Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Critical in Pregnancy and Beyond
Guest post by Dr. Mitravinda Savanur
Why is there so much so much buzz about omega-3 fatty acids? These essential fatty acids are critical for the human body, but the body cannot manufacture them. We are meant to absorb them from natural sources such as plants and fish, but many of us are still deficient.
Types of fatty acids
There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids found in nature.
- Docosa-Hexaenoic acid (DHA) & Eicosa-pentaenoic acid (EPA) – found in fish sources
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)- found in nuts, oils, and seeds
With all this information, let’s jump into understanding how exactly these fatty acids enhance the health of women.
Treatment of skin diseases
Skin disease treatment using Omega-3 fatty acids is very common in cases like eczema, prurigonodularis, and neurodermatitis. Most often these chronic skin diseases are caused by stress. Omega-3 fatty acids fulfill the desired nutrition requirement of the body which prevents further scarring of the skin and triggers reversal of symptoms.
Severe itching is often associated with skin diseases, and omega-3 fatty acids help in relieving those symptoms in a much more powerful way than anti-histamines.
Treatment of chronic diseases
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the good types of fats and help lower the risk of cardiac diseases, depression, dementia, and arthritis.
Moreover, according to medical research, omega-3 acids prevent the formation of tumors and/or reduce the growth of cancerous cells in breasts. Thereby, reducing the chances of development of breast cancer! While the exact steps and reasons for this phenomenon are unclear, it cannot be denied that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is vital for a woman’s health in the long run.
Beneficial for period cramps and pregnancy
Many women suffer from monthly body cramps during their menstruation cycle. Omega-3 fatty acids, as discussed above, have significant anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, they help in reducing these cramps as Alpha-linolenic acid acts as a major anti-inflammatory constituent of these fats.
Another study revealed that being able to maintain higher levels of omega-3 sources in her diet as compared to omega-6, a woman can elongate her pregnancy a little bit more. This can help pre-mature birth. The intake of a balanced diet, consisting of omega-3 fatty acids, is said to enhance the baby’s intelligence levels, hand-eye coordination, eyesight and basically have a positive impact on the life-long health of the child. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids by pregnant women also alleviates their moods and prevent postpartum depression.
Many women, suffering from PCOS struggle to conceive. An imbalance in the omega 6 and omega-3 fatty acids has been found to be a vital reason for this. Therefore, by increasing the percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet (and, thereby, in our body) as compared to omega-6 fatty acids, women can fight infertility.
Omega-3 and its role in weight management
Omega-3 fatty acids control your hunger by controlling the hunger signals and hormones in the body. This, in turn, prevents us from over-eating and gain excess weight. Its anti-inflammatory properties help the body to exercise for a longer time and avoid fatigue. Moreover, omega-3 acids catalyze the blood flow in our body by reducing the bad cholesterol from our system. This increases the effect of any exercise or workout that one may do and assists in loosing those extra pounds quickly.
How to get Omega-3s
Omega-3s can be found in natural food sources like plants, sea food, nuts, etc. Omega-3 supplements are also available.
While fatty fish like salmon, sardines, etc. are the greatest source of omega-3 acids, the pollution of the oceans have filled them up with toxins and pollutants. We must, therefore, also consume other sources of omega-3 like walnuts on a regular basis, especially pregnant women.
Rich omega-3 sources like flax seeds, chia seeds, etc. can be added to our daily diets by sprinkling them over yogurt or salads. Even adding them to baked goods is a good choice.
Green-leafy vegetables, like spinach, are incredible sources of omega-3 and can easily be consumed on a regular basis. Similarly, red lentils will serve the same purpose without being too heavy on your pocket.
The supplements of omega-3 fatty acids come in various forms; natural and processed fish oils, cod-liver oils, omega-3 capsules, etc. Depending on your requirement, you can choose a supplement suitable to you.
When using a supplement, be sure to choose one that fulfills the requirements of the body but is also free from harmful toxins that may remain in natural fish oils.
Cod-liver oil can be used which, along with omega-3 fatty acids, is also rich in Vitamin A. An excess of Vitamin A, however, can prove to be harmful for the human body and toxic for a fetus. For this reason, pregnant women must either completely stay away from this oil or strictly ingest it in prescribed quantities.
If you’re buying supplements for the first time, you need to take a look at the nutritional information on the product. Pay attention to:
- The amount of DHA and EPA per serving. In most cases, its recommended to have at least 250 mg to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. For pregnant women, it is recommended to ingest 200mg daily.
- The amount of product you need to ingest to constitute the daily serving requirement.
- That it is inspected by a third party to assure contents and purity.
It’s most important now, more than ever, to take care of one-self amidst the madness of work and personal responsibilities. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your regular diet will optimize your health and support you in your journey toward better in life!
Mitravinda is a Nutritionist at DietChart with a doctoral degree in Food Science and Nutrition. She is a teacher, researcher, and an author. Her passion for the subject prompted her to start writing blogs on various nutrition-related topics such as diet chart for weight loss, diet chart for weight loss in 7 days, how to remove pimple marks etc. Through her blogs, she wishes to help people gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between food, nutrition, lifestyle, and health.