Fish oil contains two naturally occurring fatty acids, EPA and DHA. These fatty acids stimulate the body’s anti-inflammatory processes and help relieve joint pain, much the same as NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors, but without the side effects. An excess of proinflammatory messenger molecules causes joint pain, and consumption of fish oil prevents this build up.
Both EPA and DHA are necessary for many functions in the body, but are not manufactured in the body in quantities sufficient for their use. Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, aids in the anti-inflammatory response of the body to pain. The fatty acid is converted to messenger molecules that relive both pain and inflammation in joints. EPA has the additional effect of preventing omega-6 fats from causing pain and inflammation.
Resent research has shown that a diet high in EPA fish oil reduced lower back pain in over 50% of sufferers. One hundred and twenty five participants with back pain were given 850 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA a day, and over half were able to discontinue prescription pain medication. Seventeen clinical trials have confirmed these results. The protocol of two to three grams of EPA and DHA a day for three months has been shown to reduce the intensity of joint pain, morning stiffness, painful joints, joint tenderness and the need for prescription pain medications, such as NSAIDs.
One of the causes of joint pain is the over-consumption of omega-6 fats in the modern American diet. Omega-6 fats are a necessary part of the diet; however, vegetable oils and overprocessed foods sway the balance that the body needs between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The best ratio for health is an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 3 to 1, but most Americans consume a ratio of 15 to 1. This is the cause of much chronic inflammatory joint and back pain.
Fish oil can be obtained from fatty fish, such as salmon, or in food supplements. Because of the pollution in the ocean, the source of the fresh fish must be evaluated to ensure that the fish does not contain mercury. One way to ensure this is by purchasing food supplements containing EPA and DHEA and the proper balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Be certain to note if the fish oil supplements are fresh and free of mercury, as tested in labs meeting the international pharmaceutical standards. Fresh fish oil should not have a bitter or fish-like taste.