Omega 3s and Asthma

In addition to vitamin D and antioxidants in the right amounts, omega 3 fatty acids are another significant piece of my magic formula for controlling severe asthma so that I can train, play and live without the fear of an attack or serious episode.  And no, omega 3 fatty acids won’t make your butt look big. In fact, their extensive health benefits have become so desirable, that there are entire recipes, even full cookbooks dedicated to this special ingredient.

Specifically, their role in my formula is to eliminate chronic inflammation, but I gain additional benefits as well. (Including brain function, although I know some who might disagree with that one). Click here for a great slide-show documenting the numerous benefits in picture format, along with brief descriptions of each.  I like pictures and brief.  Slide three specifically addresses how omega 3s fight inflammation.

The Wikipedia definition of asthma states that it is “…the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways…” Therefore, treating asthma (and many other illnesses) is all about controlling inflammation, whether you have mild, moderate or severe symptoms.

“Asthma is a malfunction in the body, specifically the airways, caused primarily by low-grade internal inflammation. Whole-food derived micronutrients and antioxidants along with optimal levels of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids provide your cells with the critical nutrients they need to function normally and reduce or eliminate this chronic inflammation.” Rick Cohen, M.D.

Check out this article in “the conscious life” on inflammation and its impact on the body overall. Note the extensive list of diseases which are characterized by underlying inflammation.

This statement in particular catches my attention:

“At this point, it’s not difficult to see that if your diet comprises more of omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids (which sadly is true for most of us), you are literally promoting inflammation inside your body.”

Whaaaa?  I was promoting it!!? I didn’t have a horrible diet, but I was most definitely eating things that evidently promoted the illness while passing over the kind of nutrition that would fight it off naturally.  Then I’d take medications on top of that to control the symptoms that were caused by the inflammation, which were in turn and in part caused by my lack of proper nutrition. Yikes! I was mortified when I figured this out. Not just at doctors who would rather stick to strictly pharmaceuticals and telling me “no.” (They said that a lot, and I don’t like to be told that I can’t before making sure that it’s truly the case. I’m glad I never really believed it was). But I was also appalled at myself as the pieces began to come together.  I know this information is out there. True, it’s much harder to dig up than traditional means of treatment, but it is there.

The description below speaks to me. It’s in a language I can understand, it makes sense, and it’s ridiculously simple when I look at it this way.  It’s beyond my typical self-scolding and understanding that I need to eat healthy for the sake of being healthy.  This explains to me exactly why getting the nutrients I need can (and does!) alleviate my asthma symptoms almost entirely.

“Our bodies are composed of trillions of different cells carrying out more than 200 specialized functions.  In order to achieve optimum health and performance, our cells must be operating efficiently and communicating with each other well.

Still, we often make choices that don’t provide for our body’s basic, cellular needs. When our cells start breaking down or stop functioning properly, we begin to experience “symptoms” which are typically grouped together and labeled as a “disease.”  When this happens, we are often encouraged to focus on an external “fix” rather than an internal cure. And we default to using pharmaceutical products or individual nutritional supplements in an effort to alleviate the effects without addressing or even identifying their precipitating cause.

We now understand though that at the root of most chronic illnesses such as asthma is chronic inflammation. While short-lived acute inflammation from injury is crucial to keep us alive, chronic inflammation is extremely harmful to our health.  Long-term exposure to low doses of inflammatory substances attack healthy cells, blood vessels and tissues instead of protecting them. And unlike a bruise or a cut sustained to the skin, they do not always trigger pain and are nowhere to be seen. Just like a slow poison, chronic inflammation destroys our health and body gradually.

There are a myriad of factors that contribute to chronic inflammation and increased risk and severity of asthma and other illnesses. They include:

*An inadequate diet resulting in deficiencies in whole-food derived micronutrients and antioxidants
*Inadequate sun exposure resulting in less than optimal levels of Vitamin D
*Increased intake in processed seed oils and inadequate intake of omega 3 oils from fish.
*Excessive or chronic mental or physical stress.
*A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates that cause blood sugar imbalances and insulin spikes.
*Lack of quality sleep
*Excess body fat
*Exposure to environmental toxins such as GMO foods and estrogenic chemicals like BPA, parabens and phthlates
*A damaged gastrointestinal tract caused by imbalanced gut flora and/or reactivity to gluten in modern hybrid grains

If you are looking for a lasting solution to looking, feeling and performing better, you will have much greater success to work from the inside out; to satisfy your body’s most fundamental needs by nourishing and protecting its cells. Like a ripple on the water, improving the health of your cells can initiate visible, continual and far-reaching effects.

Powerful results will occur when you address the above lifestyle and diet causes of inflammation and combine them with a comprehensive nutritional program designed to optimize cellular health. The key factors necessary are micronutrients and anti-oxidants derived from raw, organic fruit, vegetable and herbal concentrates, optimal amounts of absorbable omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D3 and an essential amino acid blend.”  Rick Cohen, M.D.

My half marathon PR. First time I was able to give an all-out effort without stopping to walk, and without needing my inhaler, even at the end.

This was my big “ah-ha” over the last couple of years. Once I made the changes above in addition to eliminating dairy in my diet, I began to see consistent relief from symptoms, even while training! I no longer have shortness of breath after a mile or two (or twenty!) of running, unless I have been slacking off. And as severe as my asthma has been, it was easy for me to notice those changes right away. I had assumed that the only way to really treat it was through pharmaceutical medications. Not so. Yes, there is a time and need for the meds, and I take them when necessary. But what a difference.  I used to go through a rescue inhaler every two weeks whether I was exercising or not.  Now they expire before I use them. (Coaches in the house: We’ll talk about my form later. I know this needs work!)

I then learned about specific treatments for when I contract a cold or any underlying infection which typically triggers my asthma.  I’ll share those details in another post. It’s definitely different from mainstream medicine but after 40+ years of trying everything else, I was willing to try different.  And it has worked. Every single time I have contracted a cold or sinus infection. Results are everything.

For a review of my specific formula for controlling my asthma, click here. It’s important to note that just adding one of these nutrients alone will not make the overall difference.  All pieces of the puzzle are necessary.

So how much of each?  It’s a good idea to get your levels tested first, and then ask your doctor.  Thankfully, more people have jumped on the “taking care of myself” bandwagon and subsequently, there are plenty of quality products out there.  Food sources are always the best choice but I just can’t get everything I need that way so I supplement. I get my vitamin D (sublingual spray!), omegas, antioxidants/micronutrients/amino-acid blends from www.core4nutrition.com.  Their Core 4 Nutrition is fantastic and helps me stay on track with the nutrients I need at the cellular level. What I love about it is that their supplements are derived from whole foods and they don’t contain junk fillers like many products out there. They also have an assessment package that comes with a full consultation so they talked me through their recommendation for how much I should take of each. Then I cross-referenced with my regular and naturopathic doctors. So far, none have disagreed on this.  It was recommended that I take 3000 mg of omega 3s per day, and that the EPA and DHA combination add up to at least a third of that 3000 mgs. I get my vitamin C through Super Supplements. (I take a LOT of Vitamin C!).

No easy path for cutting out dairy if you are used to taking in quite a bit.  But there ARE a lot of other great foods out there. And most of them don’t have unappetizing names like “To-Furky.” Seriously, who came up with that?

For the scientific research-minded person, here are some great references:

Omega 3 and inflammation
Belly fat and asthma – sorry
Vitamin D and inflammation
Poor sleep and inflammation
Oxidative Stress [environmental factors] and asthma

So while omega 3s won’t necessarily make your butt look big, they can and do make a huge difference in your health.  Take care of your cells, friends.  Happy breathing!

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