Tag Archives: health

The balancing act- Omega 3:Omega 6

Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio and Health

Now that you know what an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance might look like in your body (see my blog ‘I see the signs’), why is it so important?

What can this imbalance do to your health?

Potentially this imbalance can cause some really nasty things. It was summed up by the editor of the proceedings from a recent major scientific conference on this subject-

“A higher omega-6/omega-3 ratio is associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, asthma, osteoporosis, arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases and various aspects of mental illness, violent behavior, and deficient cognition in both children and the elderly.”

That’s a pretty serious list, which includes many of the very common health issues that face many people and entire families. The consensus from the delegates at the conference is that the optimum ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 is about 2 -3 or less.

Why will this happen?

Major changes have taken place in our diet in the last 10,000 years, since the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, yet our genes have changed very little over the same period (perhaps 0.005%).

So today most of us eat very differently from the way for which our genes are programmed. Studies of the diet we ate as our bodies evolved indicate that the major changes that have happened since then include:

  • The type and amount of essential fatty acids
  • The antioxidant content of foods
  • The amount of dietary fibre.

How has this happened?

These changes have been exacerbated in the last 50 years by the advent of the modern vegetable oil industry, which has seen rapid growth in the production and, more importantly, promotion of “polyunsaturated” or Omega-6 oils. This has lead to rapid growth in their consumption, because we are “educated” by the vegetable oil industry to believe it is the healthy thing to do. (Check out my earlier blog “Are they pulling the ‘OIL’ over your eyes”)

What we used to eat:

Estimates of the food eaten by our forbears in the late Paleolithic period (our Hunter Gatherer phase) suggest an Omega-6/Omega-3 of 0.8/1 – in other words more Omega-3 than Omega-6.

What we eat now:

Similar estimates for the present Western diet show that it is both ’deficient’ in Omega-3 and with an Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio of 16 – 20/1 or even up to 30/1.

Thus there has been both an absolute and relative decrease in the amount of Omega-3 consumed in the diet.

How can you change this?

To redress this major imbalance it is important to:

1. Substantially reduce your intake of Omega-6 oils by switching to the healthier Omega-9 oils for cooking (See my blog “What are Omega-9 fats”) and by reducing the amount of junk food your family eats.

2. Increase your intake of Omega-3.

Flax seed oil (FSO) is the only Omega-3 oil capable of reducing this imbalance. Oils like hemp and walnut still contain more Omega-6 than Omega-3. (See my blog “What are the Omega-3 fats”)

While taking a few fish or flax capsules a day will have some impact on your health, such action is going to do little to change this major imbalance. Getting 1 – 2 tbsp per day of fresh Flax Seed oil into your diet is the most practical way to correct this imbalance.

How long to get in balance?

It is likely to take at least six months or even several years, depending on the amount of Omega-6 (think junk food!) in your diet and how much Flax oil you take.

How will I know when this has happened?

After taking Flax oil for some time you will reach a point when you get too much Omega-3, because the balance has tipped the other way i.e. an Omega-6/Omega-3 of less than 1. When this happens you will see the return of one of the symptoms of EFA imbalance (see my Blog “I see the signs”) – this will typically be the symptom you had in the first place.

Once you get to this point, then you need to start taking an oil blend that has equal amounts of Omega3 and Omega-6 to maintain good health e.g. Flax Balance from Waihi Bush Organic Farm. Any symptoms of an imbalance will quickly disappear.

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Flax Seed Fibre and Prostate Health

I began my journey to learn about the role of hormones and foods when my wife started going through menopause. She had all the potential symptoms and they were full on – frequent hot flashes, fibrocystic breasts and major mood swings. The final straw came when she announced “yes I know all the stuff about the dangers of HRT, but if I don’t do something about it soon I am probably going to kill someone and the most likely target is YOU!”. That works for me as an incentive to find an alternative! So I went on a crash course on human hormones.

About the same time I was starting to get the slow to pee syndrome typical of men around my age. Waking more often in the night and waiting for something to happen when I got to the toilet – very frustrating.

With my new knowledge of hormone issues I realised that the cause was a swollen prostate caused by an imbalance in the oestrogen /progesterone-testosterone levels in my body. The prostate is very sensitive to oestrogen levels, as it is developmentally the male equivalent of the uterus in women.

So what to do about this problem?

Flax fibre is an excellent source of weak plant oestrogens (phyto oestrogens) so, I started taking about a dessert spoonful on my breakfast every day – it worked a treat – so taking the flax fibre became part of my routine and I kind of forgot about my prostate.

I had a rude awakening about 2 years later, when I went on holiday over Christmas and forgot to take my flax fibre with me. About 11 nights later I was awake multiple times to go pee and it just got progressively worse fast.

Not a lot of fun – I can fully understand how men can go have an operation to fix the problem, even at the potential risk of dribble problems and loss of libido. So of course I got back onto the flax fibre as quickly as possible and the problem went away again.

The scientist in me wanted to know if this was a one-off situation or not, so about two months later I tried going without my daily fibre to see what would happen. Sure enough on night eleven I was up all night again. So now if I am traveling for more than a few days I make sure I take my flax fibre with me.

So why is this such a common problem in older men?

That will be the subject of my next blog.

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I see the signs

The signs of Omega-3 deficiency

Author’s note: In my last post I talked about the fact that your skin, hair or nails are usually the first place you see a lack of Omega-3, following this, many of you asked about other things that may be indicators of an Omega-3 deficiency, so I have outlined some more for you.

A lack of Omega-3 in the diet is more common than you might think, most people on a typical western diet are getting more Omega-6 than they need (see “What are Omega-6 fats?” blog) and not enough Omega-3 – this causes an imbalance in the body that often displays itself as the symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency.

Typically this lack of Omega-3 will show up as one or more of the following physical symptoms:
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Dandruff
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Attention deficit
  • Soft, brittle or easily frayed nails
  • Allergies
  • Lowered immunity
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dry eyes
  • Poor wound healing
  • Frequent infections
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Patches of pale skin on cheeks
  • Cracked skin on heels or fingertips
  • Craving for rich fatty foods

“Ouch – that’s a long list, several of these are me” you say?

You are right, it is a long list but many of these conditions can be easily remedied by returning to a better balance of Omega 3 and 6. By changing your diet to include things like flax seed oil that are high in Omega-3, you can boost the levels of Omega-3 in your body and return to this better ‘balance’ – more on that later.

“The list also seems to potentially include any part of the body?”

Yes it does, because all the cells in your body should have Omega-3 in their cell membranes to function smoothly, so lack of Omega-3 can manifest in many ways throughout the body.

Everybody is different – your diet, exercise levels and mental attitude all affect the way your body is going to show an Omega-6/Omega-3 imbalance.

Most people I see are exhibiting some symptoms of lack of Omega-3 – but no I don’t go around looking for lots of ear wax.

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