Essential Fatty Acids and Auto-immune Diseases

Auto immunity diseases result from an overactivation of the immune system.
The activity of the immune system is regulated by prostaglandins.


What is a Prostaglandin?
A Prostaglandin is a hormone that our biochemistry makes from essential fatty acids (EFAs). Essential fatty acids are fatty acids we can not make from other fatty acids or from carbohydrates and have to find in our diet.

There are two groups of EFAs: the omega-6 EFAs (n-6 EFAs) and the omega-3 (n-3 EFAs).
Prostaglandins made from n-6 EFAs increase the activity of the immune system. They also increase blood coagulation and inflammation. Prostaglandins made from n-3 EFAs reduce the activity of the immune system, maintain blood fluidity and slow down the inflammation process.

Our Western Diet
Good health depends (among other factors) of the balance between the production of the two types of prostaglandins. That balance is closely related to the n-6 to n-3 EFAs ratio in our diet. An optimal n-6 to n-3 ratio in the diet is a ratio of 2 to 1. In our Western diet the actual n-6/n-3 ratio is much greater, around 20 to 1. Indeed n-6 EFAs are everywhere. while n-3 EFAs are scarce or absent in the diet. The high n-6/n-3 ratio in the Western diet contributes to the increasing occurrence of conditions related to an overactive immune system, allergy and auto-immune diseases, diseases where the overactive immune system attacks components of the body.

Restoring the n-6/ n-3 EFAs ratio
Therefore it always makes good sense (and particularly if you have an auto immune condition) to reduce the intake of n-6 EFAs and to supplement the diet with n-3 EFAs.

Sources of n-6 EFAs

The Main sources of n-6 EFAs are vegetable oils and products containing it. See the list

Sources of n-3 EFAs

Good sources of n-3 EFAS are flax seed, flax seed oils, cold ocean fish (Best is salmon and shrimps), cold ocean fish oils and supplements containing n-3 EFAs.
Flax seeds and flax seed oil contain the short chain n-3 EFA Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) only while cold ocean fish, cold ocean fish oil and some supplements contain long chain n-3 EFAs like eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

We make prostaglandins from long chain n-3 EFAs only. Before we can make a prostaglandin from ALA we have to elongate the molecule.

Many people (children and the elderly in particular) can not or can no longer elongate ALA. They are better of with cold ocean fish, cold ocean fish oils and supplements containing EPA and DHA.