is also plenty of fish oil supplements on the market! It seems that the choices are endless when it comes to a fish oil supplement. Most of the time, there is some kind of "cardiovascular" protection idea, along with some reference to arteries, brain health and even sometimes pregnant women? Really, it almost seems vague why someone would spend the money on a fish oil supplement. After all, there is no specific immediate effect for you to gauge if the fish oil supplement is actually working. Or is there?

Why Take a Supplement If you Can't Feel it Work?

There is something fishy about fish oils. They are a health supplement that you are supposed to take indefinitely. So really, you keep hearing that they are good for you, but you are never told how you are going to feel that "good" claim. The truth is: taking a good, high quality, safe, fish oil supplement, should provoke some highly noticeable improvements in your health. Prior to explaining 8 ways to gauge if your fish oil supplement is really working, let's look at what fish oil supplements are supposed to do!

The Real Story, Nothing Fishy!

Humans require fats for the normal, healthy function of the circulatory system, respiratory system, integumentary system, immune system, brain, and other organs1. The fatty acids that the body needs fall into two categories: essential fatty acid and non-essential fatty acids. The classification is not an indication of importance as much as it is a classification based on synthesizability. If the body is able to synthesize a fatty acid without needing to obtain it from food, then that specific fatty acid is known as a non-essential fatty acid. If the body is not able to synthesize a fatty acid and must obtain it from food, then the fatty acid is classified as an essential fatty acid2, 3.

As you can imagine, you are more likely to become deficient in fatty acids that must be obtained from food. The two categories of essential fatty acids are Omega 3 and Omega 6. The numbering system is based on the chemical structure of the fatty acid. When they enter the body, Omega 3 and Omega 6 act as the bases for signaling chemicals known as eicosanoids. They do so by getting weaved into the cell membrane and waiting as a structural component, until the body frees them and utilizes them via a pathway known as The Cyclooxygenase Pathway (COX Pathway). When broken down, they help make signaling molecules that send a particular message or call to action in a specific place in the body4.

  • Eicosanoids from Omega 6- increase blood pressure, immune response and inflammation5

  • Eicosanoids from Omega 3 and anti-inflammatory and inflammatory resolution signals 5

What uses the COX Pathway?

 

 

To simplify things, the COX pathway is the pathway you are trying to interrupt when you take Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) like Aspirin or Advil. When you have pain and you want it to stop, stopping the conversion of Omega 6 based building blocks to pro-inflammatory compounds makes the pain go away5.

The Omega 3 Pathway, like the Omega 6 pathway, moves into creating immune modulating compounds. Those compounds differ in that they are much weaker at promoting inflammation. Unlike the Omega 6 pathway. The Omega 3 pathway also produces some inflammatory resolving molecules6.

Nature Loves Balance!

An ideal Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is supposed to be relatively stable and balanced, but in North America we consume a ratio of about 16: 1 Omega 6 to Omega 3!  Keeping in mind that an ideal ratio is about 4:1, that 16:1 completely shifts the balance! Most of the cooking oils we use fall into the category of Omega 6 fatty acids. Our regular diets do not contain enough fatty fish or high Omega 3 plant based products to balance out the huge amount of Omega 6 that we consume on a daily bases. Thus, Omega 3 oil supplements are meant to help us balance the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 67.

A Word on Fatty Acid Supplements

To say that there is an overwhelming amount of fatty acid supplements on the market is an understatement. It is really important to that you understand your specific needs prior to purchasing one. For the vast majority of the people out there, the Omega 3, Omega 6 balance in highly skewed in favour of Omega 6. Thus, If you are like the majority of health conscious people out there, supplementing with a pure Omega 3 oil is your best bet6.

Are all Omega-6 oils bad??

NO, not at all. In fact there are some truly unique forms of Omega-6 oils that have specific functions against some of the most painful inflammatory conditions out there. These specific Omega 6 fatty acids include borage oil, evening primrose oil and blackcurrant oil. In specific conditions, they act synergistically with Omega 3 fatty acids to drive the body towards an anti-inflammatory reaction8. Some of these conditions include endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Anti-inflammatory Omega-6 are truly unique in function and when used correctly, with the right balance of Omega-3, they can enhance Omega 3 function9. One such Omega 3, plus Omega 6 supplement is Enerex's Omega More. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on its use for unique inflammatory conditions!

Omega 3 Supplements are Anti-inflammatory, Why Would I Need That?

A vast majority of health conditions can benefit from an anti-inflammatory. A good Omega 3 supplement alters the very composition of the cell membrane, making it more fluid, less likely to break, more resilient to stress and better at conducting signals. The following are a few of the conditions that may benefit from a good Omega 6: Omega 3 balance:

  • Heart disease benefits from vascular anti-inflammation as the arteries are less likely to be stressed enough to tear and are more likely to function correctly in an anti-inflammatory medium7

  • Keeping in mind that the coagulation cascade is directly influenced by inflammatory reactions, lowering inflammation, de-stresses the heart by facilitating healthy blood flow and less pathological coagulability7.

  • Menstrual cramps benefit directly from lowering pro-inflammatory prostaglandins as most of the suffering, pain, cramping and even mood disturbances are highly influenced by the inflammatory pathway10.

  • Even mental health conditions such as depression were attributed to a higher than healthy levels of inflammation in the body. A healthy, balanced inflammatory response, literally has a role in every disease condition either directly or indirectly11.

What Makes a Good Omega 3 Supplement?

  • A supplement that comes from small fish Small fish contain the highest amount of Omega 3 in the skin, making them a much less polluted, sustainable source of Omega 3.

  • A certified clean supplement If the supplier of Omega 3 is not willing to ensure the complete safety of the supplement by demonstrating its levels of heavy metal levels, do not buy it! The last thing you need is more pollution. Solvent-free extraction is a must.

  • A simple supplementWhile you are always advised to ask your naturopath prior to taking any supplement, the safest Omega 3 supplement to start with is a minimal one, that is one that contains only Omega 3 fatty acids, the EPA and the DHA. Avoid flavouring agents as they may upset your stomach. To avoid fish oil regurgitation, make sure to take your fish oil supplement with food. Remember, you plan to take this supplement for a long time, anything other than the fish oil has a chance of building up in your body if supplied regularly.

Let's have some fun! How do know that my fish oil supplement is working?

Let's start with some important rules! In order for Omega 3 supplements to be effective, they must literally become a part of your cell. You need to give a fish oil supplement at least 12 weeks of regular use to make sure it penetrated deep enough to change your cell membranes. Ideally I suggest a 6 month grace period for all fish oils to be fair. Ask your naturopath how much fish oil you need. Sometimes, the 1000mg dose supplied is not enough for you. Depending on your weight and your diet, 2000 to 3000 mg may be your ideal dose of Omega 3. Make sure that you remain on the same diet as you test out your fish oil! Any increase in Omega 6 fatty acids can drive the ratio in the favour of Omega 6 fatty acids and render the test ineffective!

  1. Do a Pre-fish oil CRP/ ESR lab work Especially if you are working with a healthcare provider, do not be afraid to ask for a CRP and/or ESR lab work prior to taking Omega 3 supplements. Repeat the test after 6 months and see if your naturopath can report any decrease in inflammatory markers.

  2. A Simple Bleeding Time Test - A simple poke and wipe test can show you how runny your blood is. This test can also be performed under the guideline of a naturopath. With a medical lancet, your skin would be lanced and a cotton is used to wipe the area every 30 seconds. Do the test prior to taking a fish oil supplement, mark down the seconds needed for a fully clean wipe. Repeat after 6 months. This one may amaze you!

  3. Notice The Dry Eye/Skin Test out how long, roughly it would take for your eyes to dry out from computer use. Write down a tangible amount of time. Repeat the test after 12 weeks!

  4. Notice How Much Lotion You Need - If you suffer dry skin, keep an eye on how much lotion you need to apply after 6 months of fish oil used, you might be surprised at how soft, and supple your skin feels. If you have drying skin conditions, allow up to 1 year of use to see full results.

  5. Un-prepare For That Period - For the ladies out there, if you regularly have a painful period, after 6 months of fish oil use, try to allow a natural, unmedicated period and see if you notice any changes in the cramping and discomfort. If you suffer PMS, keep a journal of your mood and see if you notice any significant changes in your mental/ emotional health during your period. Bonus: keep an eye on the clotty, dark periods, they may just become less crampy, more liquid and less dark in color as their "thinner" quality helps you eliminate your endometrial lining more efficiently.

  6. Your Heart May no Longer Skip a Beat If you have arrhythmia, with the changes in blood thickness, you may notice that those irregular heartbeat are less likely to occur. Make sure you are working with a naturopath with using supplements for serious conditions and never discontinue a medication without consulting the prescribing doctor first.

  7. Your Joints May Hurt Less Prior to starting fish oil supplements, keep a daily journal of your joint pain levels on a scale of 1- 10. Update your journal daily. See if you notice any improvement in 12 weeks.

  8. You May Be a Bit Happier- Just like the painful joints, make sure you keep a daily journal of your mood on a quantitative scale that makes sense to you. Always work with your naturopath or therapist by informing them of the supplements you are taking for mood enhancements.

Good Supplements to Pair Enerex Wild Omega With

References

  1. Settle, J. E. (2002). Diet and essential fatty acids. In Handbook of complementary and alternative therapies in mental health (pp. 93-113). Academic Press.

  2. Holman, R. T. (1971). Essential fatty acid deficiency. Progress in the chemistry of fats and other lipids9, 275-348.

  3. Holman, R. T., Johnson, S. B., Mercuri, O., Itarte, H. J., Rodrigo, M. A., & De Tomas, M. E. (1981). Essential fatty acid deficiency in malnourished children. The American journal of clinical nutrition34(8), 1534-1539.

  4. Smith, W. L. (2008). Nutritionally essential fatty acids and biologically indispensable cyclooxygenases. Trends in biochemical sciences33(1), 27-37.

  5. Smith, W. L. (1989). The eicosanoids and their biochemical mechanisms of action. Biochemical Journal259(2), 315.

  6. Westphal, C., Konkel, A., & Schunck, W. H. (2011). CYP-eicosanoids—a new link between omega-3 fatty acids and cardiac disease?. Prostaglandins & other lipid mediators96(1-4), 99-108.

  7. Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy56(8), 365-379.

  8. Cabré, E., Mañosa, M., & Gassull, M. A. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory bowel diseases–a systematic review. British Journal of Nutrition107(S2), S240-S252.

  9. Meletis, C. D., & Zabriskie, N. (2005). Natural Approaches to Relieving Endometriosis. Alternative & Complementary Therapies11(4), 185-190.

  10. Harel, Z., Biro, F. M., Kottenhahn, R. K., & Rosenthal, S. L. (1996). Supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the management of dysmenorrhea in adolescents. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology174(4), 1335-1338.

  11. Bloch, M. H., & Hannestad, J. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of depression: systematic review and meta-analysis. Molecular psychiatry17(12), 1272-1282.