Omega-3 for Women’s Health: Everything You Need You Know
- 7 Mins Read
- Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane
- Omega – 3 fatty acids play an important role in women’s health, particularly during the menstrual cycle
- There are various plant-based and marine sources for Omega -3 fatty acids which can be incorporated in your diet
- Here are a few ways in which Omega -3 affects women’s health and examples of Omega 3-rich foods
Today’s women are always at the top of their game, be it at work, or at home. However, it is a common tendency among women to turn a blind eye to their own health and only care for those around them. This trait often leads to a path of health conditions and problems that cloud their wellbeing later in life. Talking about women’s health, the very crucial Omega-3 benefits for women, are often sidelined or ignored.
Omega-3 fatty acids also known as n-3 fats are essential fats that are not produced by the human body. To gain these, we need to consume foods rich in these good fats. All humans need omega-3 fats for the smooth functioning of their bodies. However, there are certain issues pertaining to women’s menstrual health or reproductive health that can be solved with omega-3. In short, omega 3 benefits women’s health immensely.
Omega-3 is a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). They are of 3 types:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
EPA and DHA are more often derived from marine sources whereas ALA can be obtained from a balanced diet.
Functions of Omega-3
These are known as essential fatty acids. The reason is their role in various important body processes and function that are listed below:
- An integral part of the cell membrane
- Starting points for hormone synthesis
- Regulation of blood clotting
- Contraction and relaxation of muscles and arteries
- Anti-inflammatory action in the body
- Regulation of genetic functions
- Regulating heart health
- Protective role in diseases
Signs of Omega-3 deficiency
Being deficient in Omega-3 acids can put you at risk of many health conditions and can lower your quality of life. Omega-3 benefits for women cannot be ignored.
Here are some signs that you might be deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. Watch out for them!
1. Skin irritation and dryness
Omega-3 plays a protective role for your skin by creating a barrier and keeping irritants out. It helps in retaining moisture in the skin that helps in keeping the skin hydrated. Being deficient in omega-3 can lead to dry, scaly, and extremely sensitive skin.
2. Eye dryness
Omega-3 plays a vital role in eye health. It maintains eye moisture, has a role in tear production. If you are experiencing dry eyes and irritation it might be a sign of an omega-3 deficiency or an eye disease that needs to be looked at.
3. Poor hair and nail health
Changes in hair health and nail health might indicate an Omega-3 deficiency. Without the retention of moisture, the texture and integrity of hair and nails can be affected.
4. Joint pain
Joint pain is caused when the cartilage on the joints is damaged or depleted. Omega-3 fats play a role in maintaining these membranes. The deficiency of the same can be a reason for persistent joint pain.
5. Mood changes
Omega-3 plays an important role in hormone regulation and brain health. It is known to be a neuroprotective agent. Frequent mood changes like feeling depressed, irritated or anxious can be a sign of inadequate nutrition and an omega-3 deficiency.
Role of Omega-3
Women’s bodies are different and have special needs. Other than the key role of Omega-3 fats, there are certain aspects of women’s health that can be improved by consuming these good fats.
Let’s begin with the key role of Omega-3.
The key role
The main function of Omega-3 is in heart health. The strongest benefit lies in the functioning of the heart and its coordinated systems. Omega-3 plays a vital role in maintaining the regular heart rhythm, lowering blood pressure, and maintaining blood vessels. It keeps cardiovascular diseases at bay by working as a cardioprotective. Omega-3 also regulates the fat levels of blood and slows down the buildup of plaque in our arteries. Other than this, maintaining membranes, hormones, immunity, skin, and hair health are primary functions of omega-3.
Role of Omega-3 in women’s health
Other than the general health benefits of omega-3, there are some more benefits that can be helpful for problems specific to women. Here are some benefits of omega 3 for women’s health.
- Menstrual pain : Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), period cramps, dysmenorrhea are experienced by most women at some point in their menstrual cycle. It is the contractions of the uterus and the lower abdominal muscles that cause pain during or before menses. It is a common problem and yet there aren’t many solutions.
Can Omega 3 fatty acids help alleviate period pain? Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in lowering the instances and severity of dysmenorrhea. The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3 are the ones responsible for this according to researchers. One study has even stated that Omega-3 supplements were more effective than ibuprofen in reducing menstrual pain. Omega-3 has shown the potential to improve the quality of life in women.
- Osteoporosis : After menopause, the levels of estrogen in a woman’s body drop making her more susceptible to bone diseases like osteoporosis. Due to this, women are more prone to osteoporosis. Omega-3 supplements are known to boost bone mineral density and bone health in general. Taking the right amounts of omega-3 through diet and supplements can be a protective step towards bone health.
- Fertility boosting : Women over the age of 30 can face fertility issues and problems in conceiving. As age progresses, the chances of deformities in children and miscarriages also increase. Seafood has been associated with vitality and fertility for ages. Studies suggest that Omega-3 supplements may delay ovarian aging and improve oocyte quality at an advanced maternal age.
- Joint disease : Joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are autoimmune condition that is 2-3 times more likely in women as compared to men. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of the synovial membrane that is present over our joints. It usually manifests in the mid-’30s and is a serious problem for many women. Omega-3 supplements have been proven to be effective in reducing joint swelling, pain, and morning stiffness in patients. Omega-3 alleviates joint pain with anti-inflammatory action.
- Cancer : Cancers like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer affect women all around the world. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to a reduced risk of cancer. There are studies stating that omega-3 supplements can act as protective agents against cancer.
- Depression : Mental issues like depression can be severe during PMS, pregnancy, and postpartum. It can be a difficult journey with such episodes repeating themselves. Omega-3 supplements have been used in the treatment of mental disorders. It has shown neuroprotective properties and is even used in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Studies have shown that Omega-3 supplements are helpful in mild depression.
- Bodyweight management : Women experience weight gain during pregnancy due to ailments like PCOS and PCOD. Post-menopausal weight gain is also common in women. The lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to this problem of weight gain . Switching from harmful fats to healthy fats can help in weight loss. Omega-3 comes from healthy sources like marine and natural foods. Choosing natural heart-healthy oils and exercising can be beneficial in weight management.
Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 can be obtained from one’s diet. Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh ingredients improves your chances of getting omega-3.
Here is how you can get the essential omega from food and supplements!
- Fish and seafood
Fish oil benefits for women are well known. Fresh cold-water fatty fishes like Salmon, Cod, Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines, Anchovies, Herrings, etc are considered very rich in Omega-3 fats.
Other seafood like Oysters, clams, crabs, and shellfish are also packed with omega-3 fats. Fish oils also have several benefits for women’s health. Their consumption can reduce the amount of painkillers consumed during periods.
- Nuts and seeds
These are full of good fats and fiber that your body needs. Regularly eating nuts like walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and seeds like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, etc. can help in getting those good fats in your system.
- Vegetables, fruits, and Algae
Fresh vegetables, fruits like Brussel sprouts, and avocadoes are rich in omega-3 fats. Algae like Seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella are consumed for their health benefits and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans like soybeans, kidney beans, and white beans are packed with omega-3 goodness. Soy products like tofu and edamame also share the benefits of omega. Include these in your diet for their health benefits.
- Plant oils
Soyabean oil, canola oil, flaxseeds oil are some examples of plant oils that are rich in Omega-3 fats.
- Fortified foods
Fortified foods are foods enriched with certain added nutrients that are good for you. Choosing milk, yogurt, eggs that are fortified with Omega-3 can be helpful.
Paying attention to nutrition and healthy foods is important for women, especially during the menstrual cycle. Omega 3 fatty acids plays a vital role in health and wellbeing of women. There are several food groups they can be derived from and incorporated in the diet. Above are a few you can take note of.
To all the women out there, stay fit and healthy with nutritious food and some exercise. Not ignoring micronutrients is the key. Put self-care first and let it improve your health and slowly your life.
- Nadjarzadeh, Azadeh et al. “The effect of omega-3 supplementation on androgen profile and menstrual status in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A randomized clinical trial.” Iranian journal of reproductive medicine vol. 11,8 (2013): 665-72.
- Behboudi-Gandevani S, et al. The effect of omega 3 fatty acid supplementation on premenstrual syndrome and health-related quality of life: a randomized clinical trial. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2018 Dec;39(4):266-272.
- Nehra, Deepika et al. “Prolonging the female reproductive lifespan and improving egg quality with dietary omega-3 fatty acids.” Aging cell vol. 11,6 (2012): 1046-54.
- Zafari, Mandana et al. “Comparison of the effect of fish oil and ibuprofen on the treatment of severe pain in primary dysmenorrhea.” Caspian journal of internal medicine vol. 2,3 (2011): 279-82.