OMEGA 3 BENEFITS
Diet, Stress, and Emotions: The
Today, biochemists are on the verge of understanding how
emotions, mediated by hormones, impact the physiological function
of our body. If hormones, indeed, play a central role in our psychological
well being, then my dietary recommendations should, in theory,
lead us to a healthier emotional state as well as to a healthier
Here’s a quick review of the emotional map of your brain—just
in case you’ve never taken a college-level neurology course.
Your brain stores and generates emotions in its limbic system,
which is the most primitive portion of the brain. The limbic system
also contains two other structures called the hypothalamus and
the hippocampus. The hippocampus stores dry, unemotional facts
for recall, such as where you live and your spouse’s work
number. The hypothalamus acts as the commander-in-chief of your
hormonal communication system, deciding which gland should release
what amounts of hormones at what particular time.
The central processing facility for your emotional memories is
called the amygdala. If you’re, say, having a heated argument
with a driver who just rear-ended your car, the incoming words
are filtered through your hippocampus, amygdale, and frontal cortex
(the thinking part of the brain) to decide whether or not an appropriate
hormonal response needs to be generated by the hypothalamus. Ultimately,
your limbic system forms the basis behind the mind-body connection.
As you argue with the driver, your heart rate speeds up and you
begin to sweat. All of these physiological reactions result from
the hormone flow that was initiated by your hypothalamus as a
result of emotional distress perceived by your limbic system.
This is an extremely simplified explanation of what’s really
happening in your brain. So, you can imagine how much more complex
your emotional system really is.
Although the range of emotions that your brain processes and
stores is complex, the chemicals that mediate these emotions are
not. The two primary mediators of emotions are cytokines (hormones
that are involved in inflammation) and eicosanoids. High-dose
Ultra Refined fish oil gives you the ability to control both cytokines
and eicosanoids and thus can help you deal with the wide variety
of emotional issues that take place in your life. *
How the Immune System Affects Emotions
It is clear that when you are ill, more pro-inflammatory cytokines
will be released by your immune cells to fight infections. The
cytokines produced by your immune cells are too big to cross the
blood-brain barrier, but they can interact with receptors on the
surface of this barrier to make pro-inflammatory “bad”
eicosanoids that can easily cross into the brain. Once inside
the brain, these pro-inflammatory eicosanoids can now stimulate
the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines inside the brain.
The brain responds to this new round of inflammation inside its
boundaries by sending out for more cortisol to be secreted by
the adrenal glands. Now the emotion-inflammatory cycle is complete
from initial stress response perceived by the brain to immune
response and back to an increased stress response within the brain.
To control your emotions and your immune system, you have to
have some means to break this inflammatory cycle.
A blood test called the AA/EPA ratio measures the amount of Omega
3 compared to Omega 6 in one’s blood as the benchmark for
judging silent inflammation in the body. AA, or arachidonic acid,
is an Omega 6 fat that causes a pro-inflammatory hormonal response,
while EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid, is an Omega 3 fat that causes
an anti-inflammatory hormonal response. By balancing this AA/EPA
level in the blood, one will be able to control silent inflammation.
The ideal marker for wellness is an AA/EPA ratio of 1.5.
We know that depression is highly associated with increased levels
of “bad” eicosanoids in the brain and an increased
AA/EPA ratio (a measurement of silent inflammation) in the blood
of depressed people. Both of these observations strongly suggest
the underlying role of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids in depression.
Furthermore, the increase in the AA/EPA ratio of depressed patients
may help explain why depression seems to accelerate the development
of both cancer and heart disease, two diseases that have strong
The ancient Roman physician Galen recognized this fact when he
commented that depressed women were more prone to breast cancer
than their more cheerful counterparts. This also explains why
depressed individuals have depressed immune systems with abnormally
low levels of natural killer cells, lymphocytes, and T-helper
cells. This same immune system depression has been observed in
individuals who report being chronically stressed or those who
have been given a single injection of corticosteroids.
On the opposite extreme of the emotional spectrum is laughter,
which is associated with decreased cortisol production and increased
production of two types of immune cells, natural killer cells
and activated T-cells. This is why Norman Cousin wrote his famous
book on laughter as the best medicine against cancer. His theories
make perfect sense if you understand the role of eicosanoids and
cytokines in cancer.
Hormonal messengers, such as cytokines and eicosanoids, mediate
the communication between the brain and immune system. The complexity
of these interactions is increased because both eicosanoids and
cytokines can influence each other. Think of cytokines and eicosanoids
as the grammar of the very complex language of emotions. And without
the right grammar, every type of language is difficult to understand.
Improving Your Emotional State
If your emotions affect your physiological health, can your diet
affect your emotions? I believe that it can and that you can enhance
your emotional well being with the foods you choose to eat—provided
you make the correct choices. My dietary recommendations have
the potential to improve your emotional state in three ways.
First, supplementation with high-dose fish oil
reduces your levels of both pro-inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids.
Second, stabilizing insulin levels will reduce
the output of cortisol (which is often released in response to
decreased blood sugar levels).
Third, high- dose fish oil also increases the
production of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in
your brain, which allows you to adapt to stress more effectively.
How Your Emotions Can Control Your Diet
Now that you understand how your diet can manipulate your emotions,
you also need to consider how your emotions can manipulate your
diet. If you are depressed (which means you probably have a high
AA/EPA ratio and low serotonin levels) or are physically or mentally
stressed (which increases cortisol levels), you are likely have
cravings for carbohydrate-rich comfort foods like mashed potatoes,
candy bars, and pizza.
These foods do provide temporary emotional comfort by increasing
blood sugar levels and serotonin levels in your brain. Two or
three hours after eating these foods, however, your insulin levels
will soar, causing your blood sugar levels to plunge. This forces
your body to increase cortisol production to maintain adequate
blood sugar levels to the brain. Thus, you’ll wind up increasing
your production of cortisol, which will, in turn, generate more
depression and require another cycle of self-medication with carbohydrates.
You might try to solve these mood swings with more comfort food,
but all you’re doing is setting off a continuing cascade
of hormonal events that will continue to thwart your efforts to
lift your spirits. In fact, you’re also giving yourself
a sure-fire prescription for accelerated aging and continued emotional
lows. On the other hand, improved control of insulin and the corresponding
improvement of your eicosanoid balance using high-dose fish oil
will lead to far better emotional health. I’m not saying
that my dietary recommendations can totally control your emotions,
but they will you give significantly more control than you probably
In the final analysis, your emotions and your immune system are
intertwined in a complex orchestration. As you begin to understand
how emotions stem from hormonal communication, you will have a
starting point to develop dietary strategies to improve emotional
control. The “mind-body” connection really becomes
the “mind-body-diet” connection, and my dietary recommendations
should become your primary tool to improve emotional control.
Conversely, the wrong diet (especially one deficient in high-fish
oil and rich in carbohydrates) is your passport to emotional chaos.
The choice is yours.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and
Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure, or prevent any disease. As with any natural product,
individual results will vary.
For more information about Dr. Barry Sears, his incredible fish
oil supplements, or the popular Zone Diet, please visit www.zoneliving.com.
If you purchase any Zone Labs, Inc. products, part of the
proceeds support CBN ministries.
Dr. Barry Sears is a leader in the field of
dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist
at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his efforts over
the past 25 years to the study of lipids and their inflammatory
role in the development of chronic disease. He holds 13 U.S. patents
in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal
regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
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