WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS?
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are fatty acids that humans must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot synthesize them. Our body can synthesize most of the fats it needs from the diet. However, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are two essential fatty acids we must obtain from food or supplements.These basic fats are used to build what we know as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Now let’s have a closer look at these two essential fatty acids and their role in our body.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-3 fatty acid (Alpha-linolenic acid) is an essential fatty acid that plays an important role in brain function and helps fight cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines and tuna at least twice a week.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
manage hydration and production of oil in the skin
reduce high cholesterol
lowers high blood pressure
depression and anxiety
improved heart health
reduce metabolic syndrome
may prevent cancer
improve bone and joint health
Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
raw walnuts and walnut oil
pumpkin seed oil
OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS
Omega-6 fatty acid (Linoleic Acid) is a polyunsaturated fat that the body needs for normal growth and development. Excess consumption of omega-6 fatty acids can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune disease.
Natural Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
raw nuts and seeds
Unhealthy sources of omega-6:
peanut and vegetable oil
many salad dressings
THE IMPORTANCE OF OMEGA-3 TO OMEGA-6 RATIO
Omega-3 fatty acid combined with omega-6 fatty acid produces many of the above mentioned health benefits BUT the trickiest part is that they need to be consumed in the right amounts.
You should be eating about twice as much omega-6 as omega-3, so that your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1. In today’s world of fast food and high calorie snacks, most people are getting about 15 times more omega-6 than omega-3 which contributes to systemic inflammation, weight gain, obesity, depression.
Fortunately, researchers have found that the negative impacts of a poor omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can be reversed by taking more EPA – Eicosapentaenoic acid (responsible for reducing inflammation, increasing heart health and improving mood) and DHA – Docosahexaeonic acid (important for brain health) which are found in good fish oil.
BENEFITS OF OMEGA 3 DURING MENOPAUSE
Joint pain/menopause arthritis
The omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which helps relieve joint pain and stiffness related to menopausal arthritis. Their effect is pretty much comparable with the one of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
During perimenopause most women experience strong menstrual cramping and pain. Taking omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form is extremely important in the treatment of painful periods. Research has shown that women with low intake of omega-3 have more painful periods than those who have a good intake. This study also discovered that the extend of the pain was connected to the ratio or balance of the omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Elevated triglyceride levels
Postmenopausal women may have elevated triglyceride levels, exposing them to increased risk of coronary heart disease. Omega-3 supplements have a triglyceride lowering effect and this is the reason why a supplementation with 1000mg omega-3 is highly recommended.
Depression and anxiety
Researchers credit the healthy omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) for pitching in where estrogen falls short during the hormonal changes of perimenopause and helping the brain to create more serotonin, improve blood flow and create other beneficial changes that improve mood.
As menopause can increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis due to the drop in estrogen levels, omega-3 is known to help increase bone mineral density and to produce healthier, stronger bones.
The frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women going through menopause vary greatly. Studies have shown that while omega-3 may not affect the intensity of the hot flashes, it can halve their frequency.
Vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness often go hand in hand as the estrogen levels start to drop causing not only dryness but also the thinning of the tissue. For hormone balance it is recommended to eat a diet rich in essential fatty acids and to supplement with fish oil as they can help to keep the body lubricated including the vagina.
HOW TO GET ENOUGH OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS?
When possible, getting omega-3 from food is preferred. Some of the best sources of omega-3 are oily fish (tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon), flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, eggs, marine algae, hemp seeds and oil.
My recommendation is to supplement with 1000-1500mg of a good quality fish or, if vegan, algae oil with a good content of DHA and EPA like the Balance Oil from ZINZINO you can find in my online shop.
The Balance Oil Vegan is a natural dietary supplement that helps increase the omega-3 level in your body and helps adjust your omega 6:3 ratio to optimal levels in just 120 days. Balance Oil Vegan contains marine micro- algae oil combined with an extra high polyphenol content, olive oil and echium seed oil for an efficient absorption. The oil is in fluid form to enable exact dosage for body weight every day. The vegan oil contains 1604mg omega-3 fatty acids of which 438mg EPA and 721mg DHA.
The Balance Oil contains wild fish oil combined with an extra high polyphenol content olive oil for efficient absorption and dosage. This oil contains an amount of 1549mg omega-3 fatty acids of which 802mg EPA and 427mg DHA. What makes this oil really interesting is the possibility to choose between fresh lemon, delicious vanilla or a tasty blend of orange, lemon and mint flavor and avoid the usual bad taste of fish oil.
LAURA PEISCHL, BA, INHC
Laura is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Menopause Health Specialist and Certified Hormone Health and Wellness Practitioner. She is the founder and owner of Feel Good Menopause™️.