Hormones traverse the body and relay information that influences various aspects of health including metabolism, neurological function, fat retention, mood and more. Therefore, maintaining proper hormone balance and function is essential.
An effective method of achieving better hormone balance is by increasing or optimizing individual levels of omega-3 fatty acids. However, before doing so, it is important to know what omega-3 fatty acids are, their effect on hormone balance, and how to acquire them at the highest quality.
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized from polyunsaturated fats and are used in the formation of hormone-like substances known as eicosanoids. Signaling molecules such as these regulate important bodily functions including cell growth, blood pressure, immune activity, inflammatory action, and platelet production.
Omega-3s are also essential nutrients meaning that they are critical to proper bodily function but are not produced or synthesized by the body. Therefore, omega-3 must be acquired through an external source such as diet or supplementation.
Omega-3s are widely known for their numerous health benefits such as limiting inflammation, reducing the risk neurological and cardiovascular disease, supporting eye and brain function, and many others. However, one of the commonly overlooked characteristics of omega-3 is its positive impact on hormone balance.
How Does Omega-3 Improve Hormone Balance?
Hormone imbalances can lead to severe dysfunction and major health issues. Therefore, employing effective, healthy methods of maintaining an appropriate balance is important. Omega-3 positively effects hormones in a variety of ways.
Saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are necessary components of cell function and are integral in the creation of hormones. Without a healthy supply of omega-3, the body has difficulty producing the hormones it needs and must instead rely on lower quality fats.
In addition to supporting the construction of hormones, omega-3s also support hormone transport and communication. This is facilitated by omega-3s impact on hormone receptor sites. Omega-3 makes it easier to trigger an intended response while utilizing less energy and fewer hormones. Furthermore, other studies have found that greater consumption of long-chain omega-3s may diminish insulin resistance, which is associated with obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome, and gestational diabetes.
Female-specific benefits of omega-3 can be seen through its impact on inflammation and estrogen. Typically, excess estrogen or estrogen dominance is a major cause of menstrual difficulties and has been linked to greater occurrence of breast cancer. Imbalance of female sex hormones such as estrogen can result in premenstrual syndrome, fertility problems, endometriosis, fibroids, hot flashes, mood swings and breast tenderness. Furthermore, reduced levels of omega-3 typically induce low-grade inflammation, which can exacerbate these symptoms. Adding omega-3 to the system limits inflammation and helps regulate estrogenic production and activity. This is because omega-3s, specifically those found in fish oil, contain lignans. These compounds produce a weaker estrogenic impact and take the place of stronger estrogen hormones at receptor sites, which helps balance estrogen related activity. With the introduction of omega-3 a receptor site receives a milder input instead of being overwhelmed with excess estrogen allowing for a more appropriate response.
The impact of omega-3 regarding men’s health involves a variety of hormones including testosterone and cortisol. Typically, low testosterone levels in men produce symptoms such as low libido and lack of stamina. Studies have found that men with low testosterone typically have low omega-3 levels as well. Resolving the omega-3 deficit aided in the rebalancing of testosterone production and transport. Another study found that the performance of male participants during a mental stress test improved with greater consumption of omega-3. After participants completed a three-week period of greater omega-3 consumption the initial test was retaken. Results showed a lower production of cortisol and epinephrine, the hormones responsible for stress, during the second test than the first. The regulatory effect of omega-3 on these areas is impressive and generally only requires greater intake of these powerful fatty acids.
What Foods Contain Omega-3s?
Depending on where they are sourced omega-3s will have varying degrees of efficacy. Animal-based omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are considered more impactful and beneficial than plant-based omga-3 alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). This in part due to the fact that ALA or plant-based omega-3s are ultimately converted into EPA and DHA but at a low rate. Therefore, greater consumption of ALA is typically not as effective as increasing intake of animal-based omega-3s. Plant-based omega-3s are not harmful but are simply not as efficient as animal-based omega-3s. Ideally, your diet would contain an appropriate balance of ALA, EPA, and DHA.
Animal-based sources of omega-3 (EPA and DHA):
- Fresh and wild caught fish
- Plant-based sources of omega-3 (ALA):
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Green leafy vegetables
- Hempseed oil
- Perilla seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Wheat germ oil
Omega-3s can be found in a wide variety of foods but fish is easily the most prominent source. Fish oil is the most concentrated form of Omega-3 as approximately 30% of its total fat content is composed of this beneficial substance. However, it is important to include antioxidants with fish oil supplementation. As a perishable product, fish oil may oxidize and form free radicals that can damage the body. Increasing intake of antioxidants can help combat this issue.
Furthermore, even though fish is a primary source of Omega-3 it is important to consume quality products. Fish that reside lower on the food chain, typically smaller fish, have a greater risk of containing heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. A notable percentage of the commercial fish supply contain toxins and pollutants like cadmium, PCBs, and radioactive elements that negatively impact health.
For those who don’t enjoy seafood or would rather limit their risk of exposure to contaminants, a high-quality omega-3 supplement can be used to improve individual levels. Holtraceuticals’ Ultra Omega contains EPA and DHA omega-3s sourced from fish oil, therefore maintaining the highest quality of omega-3. Furthermore, Ultra Omega has an absorption rate that is three times higher than other leading fish oil formulations. This facilitates the body’s use of omega-3s contained in Ultra Omega and prompts greater results than typical omega-3 supplements. If you are taking blood-thinning medication it is best to speak with a medical practitioner before commencing supplementation with any omega-3 product.
All About the Omegas
Although the positive effects of omega-3s are broad, it is important to identify specific attributes such as their powerful role in hormone balance. Having a better understanding of omega-3s, their influence on hormone activity, and the many different methods of acquiring them facilitates greater wellness through more optimized nutrition.