Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) for Fibromyalgia and CFS
Essential fatty acids are, as their name implies, essential for our existence.
Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained from food.They make up the outer membranes of each cell. These membranes determine which nutrients get into and out of the cells. The membranes of healthy cells can resist entry by viruses and other pathogenic agents and, at the same time, facilitate the entry of nutrients-the “happy hormones” serotonin.
When EFAs are deficient, cell membranes are weakened in their abilities, and the wrong substances are allowed into the cell. A deficiency in EFAs can cause some of the very symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and CFS: fatigue, anxiety, depression, GI disorders, muscle pain, insomnia, poor mental function, and lowered immunity. It’s estimated that at least 40% of the population suffers from some amount of EFA deficiency.
There are several interesting interrelationships between EFA metabolism and viral infections (commonly chronic in those with CFS). EFA’s have direct antiviral effects and are lethal at surprising low concentrations to many viruses. The antiviral activity of human mother’s milk seems to be largely attributable to its EFA content.
Interferon is dependant on EFA’s and in their absence will be compromised.
Viral infections lower the blood levels EFA’s. This has been confirmed in the case of the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Of particular interest was the observation that at 8 and 12 months, those who have recovered from EBV showed normal or near normal EFA blood levels. In contrast, those who were still clinically ill from Epstein-Barr show persistently low EFA levels.
In a Scottish trial, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome were given EFA supplements with great success. Placebo controlled trials were held for 70 patients with persistent CFS giving them linolenic acid (flax seed oil) and eicosapentaenoic acid (fish oil). After 6 months, 84% of the patients in the group receiving EFA supplements, and only 22% of those in the placebo group rated themselves as better or much better.
In another successful study, 63 adults with CFS were enrolled in a double blind placebo controlled study with essential fatty acid therapy. The patient’s were ill for an average of 1-3 years after a viral infection. They all suffered from severe fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), and a variety of psychological symptoms. After one month, 74% of the patients taking EFA supplements, and 23% of those on placebo, assessed themselves as improved.
A deficiency of Omega-3 fat is one of the main causes of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. Omega-3 fats work to keep us mentally and emotionally strong in three ways:
1) Omega-3 fats act as precursors for the body’s production of pre-prostaglandins and neurotransmitters (specific hormones).
2) Omega-3 fats provide the substrate for B vitamins and coenzymes to produce compounds that regulate many vital functions, including neurotransmitters.
Omega-3 fats provide energy and nourishment to our nerve and brain cells.
Eat to reduce inflammation.
The pro-inflammatory hormone PG-2 is made from arachidonic acid (AA).
AA increases bodily inflammation. Since AA is found in corn, and corn products are used as the prominent foodstuff for westernized livestock, red meat, cheese, eggs, and pork products have a high AA content in the United States.
Several research articles have demonstrated that the more animal fats a human eats, the more AA is in his blood and cell membranes and the more likely he is to have inflammation. So reduce your intake of grains and corn-fed livestock.
If your inflammation is severe, reduce or avoid red meat and dairy as well. Cook with olive oil or canola oil. (Avoid instant coffee, as well. It contains substances that block the receptor sites for endorphins.) Vegetables are fine and are encouraged-avoid vegetable oils not vegetables.
The functional opposite of PG-2, PG-1 and PG-3 are anti-inflammatory hormones. They help reduce and eliminate inflammation and pain. You should increase your intake of these hormones. The best sources of PG-1 and PG-3 are fish oil supplements or a diet high in deep cold-water fish.
I recommend taking 2,000 to 4,000mg of fish oil a day.