All pain starts with inflammation. And low levels of chronic inflammation plague Americans.
You can blame it all on the way we eat. You see, a typical Western diet is high in fat. But it’s the wrong kind of dietary fat.
Let me explain… On one hand you have your omega-6 fatty acids. On the other, you’ve got your omega-3s. There is a much larger difference between these two fatty acids than most people would suspect.
Omega-6s promote pain and inflammation, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. The problem is that these two fatty acids fight against each other for space in your body. So when you eat too many omega-6s, it displaces the healthy omega-3 fats.
Historically, our ancestors ate an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 1:1. They consumed equal amounts of these fats. So their bodies were able to accommodate both of them.
But today we are eating about 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. And it’s not doing us any favors.
High Omega-6 Diet Contributes to Health Problems and Chronic Pain
The omega-6:3 fat ratio in the Western diet is really awful. It is linked to a higher risk of metabolic disorders, obesity, chronic kidney disease, arterial plaque, arthritis, autoimmune disease and various other degenerative disease.
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the typical Western diet high in omega-6 fatty acids is a significant risk factor for pain. For example, in patients with knee pain, high omega-6 intake is associated with greater pain and functional limitations.
But when you change the ratio by consuming more omega-3s and fewer omega-6s, you can significantly reduce knee pain and experience better knee function.
You can easily improve your omega-6:3 ratio. But it will require some vigilance on your part.
That’s because omega-6s account for the majority of polyunsaturated fatty acids in our food supply. They’re found in vegetable oils, salad dressings, fried foods, margarines, chips and many other foods – especially those that come in packages. So we tend to really load up on them without even knowing it.
These inflammatory fatty acids have even invaded our meat supply. Historically meat, poultry and eggs have been a great source of omega-3s. But today commercial food producing animals are fed grain-based diets, mostly consisting of GMO corn feed. This reduces the omega-3 content of the foods they produce and increases the omega-6.
Still, with the right ratio, you can gain the upper hand on pain and inflammation. You’ll also be protecting yourself from the many degenerative health conditions associated with chronic inflammation.
5 Ways to Fight Pain and Inflammation
If you’re loading up on unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils, processed foods, commercial meats, dairy products and fried foods, you’re going to feel it. So it’s in your best interests to take a good look at the type of fatty acids you’re getting from the foods you eat.
Watch out for vegetable oils. Most vegetable oils are full of omega-6 fatty acids. These include corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil. Corn oil is the worst, by far. It has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 83 to one. I personally prefer using virgin olive oil.
Buy grass-fed meats. Remember, most of today’s commercial livestock is grain-fed, which means you’re getting more and more omega-6 fatty acids from the meat you’re eating. It’s estimated that, on average, the omega-6:3 ratio for grass-fed cattle is 2:1, while the ratio for grain-fed cattle is 9:1. So there really can be a big health difference when it comes to choosing your meat sources.
Cut back on processed/packaged foods. Foods like cookies, breads, cakes, chips, crackers and pastries are loaded with omega-6 oils. You will find these inflammatory oils in almost all snack foods.
Eat more fresh, organic produce. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in fruits and vegetables generally ranges from 2:1 to 1:3. So they are always great choices when it comes time to fill your dinner plate.
Get plenty of healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3s from wild caught fish. You can keep mercury exposure to a minimum by avoiding deepwater fish and sticking with ones that are lower on the food chain. This includes salmon, herring, sardines, trout and flounder. I especially like wild king salmon. They eat primarily algae, seaweed and smaller fish, so there is less mercury in their flesh.
If you aren’t a fish lover, you can supplement with omega-3 rich fish oil. There are certain supplements I recommend for everyone, and fish oil is one of them. Look for a supplement made from cold-water fish that contains at least 360 mg of DHA and 540 mg of EPA.
Armed with these five tips, you can greatly reduce pain levels and slash your risk of some of today’s most common health concerns.
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