You read that correctly. As you can probably imagine, WHAT you eat matters, but the idea is still pretty powerful. When you hear the phrase “You are what you eat”, do you actually think about what this means? As we’ll discuss today, this is very literally true, and has some incredible applications.
If you think back to eighth grade biology, you remember the pictures of a human cell. Big squishy round thing in the middle (nucleus), a covering that looks like it’s made of Skittles (cell membrane) and with a bunch of funny looking stuff floating around inside (endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, etc). It’s a whole lot more complicated than this, but that’s not the point. Each part of that cell is composed of fats and proteins that come from the food we eat.
The part of the cell that is especially important for our topic today is the cell membrane (the Skittle covering). The membrane is made of the fats that you eat, primarily omega-3 and omega-6 fats. If you’ve heard any thing about eating salmon or taking fish oil to increase he omega-3s in your diet, then you already know how healthy these essential fats are. Have you ever considered why?
The cell membrane (made omega-6s and omega-3s) is responsible for regulating inflammation in the body. When you think of inflammation you probably think of a sprained ankle or when you hit your thumb with a hammer. This is acute inflammation, and it’s normal and healthy. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is when your body is always producing low levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals. This chronic inflammation occurs when the cell membranes have too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. When the body is always inflammed this leads to problems such as heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain, even cancer.
This is why supplementing wiith omega-3s (fish oil, flaxseed oil) and eating foods rich in omega-3s helps to fight inflammation. Even more important is limiting the amount of omega-6 fats in your diet. These are found primarily in grains, vegetable oils, and processed foods. Studies have shown that a diet rich in omega-3s helps to prevent conditions ranging from heart disease to Alzheimers. In Europe, fish oil is prescribed to help patients recovering from a heart attack or stroke. In my practice, I’ve found patients who are supplementing with omega-3s have less pain and recover faster. If you have questions on what type of fish oil is best or how much is necessary for you, our staff can help you make good decisions.
So next time you’re about to eat another meal of processed, pro-inflammatory, omega-6 laden food, decide if you want to be eating to cause pain, or if you want to choose health! If back or neck pain is keeping you from doing the things you love, be aware that the inflammation in your body might be related to the inflammation from your plate!