Back to school shopping list: binders, lunchbox, pencils, erasers, paper… immunizations and physicals? That’s right!
August is here, which means the school year is also on its way. We know that right now your focus is probably on soaking up as much sun as possible, swimming, and eating watermelon, but soon parents and kids alike will have to gear up for fall schedules. Let us help you make the transition by giving you some tips on getting a couple important things that you may not think about out of the way before school starts. And we don’t mean finding the perfect backpack, we’re talking about your child’s health to-do list.
First Thing’s First: Back to School Sports Physicals
If your child is in any way active, you’ll want to make an appointment to get them in for a routine physical. Most school sports require a physical every year, so wouldn’t it be easy to just get it out of the way before your child’s sport even begins?
We know it’s hard to plan ahead sometimes, but trust us, you’ll thank yourself when spring comes and your kiddo’s baseball coach comes looking for a recent physical.
You may have some questions regarding specific rules and regulations of physicals, so we’ve compiled some answers:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When does my child need to begin getting physicals in the state of Oregon?
A. According to OregonLaws.org, once a child reaches 7th grade, he or she will need to have regular physicals to participate in sports. This also goes for all kids from 7th-12th grades.
Q. How often does my child need a physical?
A. In the state of Oregon, once every two years.
Q. Who can give a physical examination?
A. Traditional or licensed naturopathic physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or a chiropractic physician with clinical training.
Q. Where should I go?
A. Looking to get a sports physical in Creswell? Camas Swale Medical Clinic is having a special starting in August for back-to-school physicals. Come in soon to get a great rate for your child’s physical.
So you get to check this box off your list; what’s next? Immunizations.
Back to School Shots
Immunizations are extremely important to get for your child, and what’s a better time to get them out of the way than before school even starts? It’ll be so much easier to avoid the hassle of getting reminders from school and last minute appointments. Plus, August is National Immunization Month. It seems fitting, right before school, doesn’t it?
If you’re wondering what shots your child may need, look no further! See below for a handy general guide by grade. Full disclosure, these are general recommendations and we are aware not everyone will be on the same schedule. If you have questions about your child’s vaccinations, contact your medical provider.
18 months or older entering Preschool, Childcare, or Headstart:
- 4 Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP)
- 3 Polio 1 Varicella (chickenpox)
- 1 Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR)
- 3 Hepatitis B
- 2 Hepatitis A
- 3 or 4 Hib
Kindergarten or Grades 1-6:
- 5 Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP)
- 4 Polio
- 1 Varicella (chickenpox)
- 2 MMR or 2 Measles, 1 Mumps, 1 Rubella
- 3 Hepatitis B
- 2 Hepatitis A
- 5 Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP)
- 1 Tdap
- 4 Polio
- 1 Varicella (chickenpox)
- 2 MMR or 2 Measles, 1 Mumps, 1 Rubella
- 3 Hepatitis B
- 2 Hepatitis A
- 5 Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP)
- 1 Tdap
- 4 Polio
- 1 Varicella (chickenpox)
- 2 MMR or 2 Measles, 1 Mumps, 1 Rubella
- 3 Hepatitis B
For a more comprehensive, visual graph of vaccination guidelines, take a look here.
If you need immunizations or a sports physical in Creswell, Camas Swale can do both at the same time. We are happy to offer a program to help qualifying families pay for their children’s shots. Parents, if you have concerns or questions regarding immunizations, we would be happy to schedule an appointment to talk to you.
Does it feel like you’re suddenly hearing the phrase “gut health” everywhere you go? Recent studies are making it clear that it’s time to pay attention to the well-being of the gut and focus on healthy foods for your gut. Doctors, nutritionists, allergists, dermatologists, and even mental health therapists are taking note.
At Camas Swale, we are passionate about helping our patients get and stay healthy from the inside out. Regardless of the symptoms you experience, we are here to get to the root of the problem and make a plan for your well-being. Many medical concerns stem from an imbalance in the gut, and we can help you bring balance back to your body.
What Exactly is the “Gut”?
When the medical community talks about the gut or the gut microbiome, they typically are talking about the intestines. In the past, many people saw the digestive system as merely a long tube with one job: to process food and separate it into stuff the body can use and stuff it can’t.
New knowledge, however, shows us that it is so much more complicated than that. Up to 500 strains of bacteria reside in the intestinal tract, and most of them are helpful and beneficial to a person’s overall health. These good gut bacteria help your body use vitamins and minerals efficiently, ward off viruses and harmful bacteria, and digest food properly.
The small intestine has the mighty job of allowing beneficial nutrients into the bloodstream while keeping harmful particles moving along to be excreted. When the gut microbiome is in good health, this process works well. When the gut is out of balance, and too many harmful bacteria are growing, a surprising number of problems can arise.
What Can Go Wrong?
When the microbiome in your intestines isn’t in balance, many symptoms can manifest throughout your body. Some ailments have an obvious connection to gut health, but others may surprise you. Here are some of the top indicators of a gut health problem:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Many symptoms and discomforts, such as gas, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea, get a label of IBS. In reality, much of the trouble in this area is due to poor overall gut health.
- Food Sensitivities – When the gut isn’t functioning correctly, it can allow particles to escape into the bloodstream. This is often called leaky gut syndrome. This situation happens when the lining of the small intestine becomes too permeable. When things sneak into the bloodstream that don’t belong there, the body responds in uncomfortable ways.
- Brain Fog – When patients routinely feel lethargic and unable to focus, gut microbiome imbalances are often to blame.
- Skin Irritations – Eczema, acne, and rosacea can have a gut health component. Again, if the intestine is allowing foreign objects to escape, the body will respond, and often, the responses impact the skin.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Leaky gut syndrome triggers your body to believe that it is under attack. When this happens, the immune system can turn on the body, attacking it to fend off the intruders.
The Second Brain
Physical maladies are not the only problems that can occur with poor gut health. Researchers have been learning more and more about the gut-brain connection and the link to mental health. It turns out that the brain and the gut communicate with each other in at least two ways.
They have a physical link by way of the vagus nerve. This nerve is the direct connection between the gut and the brain. They also communicate chemically by utilizing neurotransmitters and hormones that carry messages.
Have you ever been so nervous about a presentation that you couldn’t eat or felt nauseous? We all experience the gut-brain connection at different times, but most of us have never recognized it for what it is. The two parts are communicating with each other.
People often attribute stomach issues like nausea and loss of appetite to anxiety and other mental health concerns. Scientists now realize that it may go the other way. Bacteria imbalances and excessive permeability in the gut actually may be causing mental health problems.
How Do You Balance Your Gut?
The body can do a remarkable job of healing and rebalancing itself under the right circumstances. One of the best things you can do to support your intestinal health is something everyone has to do every day – eat!
The key is choosing the right gut foods for optimal health and the ones that are right for your body. The following choices may prove to be just what you need to get your gut back in order so it can serve you and your good health:
- Mangoes – These nutritional powerhouses appear to help restore healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. They provide excellent nutrients and are a good source of fiber to boost the digestive tract.
- Yogurt – Packed with beneficial probiotics, and especially when you choose full-fat yogurt with no added sugars. These probiotic strains can help heal the lining of the gut, and help prevent food particles from leaking into the bloodstream.
- Salmon – Consuming wild-caught salmon gives your brain and gut a high dose of omega-3s. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and boost brain and gut health.
- Garlic and Onions – These pungent roots are full of prebiotics, which are food for the good bacteria in your gut.
- Fermented Foods – There is no shortage of fermented options on the market today. Just about every ancient civilization had a signature fermented food or drink, and finally, the western world is taking note. These options are critical to optimal gut health and provide significant numbers of probiotics. If you want to move beyond pickles, try any of these tasty choices:
Camas Swale is Here to Help
Dr. Armitage is excited to help you live your best life possible. Many times, that best life needs to start by addressing your gut health. At Camas Swale Medical Clinic, we focus on the whole body as we partner with you on your wellness path. Contact us today to make an appointment.
Do you find yourself feeling exhausted and no amount of caffeine seems to help? Do you notice when you finally fall into bed at the end of the day, the Sandman is nowhere to be found? That could be a symptom of adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands are located on the top of each kidney, and they produce hormones that aid in controlling blood sugar, burning protein and fat, and regulating blood pressure. They also react to stressors such as an illness or injury.
The adrenal glands produce two very important hormones called cortisol and aldosterone and also create other hormones such as adrenaline, and sex hormones called androgens. Most adrenal-related disorders are caused by the adrenal glands producing either too much or too little of these hormones.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is defined as “inadequate production of one or more of these hormones as a result of an underlying disease.” Adrenal fatigue has many names, and can sometimes be referred to as Adrenal Insufficiency or Addison’s Disease.
Studies have shown that you may be more likely to develop adrenal fatigue if you are in a stressful environment regularly. People such as shift workers, single parents, and students – especially those working while in school, are the most common types of people to develop adrenal fatigue. Those who abuse drugs and alcohol are also likely to develop adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. Adrenal Insufficiency
While adrenal fatigue can be referred to as adrenal insufficiency, it should be noted that many physicians consider adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency to be two different conditions. Adrenal fatigue cannot be detected by any test, while adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed through a series of blood tests. Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands cannot produce enough hormones, or when there is damage to the adrenal glands, or if there is a problem with the pituitary gland.
Symptoms for adrenal insufficiency may include dehydration, a constant state of confusion, weight loss, feeling weak, tired, or dizzy, low blood pressure, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
How is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed?
Physicians diagnose adrenal fatigue based on the patient’s symptoms. A physician may offer a blood or saliva test, but scientific studies do not support these tests to diagnose adrenal fatigue. Therefore, the results and analysis from these tests are not reliable and can’t be considered accurate.
However, because the adrenal glands produce cortisol, it is common for a corticotropin (ACTH) stimulation test to be ordered. Since the adrenal glands respond to stimulation by releasing cortisol, the stimulation test can either prove or disprove that the glands are burned out.
Aside from the corticotropin test, physicians may order other diagnostic testing to exclude the possibility of any other medical conditions, such as anemia, obstructive sleep apnea, irritable bowel syndrome, other thyroid issues, growth hormone deficiency, menopausal problems, low aldosterone or renin, or any other systemic illness. A patient’s physicians may work together to also exclude conditions such as depression or anxiety, poor diet, overtraining, or stress at home or work.
Adrenal fatigue can also be related to several other adrenal-related issues. Other adrenal-related problems can include thyroid issues, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), leaky gut or intestinal permeability, anxiety, cravings, weight gain, low blood pressure, or blood sugar imbalances. There are also several other adrenal gland disorders.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are said to include:
- constant exhaustion,
- trouble falling asleep,
- difficulty waking up,
- craving salt or sugar,
- unexplained weight loss,
- a reliance on substances such as caffeine,
- and nonspecific digestive issues.
It should also be noted that these so-called symptoms of adrenal fatigue are also symptoms of other medical conditions. Trouble falling asleep can be a sign of insomnia, constant exhaustion can be a sign of a mental illness such as depression, nonspecific digestive issues can be related to dietary problems, and craving salt can be a sign of dehydration. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor, to rule out the possibility of any other medical conditions.
How to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue
One of the significant ways that you can prevent adrenal fatigue is by not drinking caffeinated beverages. Easier said than done, but every time you consume caffeine, you activate the body’s fight or flight response. This starts what is called the HPA Axis – which consists of the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal areas of the brain, and then signals your body to release stress hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and cortisol.
The issue with activating your body’s fight or flight response is that instead of releasing adrenaline so that your body can react to an immediate stressor, you are training your body to release adrenaline every time you consume caffeine. Over time, your consumption of caffeine will begin to cause your adrenal glands to burn out.
Other ways that you can prevent adrenal fatigue include getting enough sleep and making time for rest and recovery. Meditation and yoga have been known to reduce your body’s cortisol levels significantly.
You should also make sure that you are getting enough vitamins in your daily routine. Specifically, vitamins such as magnesium, B and C can help prevent adrenal fatigue. Magnesium aids in calming and supporting the nervous system, improving your quality of sleep, reducing stress levels, and boosting energy production. Vitamin B is crucial when it comes to maintaining proper adrenal function, as it is your body’s anti-stress vitamin, and also aids in supporting your energy levels. As for vitamin C, your body uses this vitamin to produce stress hormones such as cortisol. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands use more vitamin C than they would on a regular daily basis.
Adrenal fatigue can be prevented, but if you think that you may be fighting it, and can’t seem to shake it, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your provider will be able to rule out any other issues that may be causing your symptoms and can help with a treatment plan for you.
Seeing your children in sick or in pain is hard. Seeing them sick over and over again with the same thing, and not being able to help, is even worse. For many families, recurring strep throat in a child is an unfortunate reality.
In the past, the only way to prevent chronic strep cases was to remove the child’s tonsils, which comes with its own plethora of dangers. New studies bring to light some answers for the families dealing with this painful illness.
Group A Streptococcus
Strep throat, caused by bacteria called Group A Streptococcus, presents itself as white puss-filled patches on the back of the throat, along with very red and inflamed tonsils. Strep throat is accompanied by a fever and a scratchy, painful sore throat.
What is Recurring Strep Throat
Our clinic sees cases of strep throat every year. When we see the same children over and over, it becomes classified as recurring. Strep is spread through close contact and respiratory particles, so children who attend school or daycare are likely to pick it up easier than those who are not exposed.
There have been recent studies that point to a link to genetic variances leaving some kids more susceptible to the bacteria than others. The researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology studied the removed tonsils of 26 children with chronic strep throat, and 39 sets of tonsils from children who didn’t suffer chronic strep, but had them removed for other reasons.
It was found that in children with chronic strep, the tissue genetically had weaker immune responses to the exposure of the bacteria. The tonsils of those children who were not chronic sufferers did not hold those same markers.
While the test base isn’t large enough to make any definitive conclusions, it is a good base to further research. Continuing research could open future doors to vaccines that will help prevent the recurrence of this miserable infection.
Dangers of Strep Throat
Strep throat nearly always comes with a high fever. A fever that is left untreated can cause damage to the heart, brain, and can cause kidney damage. For proper diagnosis and treatment, your child should be seen by their primary care physician. Their doctor can diagnose and prescribe the medications needed to get your child healthy again.
Throughout history, strep and other tonsil related illnesses have resulted in almost automatic tonsil removal. In recent decades, a child would need to see at least seven or eight occurrences of strep in a 12 month period to be considered for a tonsillectomy.
If the tonsils (and often the adenoids) are removed, it may not prevent strep throat and can contribute to future illnesses. The adenoids are the immune glands in the roof of the mouth, and they help your body create the antibodies to fight off infection. They’re often affected by strep throat, but removing them leaves your child vulnerable to other illnesses.
A tonsillectomy requires a hospital visit, anesthesia, and the possibility of complications due to excess bleeding, pain, infection, and more. It really should be a last resort. Furthering studies to create a vaccine for children with the genetic predisposition of this illness would help eliminate the need for this procedure, except in the worst cases.
It’s tempting to avoid the doctor’s visit and treat this illness with home remedies, but in this situation, all you’d be doing is treating the symptoms. While your child is taking their doctor-prescribed medications, you can help them manage their discomfort and try to avoid them spreading it to others.
Natural Symptom Remedies
It’s important to check with your child’s doctor before treating symptoms and pain related to strep throat. Here are a few options you can look into:
- Sleep – Lots of it. Our bodies natural recovery process is to shut down everything that’s non-essential and focus energy on healing. If your child is tired, encourage them to sleep. If they’re too uncomfortable to sleep, resting quietly or watching movies is a great alternative.
- Soft, Smooth Foods – Nothing irritates the throat quite like scratchy or sharp foods. Avoid crunchy things like chips and crackers. Instead, go for soft and smooth foods, like mashed potatoes and jello.
- Hydrate – Drink plenty of water. If your child doesn’t do well with water, try diluted juice, tea, Gatorade, and similar drinks. Less sugar is better, but whatever it takes to get your child to hydrate is good when they’re sick.
- Run a Humidifier – Cool mist humidifiers keep moisture in the air and soothe the soreness in the throat. If you’re an essential oil enthusiast, a diffuser can work for this purpose. Be sure to clear your oil choices with your child’s doctor.
Prevent the Spread of Strep Throat
- Washing your hands, and your child’s hands, is a good start to preventing the spread of any illness, but it’s not enough on its own. Strep is spread through close quarters and respiratory particles like those expelled by coughing.
- Keep antibacterial hand-sanitizer in every room. This will encourage the rest of the family to keep clean and safe, too.
- Cover coughs with disposable tissues; throw them away as soon as you can.
- Wipe all frequently used surfaces with antibacterial wipes.
- If your family is a large one, try to keep sick members isolated from healthy members to the best of your ability.
- Keep sick kids at home. Sending sick kids to school or taking them out in public encourages the spread of germs to those who are immunocompromised.
General cleanliness will help prevent the spread and possibly the recurrence of strep in your home. If it’s not enough, consult with your family doctor to help create an action plan to solve the issue.
Camas Swale Medical Clinic is Here to Help
We’re a partner in your family’s health, and we’re here to help you get and stay healthy. Call us today to schedule a general checkup to maintain your health, or to help you identify and treat injury or illness.
Traveling abroad is one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences you can have. Traveling can also be something you have to do for work, an event, or a special occasion like a destination wedding. Whether it’s a professional trip or for pleasure, it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and experience a new place and new people. There are, however, some things to keep in mind. No matter how seasoned a traveler you are, there are many things to do before traveling abroad to ensure that you stay healthy while in a new place.
We’ve highlighted 10 of the most important things you should do before traveling abroad below. Read on to find out how to stay in tip-top condition while exploring the world.
1. Research Your Destination
Are you heading to New Zealand, Thailand, or Israel? Depending on where you’re going, you’ll want to do some research on a few things regarding health. For example, are there vaccinations you need to get before you visit? How is the healthcare system of that country? Should an emergency happen, will you be able to receive the medical attention you need?
We recommend reviewing CDC traveler health advisories, such as malaria endemic regions or other active health threats in the region of interest. See your doctor before travel with questions, or if malaria prophylaxis is recommended.
You never want to go to a new place blindly. Take steps to be as knowledgeable as possible about your options. If you know what city you’re staying in, check to see where the nearest hospital is. Look into what the emergency phone number is for the country. It’s even a good idea to find a drugstore nearby where you’ll be able to get Advil or cough drops. Just 10 minutes of research can go a long way.
2. Get Vaccinated
Make an appointment 3-4 weeks in advance of your trip. Ensure that you’re up to date on all your vaccinations such as tetanus and the yearly flu shot (if it’s the appropriate season). It would be a shame to get something that was preventable on your trip simply because you didn’t take the time to give your doctor a visit. Talk about a bummer!
What about those who know they’re up to date on vaccinations – do they really need to see their doctor? In that case, it depends on the country you’re visiting.
For example, for most western European countries: Canada, Japan, and the US, you probably won’t need any extra vaccinations. However, if you’re going somewhere in the tropics or Africa, you likely will. Malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, and rabies are common travel vaccinations for these countries. This, of course, is not remotely comprehensive, so be sure to do your own research and visit your doctor to get the most accurate information.
3. Refill Your Prescriptions
If you have existing prescriptions, be sure to get any necessary refills ahead of time so that you can pack them with you. No one wants to be caught in a foreign country without their medication. Whether it’s birth control, blood pressure medication, or even prescription allergy pills, be sure to take the time to sort them out thoroughly before you leave.
Don’t forget to review destination laws if you are travelling with prescription medication. Some countries do not allow entry with controlled substances, even with a prescription. Also, make sure all medications are in their original container with prescription attached.
4. Put Good Stuff in Your Body
In other words, eat healthy. It’s always good to eat healthy, but when you physically move your body from one country to another, you encounter all kinds of germs that you may not be prepared for. For example, hundreds of thousands of people go through airports every day, not to mention that many people don’t pay much attention to good hygiene. In a hub of activity that can’t be cleaned as often as necessary, keep that vitamin C flowing through you, just in case.
Bonus Tip: While on your trip, bring supplements to take as you go. You’ll likely be tired from being on the go, and of course, you should rest, but we know how easy it is to get carried away by the exciting new sights and things to do. Putting the right things into your body before and during your trip will help reinforce your body from travel-related maladies.
Some of the best supplements to take, other than Vitamin C, include:
- Activated charcoal tablets (to soak up chemicals that make your tummy unhappy and prevent absorption)
- Probiotics (good bacteria to keep your gut healthy, especially useful when eating spicy or unfamiliar foods)
- Melatonin (to help regulate your sleep, especially if you’re traveling to a place with a significant time difference)
Remember: check with your doctor to make sure these are safe for you to take.
That’s right. Pack a mini hand-sanitizer and reapply, and continue to reapply.
Many countries don’t have soap or sinks in bathrooms, especially if you’re not in a city building. You don’t want to get caught in that kind of a pickle with no way to clean your hands. In less extreme situations, it’s just a good idea to be prepared.
6. Stay Hydrated
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked at how many of us are dehydrated on a regular basis. Before your trip, get into the habit of drinking a lot of water. Carry a water bottle around with you during the day and make a personal water-consumption goal for the day.
When you’re abroad, you’ll likely be walking a lot, especially if you’re a tourist. One of the things that can drain you without you even noticing is not having enough water. We’ve all been in a position where we’re trucking along and all of a sudden we get a headache, need to sit down or get extremely grumpy for no reason. Actually, there is a reason! Your body is telling you to hydrate. If you can get in the habit before you leave, it’ll be easier to remember to drink while you’re out and about abroad.
7. Protect Your Feet in Advance
Wear comfy shoes. Many people ignore this advice, but it’s a must for things to do before traveling abroad.
If you have a pair of shoes you know you’ll want to be walking around in, practice with them before the trip, especially if they’re new shoes. You can buy the best hiking boots on the market but if they’re not broken in, your feet will be very angry with you, and you’ll be mad at yourself, too.
Before your trip, wear your shoes around the house, to the grocery store, on your errands; Everywhere. The whole point is to make sure that when you’re abroad, you won’t be hurting early into the day’s explorations.
Be sure to regulate your sleep schedule as much as you possibly can before you leave. Get a full 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Starting a trip abroad not refreshed will make the traveling experience much harder the first couple days. Give yourself as much of a boost as you possibly can by starting ready for anything.
9. Create Your Own Travel Kit
You can interpret this as you see fit. Include not only your medications and simple first-aid supplies, but also things you think may make you feel more at home. Traveling light is usually the way to go for most people, but who says you can’t pack a couple of small comforts?
If you have a favorite snack or maybe a favorite token, pack it. A healthy mind often correlates with a healthy body. If you have something that makes you feel comfortable and at home, it’s worth it to bring to put your mind at ease.
Of course, now we say that, but really, traveling isn’t all too daunting if you’re prepared. Get your tasks out of the way early and sit back and relax. Avoid rushing around a day before your flight trying to get everything in order. Do it as early as possible, and you’ll thank yourself.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have a much higher chance of staying healthy and energized on your trip. Preparation almost always pays off, especially in terms of health. If you’re planning a trip, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for vaccinations or additional health recommendations for travel.
If you stroll through the supplement aisles of your local pharmacy, you are sure to find a large number of omega-3 options on the shelves. Because of all the benefits it provides, you also may have heard about this powerhouse supplement from your doctor. In fact, they may have discussed omega-3 deficiency symptoms with you at your last visit.
In recent years, omega-3 deficiency has come into the limelight. Researchers now encourage medical professionals to consider it when looking at a patient’s symptoms and complaints. Often, the symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency mimic other concerns like low iron or calcium, so the omega-3 problem can slide under the radar. The symptoms can be significant, however, and can impact your health for the worse without you realizing it.
What are Omega-3s, and Why Do They Matter?
Omega-3 refers to a group of three fatty acids that our bodies need that come from animal and vegetable fats. These are the “good fats” you hear about from the doctors and nutritionists. The three types of fatty acids in this group are the following:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This acid comes mainly from plant oils, and our bodies cannot manufacture it. We must consume ALA in our food or supplements to get proper amounts. Flaxseed and soybeans are examples of plants that contain ALA.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): This acid derives from animal fats and is critical to neurological and cardiovascular health.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): The longest molecule of the three acids in the omega-3s, DHA comes from animal sources and is also essential to brain and heart health, even in fetal development.
Omega-3 Deficiency Symptoms
When our bodies do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies develop. This situation can lead to significant health problems. Some diets and eating plans can make you prone to this deficiency. For example, diets that are high in red meat and poultry or that significantly restrict fat may lead to fatty acid levels that are too low. While some issues that stem from deficiency may not be apparent to the sufferer, the following more obvious symptoms warrant a check of the patient’s omega-3 levels.
- Problems with skin, hair, and nails. Omega-3s build up cell walls, and when levels are too low, you may experience dry skin, brittle hair, and thin nails that peel and crack. Omega-3 deficiency can cause rashes on the skin and dandruff as well.
- Fatigue and trouble sleeping. It can be very tricky to pinpoint what is causing sleep issues because so many things can contribute to the problem, but a lack of omega-3s is a likely culprit. Boosting your levels can help improve significantly the amount and quality of sleep you get. Once you’re enjoying higher-quality rest, you will see many other health benefits, too.
- Deficits in concentration and attentiveness. Subpar levels of essential fatty acids contribute to difficulty with memory and focus and can lead to irritability and anxiety as well. Children and adults who seem to anger quickly for no reason may actually be suffering from omega-3 deficiency.
- Joint pain and leg cramps. Omega-3s derived from fish oil have excellent anti-inflammatory properties. They naturally reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints and throughout the body. If you do not yet experience joint pain, proper intake of omega-3s can prevent the damage that triggers the pain in the first place.
- Allergy symptoms. Hives, asthma, and eczema can all indicate lowered omega-3 levels.
- Excessive ear wax. This symptom is a strange one, but patients who are tired of the gunk in their ears may find that increasing their omega-3 levels will help alleviate it. Aside from the annoyance of excessive ear wax, the buildup can lead to hearing loss. Consuming enough omega-3s can help protect your hearing. One study showed a 14% reduction in the risk of hearing loss for those who added sufficient fatty acid supplements into their self-care routine.
- Cardiovascular concerns. The research is clear that omega-3s are critical for heart health. If you are experiencing heart problems, it may be that you need to increase your intake of this vital nutrient. It protects against heart disease and helps control your harmful cholesterol levels.
- Difficult menstrual cycles for women. Women who experience prolonged, heavy periods with clotting may get relief by increasing their omega-3 consumption.
How Do I Get Enough Omega-3s?
Given all the health benefits associated with this vital nutrient, it is pretty much a no-brainer that people should be ensuring they consume enough omega-3s. So, how much do you need, and how do you actually get enough of it?
Although over-the-counter supplements are a simple way to increase your omega-3 levels, there are dietary options to boost your levels, too. Whenever possible, it is best to get vitamins and nutrients from our food. Then, when needed, you can add in supplements as well.
There is not a strong consensus in the medical world about how much is an adequate intake of omega-3s, but many experts suggest consuming fatty fish at least twice a week or taking 250-500mg per day to reap the benefits. If you use an omega-3 supplement, be sure it includes EPA and DHA. Specific conditions such as heart disease or depression may warrant higher doses, so be sure to talk with your medical provider about what is best for you.
For food-based fatty acid intake, here are your top choices.
Plant-based sources (provide ALA):
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Brussels sprouts
Animal-based sources (provide EPA and DHA):
Not Sure About Your Levels? Give Us a Call
If you identify with the symptoms discussed here, or if you are wondering if your omega-3 intake is enough, give us a call at Camas Swale today to set an appointment. We’d love to talk with you about food plans and supplement options to make sure you are feeling your best.