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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Omega-3

Once in a very great while I do actual work for this blog. It will be disguised behind all the sarcasm, but it's there. I'm not inclined right now to do any work -- looking things up, providing documentation. Even with some good resources right at my side, it seems like too much of a bother. So if you're looking for scholarship, keep moving. But if you'll be satisfied, or at least intrigued, by conclusions, then I'm your man.

I never had any sustained physical pain until I started my sport. Even as a runner, or doing strength training, it was just the occasional soreness, localized and a sign of progress. But three years of grappling was more unrelieved stress than my system could handle, and pain became a constant presence. I was willing to put up with that, because the payoff seemed greater. Not good in terms of health, but there are actually things more important than health.

The ache. It has been constant.

I finally figured it out. It is a symptom of subclinical systemic inflammation. There are tests for it, C-reactive protein and other such markers. It's a serious thing. In my case, not so very much a function of diet, as frank abuse of my capacity for exercise. And the stress builds up and up, with insufficient recovery time, until it breaks through the consciousness threshold and manifests, in my case, as constant ache, relieved only by the endorphins of grappling.

Given that I am unwilling to slow down, could there be another fix? I simply will not take pain killers, on a regular basis. Anti-inflammatories. NSAIDs. Some other way of turning off the on-switch? It seems that there is.

As I say, I finally put it together. The standard American diet is just poisonous. SAD. Lots of reasons, but in this instance because of the vegetable oils. Starting largely after WWII, animal fats were replaced by vegetable oils in cooking. Crisco. Mazola. Hydrogenated fats, whereby lipids that should be liquid are processed so that they are solid at room temperature. Pretty unnatural, but that's only a philosophical problem. The real problem is the omega-6s. I call them the C's and the S's. Corn, cotton, canola, soy, safflower and sunflower oils. Effectively universal in any food that comes in a box, and almost entirely omega-6s. Big deal, right? We need omega-6s. They are essential for healthful functioning.

Problem is, it's too much. Like gay porn, that goes right to the sodomy. Sodomy should be special. So should omega-6. Get just enough. Cuz it is the precursor to the inflammatory and coagulating hormones. We need them or we'd bleed out, or be unable to fight infections. There has to be an on-switch.

But there must be an off-switch too. Like muscles, hormones work in opposition to each other. And the precursors, the building blocks of the anti-inflammatory hormones, the off-switches, are the omega-3. That's the problem with the SAD. Estimates vary, but the consensus seems to be that the ratio between omega-6s and -3s is about 30 to one. That amounts to a 30 times greater inclination to start inflammation than to stop it. See? After a while, any slight stress results in a virtually hysterical inflammatory response. Wild fire. No balance.

I think the theory is crap, but the results are clear, about the so-called Paleo-Diet. Eat like hunter-gatherers, cuz that's what Evolution made us for. Crap. But do eat like hunter-gatherers. Cuz it's whole foods, lots of fruits and berries and herbs and veggies and nuts, not a lot of grains, and the meat is very high in omega-3. That, my dear lost pagan child, is the Eden Diet -- save for the meat, which makes it the Noah Diet. It's a perfectly anti-inflammatory nutrition system. Game meat is high in omega-3, corn-fed meat is high in omega-6. See?

So a couple of weeks ago I realized that the ratio between these lipids is 30:1 for most Americans, whereas it should be about 1:1. How can that level be reached? Because the level of omega-6s that I get would be less than most, but probably still fairly high. Well the simple answer is simply to match, gram for gram, 3's for 6's.

I call it omega-3, but it's really fish oil. And I've been vegetarian for 30 years. But it's about health. So I have been megadosing on, ahem, fish oil. Ordinarily I simply wouldn't need it. But I'm a middle-aged guy under too much stress. And food just isn't what it used to be. So. Y'know how the supplement bottle says take one capsule daily? One gram? No. And not five, and not ten, and not twenty. In fact, I'm not taking capsules at all. I bought the liquid form, and I swig it. I haven't been measuring. Probably between 50 and 70 grams per day.

So I've given it something over a week, and the results are very, very real. I feel better by orders of magnitude. There is still some slight sensation. But it's nothing. Being me, I'm cautious about grand announcements. Who knows what can go wrong. One can hardly trust anything, as life keeps on teaching us. But the alternative is to give up. One of the things I like about my sport is that, fundamental to its success, is to yield before pressure, and exploit that momentum. Well I'm not very good at that, but I like the idea, and I keep trying to learn it. Point is, this seems to be something that will help. We'll see.

You look at where you put your resources. Omega-3 oil is expensive. But the health benefits are huge. I've never heard of anyone doing what I'm doing. I know there are lots of data regarding actual cures of serious diseases, but I'm taking much more than anything I've ever read about. That's just me. Question is, is it worth it? Figure about 20 bucks a week. You spend that much on ice cream.

This is the best price I've found. If you find better, let me know.


J

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We've got a bottle of Carlson's (lemon flavor, please!) in our fridge and your post reminded me to take my daily swig. I've told my sons a number of times over the years that it's the only flask they'll ever need. Good stuff!

Here's a link to your sport so others can see why you may, competing at 48 years old, have developed an ache or two.

Thanks!
Jeanette

Will C. said...

(Note: the following to be spoken in Sam Kinison voice for proper effect)
Or Jack...you could...eat some fish!!! OW OWWW OWW!

;)

Not the farm-raised stuff mind you but perhaps a nice Alaskian salmon.
Cod liver oil can be pretty cheap too and can raise your HDL levels as well.

Jack H said...

Shoes.