How Your Diet can Help Chronic Inflammatory Disease Caused by Prostaglandin Imbalance – Fish Oil vs Flax Oil

How to Use Your Diet to Overcome Chronic Inflammatory Disease Caused by Prostaglandin Imbalance

Chronic inflammatory disease is caused by the imbalance of non-inflammatory prostaglandins and inflammatory prostaglandins in the body. Cell membrane fatty acid profiles cause this imbalance, and it is the dietary sources or these fatty acids that is responsible for the cell membrane fatty acid make-up. Chronic inflammatory disease can be overcome by addressing the tissue fatty acid imbalance.

By altering the type of dietary oils consumed and stored in your cell membranes your prostaglandin synthesis metabolism can be adjusted. Chronic inflammatory disease can be overcome in this way. The goal is to reduce the level of arachidonic fatty acids and the linolenic fatty acids in the membranes of your cells (these fatty acids lead to series 2 – inflammatory – prostaglandin synthesis). At the same time you want to increase the level of di-homo-gamma-linolenic acid (DHGL- the omega-6 fatty acid which is made from linoleic acid in the body) and to increase the level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA – the omega-3 fatty acid which is made from alpha linoleic acid in the body). The best way to achieve this, in most cases, is by:

  • reducing the intake of grain fed animal foods (the primary source of arachidonic fatty acid in most diets)
  • eating cold water fatty fish regularly, buying only range fed meat, and free range eggs
  • eliminating refined super market oils
  • switching to pure olive oil for cooking
  • Switching to butter for frying or baking cookies
  • Supplementing with flax seed oil or fish oils
  • Using unrefined flax seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed or walnut oils to make up salad dressings and un-cooked spreads

Achieving an Optimum Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in Your Diet

Unless you take specific and purposeful measures to address this essential nutrient imbalance and deficiency, in your own case, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the degenerative diseases of which heart disease and cancer top the list.

The optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was determined by Scholom and Carasso, in 1993, to be 4:1. Other researchers suggest ratios as low as 1:1 are required. In contrast, most Americans consume these fatty acids at ratios anywhere between 10:1 and 20:1. These ratios are typical of many western peoples in the industrialized world today and lead to the chronic inflammatory diseases that plague the majority of the populations in these countries today.

Getting enough Omega-3 : How to Supplement

Since we are more than likely to provide our bodies with insufficient amounts of omega-3 to properly balance the omega-6 oils that pop up almost everywhere in our diets, it is a very good idea to take measures to supplement with omega-3 oils. The big question in this issue is whether it is better to use fish oil or flax seed oil to accomplish this.

The amount of flax seed oil or fish oil needed to properly supply your tissues with omega-3 essential fatty acids is in the order of 10 to 20 grams per day. This amounts to just around one to one and one half tablespoonfuls of oil per day or 10 to 20, 1 gram capsules (if you are using supplement capsules). The question of whether flax seed oil or fish oil is more effective at increasing tissue levels of EPA (the omega-3 fatty acid that the body converts alpha-linoleic acid, omega-3 into) is often disputed. Which is better, fish oil vs. flax seed oil?

Flax seed supplies you with alpha-linoleic acid and your cells convert this fatty acid into EPA, the same omega-3 fatty acid which is found in fish oils. It has been observed that in some cases, simply supplementing a diet with the relatively small 10 or 15 gram daily dose of flax seed oil does not necessarily bring about a change in the tissue level ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Researchers who were particularly interested in discovering the reasons for this made some careful tests which took levels of omega-6 dietary oils as well as the levels of omega-3 oils into account.

Their results show that omega-3 oil is just as effective at increasing tissue levels of EPA as fish oil itself is capable of doing, provided that omega-6 oils in the diet are also restricted. This is because the enzyme that converts omega-6 to DGLA and AA is the same enzyme that converts Alpha-linoleic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). When omega-6 fatty acids are present in a great abundance in the diet they are likely to overwhelm the omega-3 quantities in the tissues and blood. As a result, even though these enzymes prefer alpha-linoleic acid (the omega-3 fatty acid) as a substrate, by mass action linoleic acid (the omega-6 fatty acid) wins out and tissue levels of EPA remain low compared to tissue levels of the omega-6 fatty acids in this common dietary situation.

Use the tips above in this article to help prevent unbalanced prostaglandin synthesis and the resultant inflammatory disease, in your own case.


Gordon, Garry, M.D., D.O., M.D.(H.), Herb Joiner-Bey, N.D.(2004).The Omega-3 Miracle. Freedom Press, Topanga, CA

Murray, T. N.D. and Jade Beutler, R.R.T., R.C.P.,(1996). Understanding Fats & Oils, Progressive Health Publishing, Encinitas, CA.

This post is part of the series: Inflammatory Disease and Omega-3, Omega-6 Balance

Essential Fatty Acids need to be properly balanced for good health. Many modern diseases can be referred to as inflammatory diseases. They are caused by an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.
  1. How to Overcome Chronic Inflammatory Disease by Changing Your Diet
  2. Flax Seed Oil Versus Fish Oil: The Best Omega-3 Source
  3. Tips on Supplementing Omega-3’s Using Flax Seed Oil