Other natural treatments for arthritis
Omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of arthritis and
chronic inflammatory conditions.
Note When you go to
buy an omega 3 supplement, if it is fish oil based you want to look for two
things. It needs to be purified to remove lead, mercury, and other toxins
and enteric coated so that is digest after leaving your stomach to keep from
burping fish for hours.
It seems as if every month a see one or two new research studies that
show that omega 3 fatty acids help control inflammation in one condition or
another. Whether it is osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout,
IBS or any of the other of the hundreds of types of diseases associated with
inflammation is appears that daily supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids
can help control the inflammation and pain associated them.
The good news is that not only are omega 3 fatty acids good for
controlling inflammation, it is also great for your brain and cardiovascular
Omega-3 fatty acids
Author/s: Mai Tran
Description of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of two groups of fatty acids--the omega-3s and the
omega-6s--that are vital to human life. They are called essential fatty acids (EFAs),
which the body cannot make but absolutely needs for normal growth and development. These
fats must be supplied by diet. People living in industrialized western countries eat up to
30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in a relative deficiency of
omega-3 fats. Omega-6 metabolic products (inflammatory prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and
leukotrienes) are formed in excessive amounts causing allergic and inflammatory disorders
and make the body more prone to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Eating diets rich in
omega-3 acids or taking fish oil supplements can restore the balance between the two fatty
acids and can possibly reverse these disease processes
General uses for Omega-3 fatty acids
Heart disease and stroke
Omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart. The omega-3 oils increase the
concentrations of good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins, HDL) while decreasing the
concentrations of bad cholesterol (triglycerides). In addition, eating omega-3-rich food
will result in a moderate decrease in total cholesterol level. In a clinical study of 38
women, flaxseed flour, which contains high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, decreased total
cholesterol level by 6.9% and LDL cholesterol by 14.7%. In addition, lipoprotein(a), which
is associated with heart attacks in older women, decreased by almost 10%. Thus, omega-3
fatty acids is a natural alternative to estrogen in prevention of heart attacks in
Furthermore, omega-3 oils also protect the heart by preventing blood clots or keeping
other fats from injuring the arterial walls. They not only relax arteries but also help to
decrease constriction of arteries and thickening of blood.
Hundreds of studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of
heart attacks, strokes, and abnormal heart rhythms. Eskimos, who eat a lot of cold-water
fish, have low rates of heart attacks and strokes, possibly because they have thinner
blood, high HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio, and less build up of fatty deposits (plaques) in
the arteries. Two clinical trials have shown that regular consumption of fish or fish-oil
supplements can prevent sudden deaths due to abnormal heart rhythms. In the Diet and
Reinfarction Trial (DART) of 2,033 men who previously suffered a heart attack, men who ate
two to three servings of fatty fish a week had their risk of sudden cardiac death lowered
by 29% compared to those who had a low fat or high fiber diet. In the Physician's Health
Study of 20,551 doctors, a 52% reduction in risk of heart attacks were observed in those
who ate at least one fish meal per week compared with those who ate fish once a month or
Several studies have shown that eating 200 g of fatty fish or taking six to 10 capsules
of fish oil daily will lower blood pressure (BP). Therefore, omega-3 can benefit patients
with borderline high blood pressure. Omega-3 oils also effectively prevent hypertension in
cardiac patients after transplantation.
Supplement for newborns and babies
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development of vision and brain function,
especially in newborns and children. Very low birth weight pre-term infants often have
poor vision and motor skills, possibly because they receive less than one-third of the
amount of omega-3 fatty acids outside the mother's womb that they would have received as a
fetus. Human breast milk contains the appropriate amount of omega-3 and -6 fats is best
for all babies. If mother's milk is unavailable, then formulas with soybean oil that
provide higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are more beneficial than those made from cow
milk for infants. Even full-term babies benefit from the addition of essential fatty acids
to cow-milk formulas. Studies have shown that babies given formulas supplemented with EFAs
have better vision and score higher in skills and problem-solving tests, compared to
babies on formulas that do not contain additional EFAs.
Because omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the action of inflammatory prostaglandins and
leukotrienes, they can help control arthritis symptoms. Significant reduction in the
number of tender joints and morning stiffness, as well as an increase in grip strength,
have been observed in patients taking fish oil capsules. Studies have shown that patients
taking fish oil supplements for rheumatoid arthritis require fewer pain medications; some
are able to discontinue their nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory treatment. Despite the
beneficial effects of omega-3 fats, regular antirheumatic drugs and nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medications are most likely still required to control this chronic
Inflammatory bowel disease
High-dose fish-oil supplements have shown to decrease abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and
pain associated with Crohn's disease. In one study of 96 patients, patients who received
4.5 g of omega-3 fatty acids (15 fish oil capsules) required significantly less steroids
to control symptoms. In another study of 78 Crohn's disease patients, 59% of patients who
received nine fish oil capsules (2.7g of omega-3 fatty acids) daily did not have any
disease flare-ups for at least one year compared to 26% recurrence rate in patients who
were not given fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are also effective in preventing reappearance
of Crohn's disease after surgery to remove sections of diseased bowel. In a clinical trial
involving 50 patients, patients who received 2.7 grams of omega-3 fats as fish oil cut
their rate of disease reappearance in half compared to patients receiving placebo.
However, the effectiveness of omega-3 oils varies depending on the type of omega-3 oils
being used, length of use, and the patient's diet.
Taking high dose omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation of the airways and reduce
asthma attacks. According to Donald Rudin, the author of the book titled Omega-3 Oils,
allergic disorders such as asthma, may be triggered by too much omega-6 and too little
omega-3 fats in our body. Excessive amounts of omega-6 prostaglandins cause the body to
produce antibodies that cause allergic reactions. Flaxseed or fish oil supplements can
keep the omega-6 fats in check and decrease the inflammatory reactions associated with
Berger's disease (Immunoglobulin A nephropathy)
Omega-3 fats may be effective in treating this autoimmune disease in which kidney
function fails over time with few treatment options available. In a large, randomized
study of 150 patients, those who received 3 g of omega-3 fatty acids daily for two years
had significantly less reduction in renal function than those treated with placebo.
Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids appear to have protective effects and may stabilize renal
function in these patients.
There have been few studies evaluating the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in treating
Raynaud's disease; however, it appears that fish oil supplements may alleviate some blood
According to some studies, many common mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar
(manic-depression), attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or
schizophrenia, may be triggered by deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids and/or B vitamins.
The rates of depression are low in countries that eat a lot of fish, while the rate of
depression steadily rises in the United States as Americans eat increasingly more
processed food and less fresh fish and vegetables containing omega-3 fats. In one study,
53% of bipolar patients on placebo (olive oil) became ill again within four months, while
none of the patients who were given 9.6 g daily of omega-3 fatty acids (as fish oil) did.
Supplements containing omega-3 fats have also reportedly been effective in children with
ADHD precipitated by essential fatty acid deficiencies. Furthermore, a 25% decrease in
schizophrenic symptoms were observed in patients receiving eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), one
of the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil.
Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
In a small study of 20 AIDS patients, those who received fish oil supplement at dosage
of 10 g of omega-3 fatty acids per day for 30 days gained more weight (2.4 kg) and
significantly lowered their concentrations of tumor necrosis factor, which is believed to
cause wasting in AIDS patients, compared to those who did not.
Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit tumor growth when injected into animals. Flaxseed oil,
which is a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to prevent cancer of the
breast, colon and prostate. The Mediterranean diet, which is heart healthy, also can
decrease risk of getting cancer. The results of a five-year study of 605 men showed that
the risk of getting cancer was decreased by two-thirds in persons on the Mediterranean
diet as compared to those in the American Heart Association's low fat and high fiber diet.
Omega-3 fats, it seems, strengthen the immune systems and inhibit the inflammation and
blood circulation of the tumors.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found naturally in the oil of cold-water fish, such as
mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies, and tuna, or as extracted oils from plants, such as
flaxseed, canola (rapeseed), or soybean. As of year 2000, the U.S. Food and Nutrition
Board has not issued the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for omega-3 fatty acids.
However, according to Health Canada and the British Nutrition Task Force, one needs
approximately 0.5% of total daily calories in the form of omega-3 fats. The best way to
achieve this dietary requirement is by eating fatty fish two or three times a week and/or
eating vegetables and oils containing omega-3 fatty acids. If fish oil supplement is
preferred, then one to two capsules a day is sufficient. Each 1 g fish oil capsule
normally contains 180 mg of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and 120 mg of docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA). Vitamin E is often contained in fish oil supplements to prevent spoilage and
vitamin-E deficiency, which may occur with high dose fish-oil consumption. Patients should
take supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids only under professional supervision to
prevent overdosage, adverse reactions, or interactions with other medications. For
treatment of diseases, flaxseed oil should be the first choice because it is the richest
source of omega-3 fatty acids, relatively safe, and inexpensive.
The safest and most effective way to get omega-3 fatty acids is through diets of at
least three fish meals a week. Fish-oil or flaxseed supplements should be taken only under
Although fish oils can be helpful in relieving arthritic symptoms, patients may still
need anti-inflammatory medications to adequately control the disease.
Taking any medication during pregnancy is not recommended. Women who are pregnant or
breastfeeding should talk to doctors before taking fish-oil supplements or any other
Because of its blood thinning activity, those who are on aspirins, nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), warfarin, or other anti-clotting medications must
consult a physician before using the supplements.
Consuming excessive amount of fish-oil capsules can result in excessive bleeding,
gastrointestinal distress, anemia, or strokes.
Because of its blood-thinning activity, fish oil supplements may interact with
aspirins, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), warfarin, or other anti-clotting
medications to cause excessive bleeding.