Anxiety is prevalent and the importance of nutrition is often underestimated in the management of mental health disorders. Supplementing with fish oil can be helpful for patients dealing with anxiety, and the mechanisms of action are quite interesting.
Review Of Research
A systematic review of the research investigated the efficacy and the mechanisms of action of fish oil in the treatment of anxiety.
Firstly, it’s been demonstrated through both observational and experimental studies that omega-3 supplementation through fish oil has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety.
The potential mechanisms involved are:
- Inflammatory Response: inflammation is one of the contributing factors behind anxiety. Certain inflammatory cytokines, which are measurable in the blood are associated with anxiety. Fish oil (which is an omega-3 fatty acid) supplementation is known to reduce these inflammatory cytokines and is one of the proposed mechanisms behind improved anxiety symptoms , .
- BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor): BDNF is a type of protein that helps regulate brain cell growth and differentiation. It’s proposed that low BDNF is associated with things like anxiety and depression. Supplementing with fish oil has been shown to increase BDNF levels and is thus one of the mechanisms of improving anxiety symptoms with supplementation.
- Cortisol: cortisol is a stress hormone which is released through the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Anxiety is associated with a hyperactive HPA axis. Some of the symptoms of anxiety are a result of HPA dysregulation and too much cortisol – so being able to lower cortisol will be helpful in some cases of anxiety. Fish oil appears to trigger these beneficial changes to cortisol.
Beyond the effects on brain health, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids can also help cardiovascular disease, joint health and more!
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About the Author - Dr. Johann de Chickera
Dr. Johann is a fully licensed Naturopathic Doctor. His approach emphasizes the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and improving one’s health naturally. Dr. Johann obtained a Doctor of Naturopathy at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). Education at CCNM is a vigorous four years, with a curriculum involving biomedical sciences, physical diagnosis, clinical nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, botanical (herbal) medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy and lifestyle management.
While Dr. Johann has a general practice, he focuses on fertility, hormonal imbalances, gut health, and autoimmune disease.
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