When I first learned that taking fish oil specifically Omega 3 for depression worked, I wondered, “Could it help my patients?” I said, “of course, Silly.” That’s my nickname for myself when the oblivious is present. Clients often feel self-doubt, sadness, anxiety, or fear all can be associated with depression.
Considering omega-3 for depression isn’t a common thing for many people because they never are told there are natural alternatives. So how does it work and stack up as a natural medicine for mental health care?
According to, a large Norwegian study of nearly 22,000 participants consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids may offer powerful protection against depression. Those taking Cod Living oil, for instance, were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. Now, this isn’t a new study; it’s from 2007! Also, the FDA instructed all drug manufacturers to add black box warnings (the most serious warning label for prescription medicine) to their antidepressant drugs. Again, this was before 2007. If you take prescription antidepressant medicine has your doctor told you about this warning? This information is over a decade old!
What Is Omega-3?
To fight depression, you’ll need all three types of Omega 3. The big problem for Vegans is that only 5-15% of ALA gets converted to EPA or DHA the form the body ultimately uses.
Omega-3 oils are a complicated essential fatty acid. There are three types. EPA and DHA known as long chain omega-3 fats or PUFA’s [polyunsaturated fatty acids]. Seafood and marine algae [plants] and yes beef all contain PUFA’s. Certain plants contain the short-chain omega-3 or alpha-linolenic acid [ALA]. These include flax, hemp, pumpkin seeds and walnuts for instance. To fight depression, you’ll need all three types of Omega 3. The big problem for Vegans is that only 5-15% of ALA gets converted to EPA or DHA the form the body ultimately uses. Does this mean that Vegans should be taking specific Omega 3 for depression? Absolutely! It also means most of us should. It also means if you love nuts, you aren’t getting as much protein as hoped.
Why You Should be Taking Omega 3 For Depression
I’m talking about as a preventive tool and treatment. Feelings of unworthiness, sadness, or self-doubt are often learned behaviors. What I mean is our past experiences cause us to feel like we aren’t good enough, or that we can’t make good choices. If our brains need a healthy balance of essential fatty acids to navigate these feelings and be able to change old patterns then using western drugs only covers up mental health problems! These medicines are covering up a nutritional deficiency too in many cases.
Now that I’ve made my point this is why everyone needs to either supplement or eat mega amounts of certain fish. Let’s talk facts. All animal protein contains n-3 or Omega-3. Grass-fed beef, pastured chickens both contain n-3 just less than most sea animals. Being a Paleo or land mammal, a meat eater is healthy too. Like with food from the sea it’s more complicated. How clean, organic or not, the food or water this creature consumed.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in developing the central nervous system [CNS]. Along with how the CNS functions, it’s important to add the proper foods to your diet and take a supplement. Depression along with, inflammatory bowel disease, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), childhood allergies, and cystic fibrosis, and Cardiometabolic conditions are helped by taking essential fatty acids.
It gets complicated from here though. Remember the PUFA’s?
According to Alan C Logan, Lipids Health Dis. 2004; 3: 25, “Approximately 20% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of PUFA, and that one out of every three fatty acids in the central nervous system (CNS) are PUFA, the importance of these fats cannot be argued.” Wow. This is why you should be taking Omega 3 for depression – even if you’re happy as a clam.
Speaking of Food From the Sea
I think I want to eat more fish. Wait a minute because North Americans eat way too much Omega 6’s I would need to eat about 11oz. of Salmon daily, yes every day to have a balanced ratio in the average USA diet. There’s no way I can eat that much, can you? So what can you do instead?
Those Notorious Omega’6 Fatty Acids
In plain English, the amount of Omega 6 fats are not only causing inflammation, but they’re also making you sad or depressed. n-6 or Omega 6 foods are more dangerous for the heart likely than the brain, but the overabundance means our body function or balance is off. High n-6 means more inflammatory illness like arthritis too. Omega-6 increases aging and illness. It mucks up your sex life as well. Low libido or ED can be affected by too high Omega 6 ratio. Thus, age-related disease. Think Dementia.
So What Foods Contain Omega 6?
First, we do need this fatty acid too, just not in the large amounts we’re consuming.
“The body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are found in oils such corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut, and vegetable; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.”
How do we get less and have balance? Try Paleo mayonnaise and make your salad dressings from Olive oil. Forget the corn except for once a year when it’s fresh harvested. Indulge twice and then leave it completely out of your diet for the rest of the year. The ideal ratio is recommended at this time to be 2:1. Most clients I see are somewhere closer to 20:1.
Finding A Happy Essential Fatty Acid Balance
Let’s meet somewhere in the middle okay? Reduce eating out and if you do think about bringing your salad dressing. Call ahead and see if the restaurant makes their dressing and what type of oil they use. You can always ask for Olive Oil and Vinegar on the side. Next throw out all corn, safflower, sunflower, grape-seed, soy, peanut, or vegetable oils. Substitute avocado, olive, or coconut oil. Eat more Salmon or Herring both are higher in Omega-3 than beef. For animal protein, be picky. Eat grass-fed beef and pastured chickens who are eating non-GMO diets. Eggs that are ‘clean’ meaning they came from these kinds of chickens. What an animal eats is what you are consuming when you eat them. Remember this.
According to a study at California State University’s College of Agriculture, grass-fed beef nutrition includes significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Spend the money and stay healthy.
Beyond Essential Fatty Acids and PUFA’s
Our brains are complicated. We have thoughts and behaviors that likely began when you were young. This history can fuel feelings of depression. Recovery can be stagnated if you lack enough Essential Fatty Acids for brain health. Once many of my clients began taking the proper form of Omega-3 and amount along with dietary changes they feel happier. Many comment on more energy. Some talk about the medications they’ve reduced.
While the research is still inconclusive on how much this helps depression, we know it benefits us in many ways. For me, this is why you should take Omega 3 for depression even if you are healthy and happy. Let’s keep you that way.