Fish Oil and Chronic Illness

Fish Oil is one of the few recommended supplements that isn’t something naturally produced at all by our own bodies.  The only way to ensure that you have this nearly magical substance is by ingesting it, either by consuming fish or taking it in pill form.  But Fish Oil (which contains the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA) is really quite amazing in it’s long list of varied health benefits for those with a myriad of health conditions and even for the average person trying to maintain their health.

For those of us with Lupus, or other conditions that come with inflammation (arthritis, for instance), Fish Oil can actually reduce our symptoms.  And it isn’t simply masking our symptoms or temporarily relieving them.  Several studies have shown that Lupus activity actually decreases in patients who take Fish Oil supplements, and there were proteins that work to reduce inflammation that were created in the bodies of those taking the supplements, and were not found in placebo patients.  These proteins allow for long-term easing of the diseases effects.

But it’s not just Lupus patients who can benefit from these oils, EPA and DHA are continuously showing amazing results in reducing the risk of AND improving the symptoms of several mental illnesses including Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and even potentially Alzheimer’s Disease (further research required for that last one).  Being that those with physical Chronic Illnesses are often also affected by mental struggles like Depression and Anxiety, and that 1 in every 10 suicides occurs in a patient with Chronic Illness, I think anything we can do to reduce our risks puts a smile on my face.

And one of the greatest benefits that Fish Oil carries is it’s cardiovascular improvements.  It’s an all-around heart-healthy substance, reducing blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with cardiovascular disease, and lowering cholesterol.  Personal anecdote incoming: I’ve had a struggle with high blood pressure the past year, maintaining a risky diastolic number of 91.  With Atrial Fibrillation and the already elevated risk for cardiovascular disease due to Lupus, that’s an even riskier number to be looking at.  Despite a change in diet, and increased cardio exercise, the number just wasn’t moving.  I started taking daily Fish Oil supplements, and within a month brought my number down to a very healthy 72.  Of course I’ll keep exercising and eating well, because that’s the best way to maintain heart health, but there’s no doubt that the Fish Oil helped me bring my risk factor down fast.

The best part about the fatty acids is that there are very few risk factors.  The risks involved typically revolve around the same risks you take when eating fish (mercury levels, especially for pregnant women) and sanitary issues.  Taking it in supplement form may be safer than trying to consume the same amount within your regular diet.  Below you can see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids found naturally in different kinds of fish you might eat.  To compare, the average supplement (which will also usually combine vitamin D and sometimes calcium) contains about 720 milligrams of EPA and DHA, equal to 0.72 grams.

Grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3oz (85g) serving of popular fish.[15] [16]
Common name grams
Herringsardines 1.3–2
Spanish mackerelAtlanticPacific 1.1–1.7
Salmon 1.1–1.9
Halibut 0.60–1.12
Tuna 0.21–1.1
Swordfish 0.97
Greenshell/lipped mussels 0.95[17]
Tilefish 0.9
Tuna (canned, light) 0.17–0.24
Pollock 0.45
Cod 0.15–0.24
Catfish 0.22–0.3
Flounder 0.48
Grouper 0.23
Mahi mahi 0.13
Orange roughy 0.028
Red snapper 0.29
Shark 0.83
King mackerel 0.36
Hoki (blue grenadier) 0.41
Gemfish 0.40
Blue eye cod 0.31
Sydney rock oysters 0.30
Tuna, canned 0.23
Snapper 0.22
Barramundi, saltwater 0.100
Giant tiger prawn 0.100

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