How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help Mood and Anxiety Disorders

 

Introduction:

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you might not know that there’s a natural way to help ease your symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that is essential for good health, and they play an important role in the brain. They can be found in rich amounts in certain fish, nuts, and seeds.

Omega 3s are important for good health because they reduce inflammation in the body and are helpful in a number of conditions including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. In fact, omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce neuroinflammation in the brain. This can lead to profound improvements in depression, anxiety, mood swings, and bipolar disorder.

Depression

Depression is a common mental disorder that is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, fatigue, and problems with concentration or decision-making. Depression affects people of all ages and can lead to a decline in physical health, cognitive function, and social well-being. A 2008 study of 60 clinically depressed patients revealed that EPA, the main omega-3 fatty acid studied for treating mental health conditions, is as effective at treating depression symptoms as one of the leading antidepressant drugs, fluoxetine. [1

Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at some points in their life. However, some people experience anxiety more frequently or severely than others, which can negatively affect their quality of life. The link between omega-3 fatty acids and anxiety was investigated in a meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving over 2,000 participants. It found that omega-3 fatty acid treatment was significantly associated with reduced anxiety. [2]

Mood swings

Mood swings refer to sudden changes in mood from positive to negative or vice versa. More extreme mood swings are often experienced by people with bipolar disorder, a mental disorder characterized by episodes of mania (i.e., periods of abnormally high mood) and depression (i.e., periods of abnormally low mood).  A 2011 meta-analysis found strong evidence that bipolar depressive symptoms benefited considerably, however it was found less effective in controlling manic states. [3

So how do omega-3 fatty acids work?

Omega-3 fatty acids work by affecting neurotransmitters and neuroplasticity. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help relay messages between cells in the brain. Neurons are the cells in the brain that transmit these messages. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to new experiences and learning. Omega-3 fatty acids help improve neurotransmitter function and increase neuroplasticity, leading to improved mental health.

There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA are important for good health. EPA has stronger effects on anxiety and depression and other mood disorders as it is highly neuroactive. As a result, it is often recommended as the best type of omega-3 fatty acid for improving mental health. However DHA may have protective effects against suicide, so taking both is likely to result in increased benefits.

Dosage

The ideal ratio is at least 60% EPA to 40% DHA which is found in most supplements. According to clinical trials, the studied doses of EPA alone or in combination with DHA range from a mere 0.5 gram per day up to 10 grams daily. For some perspective, 1g per day would be about equal to 3 salmon meals per week.

For example, the recommended dose for depression and anxiety is 1 gram per day of EPA. For bipolar disorder, the recommended dose is 4 grams per day of EPA. However everyone responds differently so it may take some experimentation to find the right dose for you. Keep in mind that you should seek medical advice before taking doses that are 3 grams or more per day, as these doses can have blood thinning effects.

Supplemental Sources

Omega-3s are available as supplements you can buy. EPA & DHA supplements from fish oil are available as molecularly distilled liquids and capsules. However you can also get EPA & DHA supplements if you are vegetarian or vegan in the form of Algal oil that comes from certain algae. Flaxseed oil is also popular with these groups, however they are highly inefficient as the body must convert them from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), so it is recommended to go with Algal oil.

Conclusion:

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential component to good health – especially mental health. These healthy fats play a crucial role in many bodily functions such as hormone production, brain function, and even inflammation reduction. If you’re struggling with any sort of mental health issue – whether it be depression, anxiety, mood swings, or bipolar disorder – consider adding more omega 3’s into your diet through supplementation or by consuming more fish.

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