Can Fish Oil Fight Inflammation?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
The more we learn about inflammation, the more we understand how it underlies virtually every age-related disease that we can develop. Inflammation, our bodies’ way of taking care of injuries and healing us when we are sick, can go a little haywire. When this happens, we develop illness and disease.
If you’re looking for ways to decrease the levels of inflammation in your own body, whether or not you have developed an inflammatory disease, we can help. The team at Seraphina Therapeutics has studied the impacts of chronic inflammation, especially as it relates to aging.
We’ll talk about how inflammation works in your body, the effects of fish oil on inflammation, and uncover some truths about a little known fatty acid that you’ll definitely want to add to your anti-inflammation game plan.
What is Inflammation?
Most of us think of swelling when we think of inflammation, and that’s partially right. When we get an injury, like a sprained ankle, our body sends specialized cells, aptly named inflammatory cells, to the injury site to protect and heal it.
The immune system is responsible for triggering the inflammatory cells to go to work, and in response the inflammatory cells signal more inflammatory cells to join the effort. The same is true when we become sick. The immune system sends out an SOS, and the inflammatory cells go to work battling the bacteria that is making us ill.
There are two different types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is the normal immune system response when we are sick or hurt. We break a finger, the immune system sends inflammatory cells to the injury and begins to heal it. Acute inflammation is also the type of inflammation we experience when we are healing from a virus or infection.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the injury or illness has already been healed, but the inflammatory cells just keep coming. In some cases, inflammatory cells begin to attack our own healthy tissues.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition wherein inflammatory cells attack healthy tissues around the joints for extended periods of time, causing pain, deformity, and permanent damage to the bones.
With chronic inflammation, your immune system has become unbalanced, perceiving something as a danger that isn’t a danger at all.
What Happens With Chronic Inflammation?
Recent research has focused on a specific type of chronic inflammation called chronic, low-level inflammation. This type of inflammation is so low-level that it is sometimes completely undetectable until it results in damage to your body.
For instance, chronic inflammation that is high level can result in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease. Chronic, low-level inflammation can last for weeks or months at a time; sometimes even years.
This type of inflammation happens when your inflammatory cells trigger the release of neutrophils. These cells are extremely destructive and they essentially bat clean-up when your inflammatory cells are fighting hard and still need extra help to heal you. In chronic, low-level inflammation, neutrophils are called in by the inflammatory cells, even after the wound or infection has been healed.
Neutrophils destroy both good and bad tissue, so the presence of neutrophils when they aren’t needed can damage healthy tissue. Over time, this low-level inflammatory response can ruin the linings of your arteries, damage other healthy cells, and contribute to developing age-related diseases like:
- Increased risk of heart disease, heart failure, and heart attacks
- Cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Arthritis and chronic joint pain
To lower your risk of developing these types of illnesses, you need to support the healthy and proper function of your inflammatory cells. Let’s study a few ways to improve cellular health, including how fish oil affects inflammation.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil, like cod liver oil, is extracted from the livers and fatty tissues of fish. It is rich in the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These fatty acids are essential which means our bodies need them to survive but can’t make them on their own. As such, we have to get them from our diets, or from a supplement.
Fish oil supplements are usually blends of different fish oils from fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and different omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They may also contain a few preservative ingredients.
Fish oil usually needs to be taken in large quantities to be effective. Most people will need a daily intake between 1000-3000 mg. They do carry an unpleasant side effect of producing an unavoidable fishy aftertaste, especially with high doses of fish oil.
Fish Oil and Inflammation
Fish oil has been studied in people who have inflammation that leads to heart disease, however it’s important to note that the studies usually focus on the effects of EPA, not DHA. In these studies, researchers found that fish oil supplements increased anti-inflammatory molecules in the participants’ bodies for up to 24 hours.
What isn’t clear is whether or not that decrease in inflammation would be enough to prevent disease. Additionally, the studies focused on participants who were under the age of 40. Because chronic, low-level inflammation is more common in elderly populations, it’s not clear whether fish oil would be beneficial in helping this group reduce inflammation.
Lastly, people who do have heart disease are cautioned against taking a fish oil supplement as the sole means of helping support their heart health. Other lifestyle changes are needed to develop optimum heart health.
What Can You Do to Fight Inflammation?
There are steps you can take to fight inflammation and reduce your risk of developing age-related inflammatory illness. Here are three tips.
1. Eat a Low-Inflammation Diet
Certain foods and poor nutrition can increase or decrease inflammation. It probably goes without saying that increasing your fruit and vegetable intake will help reduce inflammation, while eating refined carbohydrates, red and processed meats will increase inflammation.
Tomatoes, leafy greens, fish, fruits, nuts, and olive oil are all great inflammation fighters. Filling your plate with more of them will keep you healthier, and likely reduce your waistline. Vitamin A, lean proteins, and healthy fats are key.
Exercise and physical movement is so important to our bodies, especially for older adults. Researchers have found that moderate exercise can act as an anti-inflammatory, which can be beneficial for people who suffer from long-term inflammatory diseases.
The average person needs between 150-225 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, interlaced with strength training to protect and strengthen bones and muscles. Just exercising a little each day can support a healthier body, improve your mood, increase mental clarity, combat joint tenderness and morning stiffness, and help you maintain a healthy weight to achieve a lower risk of chronic conditions.
3. Take a Better Dietary Supplement
Fish oil is a good supplement, but what if there was something better…without the fishy aftertaste. There is. Pentadecanoic acid is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that a growing body of research says is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered in over ninety years.
This acid, also known as C15:0, is found mostly in milk fat, which means you probably don’t have a lot of it in your diet. C15:0 helps support your body on the cellular level, where inflammation starts.
As we age, our cells age, too. They grow weak, become damaged from external stressors, and decrease cellular function. This cellular decline can lead to an inflammatory response by your immune system, which causes more damage to your body.
A dose of C15:0 helps support your cells in two important ways:
Cell membrane support. Aging cells have flimsy, weak cell membranes. These allow your cells to experience oxidative damage from free radicals. C15:0 helps strengthen cell walls by integrating into them and fortifying them, keeping them strong.
Increasing mitochondrial function. Sluggish mitochondria are a hallmark of aging cells. You can fight back with C15:0. Studies show that C15:0 can increase mitochondrial function by up to 45%.
Pentadecanoic acid helps your body in other ways, too. By binding to special receptors located all over your body called PPARs, C15:0 helps restore homeostasis to functions like sleep, mood, appetite, and yes, immunity. Taking C15:0 can help you lead a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.
That just leaves one problem: how to get more C15:0 into your diet. Fatty15 to the rescue!
Fatty15: The Essential Addition to Your Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement that contains just one important ingredient: the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0 known as FA15™. Just one capsule per day along with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help you protect your body against poor cellular health that happens as you age.
Inflammation can cause serious diseases, but you can calm the storm. Fatty15 is the essential fatty acid that helps support your body on the cellular level and puts longevity back on your side.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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