What do you think of when you think of fat? Most people think of fat in a negative way because for decades we’ve been told that “fat is bad.” But what if eating the right types of fat could help you balance the inflammation in your body and reduce healing time? What if eating a better ratio of fats could reduce your pain or help with inflammation?
The body is an amazing thing and has a built-in natural healing system. When an injury occurs, first the body inflames sending nutrients to the site of injury. Then, the body anti-inflames reducing the swelling/redness and finishes up the healing process (ok, so it’s much more complicated than that, but you get the idea). In order to effectively heal, our body needs to be able to inflame and anti-inflame, and it does this by converting dietary fats into their end result: prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins inflame, some anti-inflame and our bodies need both in order to heal. But if this system is broken, or if we don’t make enough anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, we can’t heal appropriately and our bodies can be left in a state of too much inflammation (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2019). And chronic inflammation has been named the culprit for many modern chronic diseases and might even play a role in why some Endometriosis patients have severe pain or recurring issues and others do not.
When we eat dietary fats, they convert into one of three different prostaglandins. Each prostaglandin has a specific job to either inflame or anti-inflame as part of the healing process. Prostaglandin 1 is an anti-inflammatory. It is made from eating Omega-6 fats like sunflower oil, sesame oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, black currant oil, and evening primrose oil. Prostaglandin 2 causes inflammation and comes from eating saturated fats like conventionally raised meats and eggs, palm oil, coconut oil, and dairy. Prostaglandin 3 is also anti-inflammatory and comes from eating Omega-3 foods like wild-caught fish, some pasture-raised animal products, flaxseed oil, wheat germ, walnuts, hemp, and pumpkin seeds. To experience proper healing, your body needs you to eat from all of these food groups making sure that you have enough from each category. Ideally, you want to be eating a fairly equal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 foods—a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio is considered ideal (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2019).
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet tends to be really high in processed foods and conventional animal products yet fairly low in quality oils, pastured animal products, seeds, wild-caught fish, and nuts. This means that for the typical American, their bodies are producing a lot of inflammatory prostaglandins and not so much of the anti-inflammatory types, thus contributing to excess inflammation and prolonged healing times. And our typical Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is much higher than recommended (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2019).
In addition to diet, in order to properly utilize dietary fats, you need to have a good liver function (so you can make enzyme conversions), good gall bladder function (so you can emulsify and digest fats), and good enzyme production (from the vitamins and minerals present in fresh fruits and vegetables)—these co-factors are necessary for proper fat digestion and prostaglandin balance. You could be eating the best ratio of fats in the world, but you must be able to digest and absorb them (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2019).
So, what do you do with all this information? Where can you start? One good place to start is to honestly look at your diet and make observations. Where do your fats come from? Do you eat very many Omega 3s, or is it mostly saturated fat or processed oils? Next, see where it’s possible for you to make changes. It could be as easy as adding some nice fatty fish into your dinners a few nights a week or changing from conventional eggs to pastured ones. Instead of that fast food trip, maybe swap it out with take-out from a higher quality restaurant. Maybe browse your local farmer’s market to see what pastured-meat options are available. Or try sprinkling some pumpkin oil or flaxseed oil onto your salad or on top of freshly roasted vegetables.
Regulating prostaglandin production can take some work, but it is possible. When we consume and absorb the appropriate dietary fats, we can balance our prostaglandin production and reduce healing time. And if you suffer from a painful chronic condition like Endometriosis, balancing prostaglandin production through diet might be the thing that finally brings you some much-needed relief.
Nutritional Therapy Association. 2019. Fatty Acids. Nutritional Therapy Association Student Guide, 14-38.
This blog was written by a guest author named Heather Nyhof, a student at the Nutritional Therapy Association, with permission by Dr. Davis. To contact her regarding information on this blog, please send her an email.
The information on this website is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness. Do not start, stop, or change any medication without first consulting your doctor.