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Broken Brain and Body Chemistry Part 2

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  The Essential Fat for Optimum Brain Function by Laura Blockel, NAMI Connection Consultant

Omega-3 fatty acids are brain-boosting, cholesterol clearing good fats.  They play a crucial role in brain function.  The problem is your body can’t make them—you have to get them through food and supplements.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, seaweed, some plants, and nut oils.  Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and are highly concentrated in the brain.  They are essential for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.  Symptoms of omega-3 acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory dry skin, heart problems, mood swings, depression, and poor concentration.  In my own regime, I take 2000 mg of omega-3 daily, split into two doses. I personally notice a marked difference in my concentration and cognitive sharpness when I miss a few days of this essential oil.

There are 3 basic forms of omega-3:

  • Alpha-linelenic acid (ALA) found in walnuts, flaxseed, soybean, and olive oils which the body will convert in small quantities to DHA.
  • Docashexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil, this is the ultimate form of fatty acid in humans.  According to experts, getting a daily dose of DHA (600 to 1000mg) from supplements is very important.  One psychiatrist recommends doses up to 2,000 mg for patients suffering from depression.  In fact, since omega-3’s are a necessary component of every cell in your body, patients report side effects of less dry skin and eyes and fewer aches and pains.  You have a choice of taking a fish oil supplement or one derived from algae or krill.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) also found in fish oil and readily absorbed by the body.

When shopping for fish oil supplements the following points are important to remember:

  • Different supplements vary in how much DHA they contain.  Read the labels and remember whatever supplement you buy, it must have at least 600 mg of DHA.
  • Many supplements also contain vitamin E to stabilize the oils and prevent them from becoming rancid.  If you choose to buy a fish oil supplement, check the label carefully to see if refrigeration is needed.
  • Make sure your supplement has been proven safe, free of detectable traces of mercury.  Do not take unrefined supplements unless it’s made from small, oily fish like anchovy, sardines, or menhaden.

Sources:

Roizen and Oz:  YOU:  The Owner’s Manual (2008) www.doctoroz.com/media/print1769

University of Maryland Medical Center:  www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm

Broken Brain and Body Chemistry Part 1

Broken Brain and Body Chemistry by Laura Blockel, NAMI Connection Consultant

Functional medicine (www.functionalmedicine.org) is the science of treating the body as a whole system and not just treating pieces like brain chemistry alone.  Let me begin this series of blog posts by starting with my own story.  In January 2010, I weighed 250 pounds, my blood pressure was on the increase, my LDL cholesterol was off the charts, and I was pre-diabetic.  My psychiatrist was alarmed and transitioned me off one of my medicines that was known to readily cause weight gain.  He counseled me to start exercising and to begin a more disciplined eating routine.  It was then that I discovered the work of Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., a practitioner of functional medicine and his best seller, “The Ultra-Mind Solution”.  In his book, Dr. Hyman offered seven keys of staying in balance including: fixing nutrition, establishing hormone balance, cooling off inflammation, fixing digestion, enhancing detoxification, boosting energy metabolism, and calming the mind.[1] Over the next several blogs I will relate how each of these keys has dramatically enhanced my wellness.  To date, I have lost 55 pounds and I am on half the psychotropic medicines I used to be on in January.  My LDL is dropping and I am no longer in danger of acquiring diabetes.  Each of these things was accomplished under the clear direction and consent of my treating psychiatrist. Together, we agreed on each step of my new routine.  What worked for me is good “functional” medicine, all of which is common sense and advice readily recommended by most doctors, including our NAMI National psychiatrist, Dr. Duckworth, in the program “Hearts and Minds”.  The difference is that Functional Medicine ties all the systems together and explains why a good diet, exercise, and mind-enhancing routine works to calm and soothe the brain.  I hope my continuing story will be of interest and inspiration to you.


[1] Hyman, Mark, M.D.; The UltraMind Solution:  Scribner, New York.  2009.