Getting enough and balanced amounts of EFAs (essential fatty acids) or the right fats – omega-3 and omega-6 – is critical to good health. Especially since the body cannot produce them and must take them in from outside sources – either through food or supplements. EFAs are truly “essential” for both seasonal and year-round allergy sufferers as inflammation is one of the primary responses to an allergic reaction.
What do EFA’s do?
Essential fatty acids play a very important role in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory conditions among other things. They are the healthy fats that give your body the natural defense mechanism it needs to reduce inflammation and improve your immune system.
In particular, the EFA omega-3 family and gamma-linolenic acid of the omega-6 family have the powerful inflammation-reducing properties we need most to not only boost our immune system but to help improve a range of health issues – from arthritis to eczema.
The biggest challenge for many people is that inflammation is largely silent unless you know what to look for. Chronic inflammation itself can be silent, but unfortunately, the overt diseases aren’t. You may know when you have eczema or high blood pressure, but you might not realize that it has something to do with inflammation.
What depletes our EFAs?
There are many reasons why we may not be getting the EFAs we need including:
- Consuming trans-fatty acids (found in margarine, shortening, partially hydrogenated oils)
- Consuming too much sugar
- Alcohol consumption
- Viral infections
- Genetic abnormalities
EFAs are damaged by processing in the manufacturing of cooking oils, margarine, shortenings, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fatty acids as well as when foods are sautéed, pan fried and deep fried in food preparation.
How much EFAs do we need?
We need more omega-3 than omega-6 – in a ratio of about 2:1. Unfortunately, a typical SAD (Standard American Diet) contains only small amounts of omega-3 and too much omega-6 — thanks to the overwhelming amount of food processing which destroys a lot of the essential fatty acids. This imbalance in our diets between omega-3 to omega-6 puts a tough burden on the body. 
And not all omega-6 oils are created equally – too much linoleic acid which is found in abundance in vegetable oils, margarine, and processed foods can lead to an increase in inflammation and allergic responses.
Omega-3 molecules help maintain the integrity of our cell membranes and help control the body’s inflammatory response via several different mechanisms by neutralizing the effects of too much omega-6.
The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- Reduces inflammation
- Lowers the risk of heart disease
- Balances cholesterol
- Keeps blood clots and clogged arteries at bay
- Reduces blood pressure
- Prevents diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar
- Helps prevent metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance
- Eases depression and mood disorders
- Enhances healthy brain function 
- Regulates hormone production
- Improves immunity
- Decrease rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduces bone, muscle and joint pain
- Aids digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis
- Reduces cancer risks such as colorectal, prostate and breast cancers 
- Improves skin, hair and nail health
Flaxseed Oil Benefits
Tiny little flax seeds and their oil offer one of nature’s most potent forms of the primary omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Flaxseeds – Seeds or Oil is a question I get from many of my patients and the answer is — one is not better than the other, so I suggest using both.
Ground flaxseeds have lots of fiber that can help with bowel regularity. I generally recommend consuming several tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily. It is a natural fiber-rich food that is not habit forming.
Flaxseed meal is one of my favorite things to add to smoothies. Sprinkle some on starchy foods and it can slow down their breakdown helping to keep your blood sugar from spiking.
But remember: Flaxseed oil is not for cooking as it can become rancid when heated.
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Omega-3 Fish Oils
The other important omega-3 fatty acids known to reduce inflammation and address allergic reactions are — eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which can be found in cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, and cod. Studies show these two are known to block the inflammatory cycle of cytokines and prostaglandins.
While the typical American diet contains too much omega-6 fatty acids, consciously seeking to balance out the ratio between omega 6 and 3 can be super important in getting and staying healthy. My advice is to stay away from too much vegetable oil – corn, safflower, soybean and use extra virgin olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings, eat walnuts, flax seeds, and omega-3 fortified eggs along with adding GLA to your supplement arsenal.
- Regulates metabolism
- Maintains reproductive health
- Fights inflammatory skin conditions
- Reduces nerve pain associated with diabetic neuropathy
- Treats rheumatoid arthritis
- Lowers blood pressure (when taken with omega-3s)
- Improves bone health
The omega-6, Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is the one I often recommend to my patients. I have found it to be effective in the treatment of inflammatory issues including asthma, arthritis, allergies, dermatitis, and eczema. It also reduces the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome like breast pain, bloating, depression and irritation. The highest concentrations of GLA are found in borage oil, evening primrose oil, and black currant oil.
EFA’s and Skin
An imbalance of EFAs in the skin can cause not only dryness and dandruff, but also eczema and psoriasis-like inflammatory skin conditions, acne, cracked heels, toxic deposits in the skin, skin damage, and increased risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Essential Fatty Acid Supplements
A powerhouse EFA complex supplement can be found in OmegAvail™ Synergy which pretty much has it all – EPA/DHA, GLA and more. This unique formula contains a blend of wild deep-sea sourced fish oils containing omega-3 fats, omega-6 fat in the form of GLA from borage oil and omega-9 fat from certified virgin organic macadamia nut oil.
GLA is the active ingredient found in the oil of borage seeds and unlike the unhealthy Omega-6 oils such as vegetable oil, borage oil has tremendous health promoting benefits including healthy skin and female hormonal balance. GLA should be considered for its positive effects of smooth and glowing skin and shiny hair tresses (along with fish oils). I recommend GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid) softgels for easy supplementation.
Fish Oil Benefits
Research shows that fish oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The fish oil benefits are shown to help reduce heart disease and cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and aid skin conditions like eczema.
Omega 3s and fish oil have been used for musculoskeletal and disc diseases for over 300 years. They may be among the most potent of natural anti-inflammatories, increasing the body’s own anti-inflammatory compounds, while inhibiting compounds such as 5-LOX, Cox-2, cytokines, and certain prostaglandins. Omega 3s help to decrease inflammation in the degradation of cartilage in osteoarthritis. They work best when consumed daily, in combination with EPA and DHA taken with food. [4, 5]
Fish oil supplements have also been effective in weight loss efforts.
Since fish and shellfish are among the top allergy-causing foods, I recommend supplementing your diet with a fish oil supplement that contains only the EPA and DHA fatty acids which help you avoid the protein and other allergy-causing portions of fish.
OmegAvail™ Hi-Po is an excellent way to get a potent amount of EPA/DHA and lipase, a digestive aid to ensure maximum absorption also helps to prevent any fishy aftertaste, that can occur with fish oil supplements.
I also recommend OmegAvail™ Ultra DHA which contains highly concentrated DHA along with some EPA as well.
As a side note, as with any fats or oil, fish oil easily goes rancid, negating it’s health benefits, so purchase a high-quality brand and store it in the fridge. A strong fishy flavor or odor suggests rancidity. Note that fish oil may interact with blood thinners, so you may want to consult with your healthcare practitioner.
The bottom line is it is not uncommon to unknowingly have an essential fatty acid deficiency or imbalance, thanks to modern agricultural and food processing methods. Take a good look at your current consumption of healthy oils in your diet. 
If you aren’t sure that you are consuming enough of the right types, in the appropriate proportions, CONTACT ME today and let me suggest some dietary changes as well as a high-quality supplement to help you achieve a balance for allergies and beyond.
1. The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors.
2. Oiling the Brain: A Review of Randomized Controlled Trials of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Psychopathology across the Lifespan.
3. Intravenous fish oil lipid emulsions in critically ill patients: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.
4. Good fats, bad fats: The Facts About Omega 3.
5. The essentials of essential fatty acids.
6. Essential fatty acid.