We know that we are experiencing EFA deficiency when we experience skin problems such as dry, eczema, dandruff, poor wound healing, excess sweating, loss of pigment, and/or weak blood vessels i.e. bruising. Other signs of EFA deficiency are obesity, high cholesterol, poor sugar metabolism, hormone imbalance, PMS, ADHD, depression, autism, behavioral disturbance, enlarged kidneys or kidney failure, blood in our urine, shrinking of our pancreas, and/or shrinking of our salivary and tear glands.
The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease consume at least one gram of omega 3 fatty acid per day. They recommend that we eat at least two servings of fish per week because fish are rich in omega 3. Unfortunately, fish has been very contaminated with environmental toxins, mercury and dioxines which are a potential health hazard to us, especially if we are a pregnant mother or a young person under 16 years of age. Therefore it would seem to be a safer alternative for us to rely on natural supplements such as flaxseed oil or primrose oil and properly filtered and metal/toxin free natural fish oils to receive the EFA that we need.
So why do we need essential fatty acids i.e. good fat? We need essential fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, to help our cells get maximum nutrition, and to eliminate harmful waste products.. EFA are essential for the production of prostaglandins that regulate heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting and immune system functioning to fight inflammation and infection. EFAs are essential for our children to grow properly and especially in developing their neurological development and sensory system.
Those of us who supply our diets with adequate amounts of omega 3 essential fatty acid have higher HDL i.e. “Good cholesterol levels. Omega 3 helps in the production of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which actually reduces LDL i.e.”bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. This is especially important for our cardiovascular health and in lowering high blood pressure/hypertension. Keeping our blood pressure lowers our risk of stroke. This is because omega 3 helps reduce the development of plaque and blood clots that clog arteries that often lead to heart disease and heart attack.
When we have high triglycerides and low HDL levels we are at risk for diabetes. Omega 3 essential fatty acid lowers triglycerides and raises HDL levels as well as regulating blood sugar. People who are overweight suffer from poor blood sugar control, diabetes and high cholesterol. When following a weight loss program, it is important for us to supplement our diet with a proper amount of EFA.
Essential Fatty Acids are reported in numerous studies to reduce inflammation and pain in joints, reduce morning stiffness and enable people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis to reduce the medication they had been taking for pain and discomfort. Essential Fatty Acids help increase levels of calcium in our bodies and improve our bone strength. This is especially important for people suffering from osteoporosis. Omega 3 essential fatty acid has been shown to increase grip strength and enhance walking ability in people suffering from osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Essential Fatty Acids are especially important for efficient brain function. People who have increased their intake of omega 3 fatty acid have experienced natural depression relief. People with Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) reported fewer and shorter mood swings and recurrence of either full depression or mania. People with schizophrenia experience an improvement with the use of Omega 3 essential fatty acid. Children who suffer Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experienced reduction of learning difficulties and behavior problems (e.g. anger and sleep disturbance) when increasing their intake of essential fatty acids. People suffering from anorexia nervosa i.e. eating disorders, have experienced a reduction in symptoms and lessened their compulsive tendencies. For those of us not suffering from any particular emotional or cognitive disorders, we will find that essential fatty acids improve our ability to concentrate, recall, be emotionally centered and calm, experience more restful sleep and cope more easily with normal everyday stress.
Other benefits of essential fatty acids is the reduction of disorders and protection of our skin, improvement in our intestinal health (i.e. reduction of bowel inflammation, easy elimination, reduction in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), reduction of asthma symptoms and respiratory ease, reduction and prevention of macular degeneration and vision improvement, enhancement of wound healing (e.g. burns, cuts, etc) and improvement in hormonal balance e.g reduction of menstrual pain and PMS symptoms. Studies are now being conducted, with promising results, to determine the specific benefits of essential fatty acids in preventing and treating breast cancer and prostate cancer. Primary evidence in other studies of omega 3 essential fatty acid indicate improvement in protecting against infections and treatment of conditions such as ulcers, migraine headaches, preterm labor, emphysema, psoriasis, glaucoma, Lyme disease, lupus and panic attacks. Other studies have shown that essential fatty acids increase energy, performance, stamina, muscle development and repair, fatigue reduction, strengthening of immune system, cell growth and activity and appearance i.e. beautiful hair, skin and nails.
Given all the evidence of the health benefits we receive from essential fatty acids and the climate of processed foods and anti-fat warnings, it would be well advised for us to take care of ourselves by supplementing our diet with essential fatty acid supplements i.e. flaxseed oil and primrose oil and clean metal/toxin free natural fish oil supplements.
By: Jennifer Kays
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