If you suffer from chronic pain, Halloween frights are mild compared to the dread of each new day.
The moment you open your eyes in the morning, you know you’ll have to cope with aching, burning, or throbbing discomfort in your joints, muscles, or any number of spots throughout your body.
And drug painkillers? The ravages of those can be scarier than any horror film.
In Dr. Fred Pescatore’s Pain-Free Life Protocol, he suggests implementing two major lifestyle interventions to minimize inflammation so that you can maximize pain relief:
- An anti-inflammatory diet
- A nutritional supplement regimen
And you can check both of those boxes by incorporating one of Dr. Pescatore’s standout inflammation-fighting nutrients: omega-3 fatty acids.
Four key ways omega-3s improve pain conditions
Let’s first take a look at how you can incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. According to Dr. Pescatore, this is a great place to start reducing inflammation and balancing out your omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
He explains, “A diet that includes too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s is a diet sure to ignite inflammation, a root cause of a lot of bodily pains (not to mention chronic disease).”
The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is 1:1, but unfortunately, most diets don’t come near that ratio—not even close. That’s because fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, etc.) are your key sources of omega-3s, while omega-6s are plentiful in carbohydrate-heavy processed foods, as well as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, soybeans, etc.
To get an idea of the drawbacks of consuming a lopsided ratio, Dr. Pescatore cites a study where a combination of high omega-6 and low omega-3 was linked to four significant outcomes:
- More pain
- More pain sensitivity
- More day-to-day physical limitations
- More emotional distress
Those alone are four excellent motivators to include more omega-3s in your diet!
To obtain these, Dr. Pescatore recommends a minimum of two servings of fatty fish every week. Studies have linked two weekly portions of fish to noticeable pain reduction—even in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a famously painful and debilitating condition.
Order the fish, but take the supplements too
Unfortunately, there’s one caveat to relying on fish for your omega-3 intake: dosage.
Dr. Pescatore explains, “There’s no real way to say how much actual fish oil makes its way to your dinner plate, because oil leeches out of food during cooking.
“So unless you take standardized fish oil supplements, you’ll never know exactly how much fish oil—or to be more precise, how many of the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids—you’re actually getting from eating fish twice a week.”
But what you can be sure about are the science-backed benefits that come with fish oil supplementation. Decades of research points to the pain-relief benefits of two key omega-3 fatty acids—EPA and DHA.
Dr. Pescatore highlights three revealing investigations:
- Reporting in the journal Pain Physician, researchers reviewed more than 50 studies. They concluded that omega-3 supplementation resulted in vast improvements in chronic pain.
- In another review of 18 studies, fish oil supplements reduced pain in more than 1,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- In a study of 21 men, half took a daily dose of 600 mg of EPA and 260 mg of DHA on the eight days before a session of intense exercise. The men who got the fish oil had much less muscle soreness on the two days after the intense exercise.
And Dr. Pescatore raves about omega-3 supplementation not only because of its pain relieving powers, but also for the support it provides for the health of your heart, brain, and gut microbiome. But to get these benefits, it’s crucial that you take a high-quality supplement…
Five criteria for a quality supplement
Because omega-3 in fish oil is one of the most important supplements you can take, Dr. Pescatore offers five guidelines, starting with dosage:
- In Dr. Pescatore’s view, the key information to look for in any high-quality omega-3 supplement is the EPA/DHA content. He says, “You need to take 3,000 mg of EPA/DHA every day—not just 3,000 mg of fish oil.” Don’t bother with brands that contain only a few hundred mg of EPA/DHA, which isn’t a large enough daily dose to relieve pain.
- Purchase fish oil supplements packaged in a dark glass or plastic bottle. Direct light oxidizes the oil and makes it rancid.
- Heat also oxidizes fish oil, so store your supplement bottle in a cool location, like the refrigerator.
- Always check the expiration date to ensure you’re using the freshest fish oil.
- Split up dosages throughout the day. Dr. Pescatore recommends 1,000 mg at every meal to keep EPA and DHA levels “maximally high.”
If your daily fish oil supplement hits all five of those marks, Dr. Pescatore predicts your pain management efforts will be much more effective. And that’s especially true if you try the other four inflammation- and pain-fighting supplements he highlights in his Pain-Free Life Protocol.