At IFAST, we have a reputation for helping people get out of pain. Many of our clients come to us with current or previous injuries that have limited what they are able to do. A lot of these people just want to get out of pain. While we have been very successful with these people by focusing on good movement patterns and attacking what is weak, another important aspect of combating an injury or pain is reducing inflammation.
I am sure many of you have heard of inflammation, but what exactly is it?
According to Wikipedia, “Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process… Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal.”
Therefore, it appears that inflammation can be a healthy process to repair our tissues and promote healing. However, we need to distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation is beneficial and allows us to reap the benefits described above. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is problematic. It can wreak havoc on our bodies and contribute to aches and pains, disease, as well as unwanted body composition changes.
One of the best ways to combat chronic inflammation is by balancing our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally, we should consume these in a ratio close to 1:1 (meaning equal intakes of both). However, in the US we consume roughly 16-25 times more omega-6 than omega-3 – not good!
Omega-3 fats decrease inflammation, while several omega-6 fats tend to promote it. Therefore, if you are chronically over consuming omega-6 fats, your body is most likely chronically inflamed.
I should also mention that elevated omega-6 intake has been linked to an increase in all inflammatory diseases – cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, cancer, etc.
So let’s look at some ways you can balance out your intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
-Regularly consume fatty cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. Choose quality sources and avoid farm-fished varieties, which have less omega-3 fats.
– Consume a fish oil or cod liver oil product. Here are my favorites:
The fish oil product you buy should list the amount of EPA and DHA contained in a serving size. Aim for a minimum of 1g of EPA+DHA. If you have chronic inflammation or consume a lot of omega-6 fats, then closer to 3-5g of EPA+DHA is better.
-Walnuts and flax do contain omega-3 fats called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but these are not a good replacement for the EPA and DHA found in fish oil and fatty fish. Therefore, do not rely on walnuts or flax for your omega-3 intake.
-Decrease, or ideally eliminate, your consumption of foods high in omega-6 fats. The biggest offenders are vegetable oils such as corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower, etc. and especially trans fats.
The problem is that these oils are often found in many refined and processed foods so make sure you check the labels on these foods (or even better – do not buy any of these). 🙂
Also, most fast food restaurants rely on vegetable oils for cooking.
In conclusion, whatever your goal may be, reducing chronic inflammation will help and improving your diet is a great place to start.