The Benefits of Omega 3 and Vitamin D to Reduce Autoimmune Disease
The Benefits of Omega 3 and Vitamin D to Reduce Autoimmune Disease
Contrary to popular belief, most autoimmune conditions are a symptom of our Western lifestyle. As such, they can be treated or largely prevented with natural lifestyle changes.
The main problem with how we’ve been taught to live in the UK is that we consume a nutritionally sparse diet. Fast food, chips, crisps, sandwiches, snacks all “fill you up.” That’s a major issue; we’ve been taught to eat to fill ourselves up, when, in reality, to live a full and healthy life we should be focused on eating a nutritionally dense diet.
Other factors such as our sedentary lifestyles play a role in the development of autoimmune conditions. Most people in the West spend way too much time on a chair or sofa.
The thing is, it’s not our fault. We’ve been conditioned to sit down most of the time, plus nutrition has never been high up on the educational agenda. Not to mention, we party and celebrate with foods and beverages that are quite frankly toxic.
That being said, some people are genetically predisposed to developing an autoimmune disease. This commonly comes from the exact same issue but it’s handed down from generation to generation.
We need to learn to live in a more healthy way to live our best life. Thankfully, we have high-quality supplements at hand to get our system to begin to find balance and fight back against all of the damage.
In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids for warding off autoimmune conditions.
What is Autoimmune Disease & Can It Be Treated Naturally?
Autoimmune disease is more common than you’d think. It affects more than 4 million people in the UK.
There are eighty different types of autoimmune disease. The most common are diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Autoimmune disease is described as a disorder that happens when the body’s natural defences turn against itself. For example, in just about every type of autoimmune disease inflammation is at play.
Inflammation is a natural process that your body uses to protect itself against trauma or foreign invaders like bacteria or toxic chemicals. But when this process goes into overdrive it can damage cells and organs of the body.
Thankfully, there are several natural compounds that can help reduce inflammation. Healing roots like turmeric, garlic, and ginger are high up on the list of natural remedies.
Stress can also exacerbate autoimmune conditions. Therefore taking up relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature can help a lot.
Autoimmune disease is more prevalent in women but the jury is out as to why this is the case. A whopping 80% of those with autoimmune diseases are women. If I were to guess why… it would be the added pressures of motherhood and the toll that it plays on your body, or possibly it could be to do with hormones.
Vitamin D, Omega-3 & Autoimmune Disease
Vitamin D is critical for the cells of your body to function properly as it provides the necessary compounds like ATP, to power cells. For that reason, vitamin D deficiency is linked to autoimmune disease.
Taking a vitamin D supplement when you live in the UK is important, especially if you are pregnant or it is winter. Vitamin D is required for healthy teeth and bones and is created when we spend sufficient time in sunlight.
But with just eight hours of sunlight in the long winter months, most of these hours happen when we’re working. It’s difficult to get anywhere near the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
Dr. Karen Costenbader, director of the Lupus Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is an expert in this area. She explains, “In past observational studies, lower rheumatoid arthritis (RA) risk has been observed in those with increased fatty fish intake.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most potent immunomodulatory supplements. Reducing the amount of pro-inflammatory molecules (like cytokines).
Top 5 Omega-3 Rich FoodsRather than simply offering the normal fish-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, I thought it’d be a good idea to offer the best 5 plant-based omega-3 rich foods, alongside the more common fish sources. In order of concentration in omega-3’s here are the top fish-based omega-3 fatty acids:
- Mackerel - not only the highest omega-3s, but mackerel is also largely thought of as more sustainable. With 4,107 mg per 100 g.
- Salmon - Comparable to algal oil, salmon offer 4,123 mg per 100 g.
- Cod liver oil - the most common omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Provides 2,682 mg per tablespoon.
- Sardines - more sustainable than larger fish, sardines provide 2,205 mg per 100 g.
- Caviar - good news for all those that love to impress, as caviar offers 1,086 mg per 100 g.
Top 5 Plant-Based Omega-3 Rich FoodsOne caveat I’d like to add here is that most of the plant-based omega-3 rich foods are highest in ALA, which is just one of the omega-3s. ALA can be transformed into other types of omega-3 fatty acids in the liver, but that relies on the liver functioning at its best.
- Algae/ Algal oil - while many of the vegan sources of omega-3s only contain ALA, algal oil contains both EPA and DHA. In fact, it is this is the algae that the fish eat to provide the omega-3s in fish. One study found that algae oil was comparable to salmon, and it stands out as a perfect vegan omega-3 supplement.
- Chia Seeds - two tablespoons, or 28 grams of chia seeds provide more than enough omega-3 fatty acids. Provides a whopping 5,060 mg per 28 g.
- Brussels sprouts (& other cruciferous vegetables) - One study found that eating more cruciferous vegetables lowered the risk of heart disease (which is another autoimmune disorder) by 16%.
- Hemp seeds - a powerhouse of nutrition, just 30 grams of hemp seeds will provide your daily dose of (ALA) omega-3s.
- Walnuts - similar to chia seeds and hemp seeds, 28 grams of walnuts will provide your daily dose of (ALA) omega-3s. Provides 2,570 mg per 28 g.
Can You Take Omega-3 & Vitamin D Together?
You most certainly can.
Moreover, vitamin D when combined with omega-3 has been shown to reduce the risk of developing autoimmune disease. Vitamin D or omega-3 alone will help, but the combination of both is far superior.
One study in elderly patients found that taking both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplements daily for 5 years reduced the risk for developing an autoimmune disease by 25-30%.
Dr. Costenbader and her colleagues studied 25,871 adults over the age of 50 in a project named Vital. The vital trial ran from 2011 until 2017. They looked at how the consumption of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids impacted autoimmune conditions.
Interestingly, it was the consistent and prolonged intake of the supplements that helped the most.
“The more pronounced effect after 2–3 years of use with vitamin D makes sense biologically and supports long-term use,” Dr. Costenbader advised.
Taking vitamin D alongside omega-3 fatty acids every day promotes their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. This is especially true as a preventative measure.
A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can cause inflammation and this, in turn, will impact those with auto-immune disease.
Most people don’t eat enough omega-3’s in their daily diet. Fish is the main source for most people. For vegans and vegetarians, algae is the go-to source for omega-3. But who eats high doses of algae, apart from avid fitness enthusiasts?
Because we often don’t eat enough of these essential nutrients, it can be a good idea to supplement.
Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of health
Nutrition is one of the cornerstones of health. When combined with exercise and practices to reduce stress, nutrition can unlock greater health.
Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are two of the key nutrients to consume to reduce inflammation, and boost energy. In turn, this can begin to lessen the effects of autoimmune conditions which are so prevalent in the west.
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
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