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End Bad Hair Days by Balancing Your Fatty Acids

By Mellanie Hills

Reprinted from Women in Technology International

"Do you have a fatty-acid imbalance?"

I was consulting my friend, Natalie Elliott, about nutrition. She is a clinical nutritionist, and the owner of Brainwaves Music and Wellness, here in Austin.

"What is a fatty-acid imbalance? Is it related to those Omega-3 fatty acids which we hear so much about?" I asked. "Yes," she replied.

"How do you know if you have an imbalance?" I asked. She said that skin and hair can be indicators; if you have dry or scaly skin, soft or brittle nails, or unmanageable hair, you just might have a fatty-acid imbalance. Who would have thought that a fatty-acid imbalance could cause bad-hair days? Other indicators include excessive thirst, frequent infections, poor wound healing, dry eyes, irritability, hyperactivity, weakness, or fatigue. I'll admit to having the dry skin, soft nails, and much too-frequent bad-hair days.

She continued to talk about Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids, saying, "Our bodies need at least a 1:3 ratio (1:1 is better) of Omega-3 to Omega-6, but most Americans have about a 1:20 ratio because of the fats we use in cooking. As a result, we tend to have severe fatty-acid imbalances."

Why is that a problem? A fatty-acid imbalance has been correlated with cancer, heart disease, and other issues.

Omega-6 fatty acids are the bad guys and are called "sticky, clumpy fats". While they lower the bad cholesterol (LDL), they also lower the good cholesterol, thus increasing your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association reports a link between high Omega-6 intake and sudden death from heart attacks. Omega-6 fatty acids include common oils used in cooking, such as corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and squeeze margarines.

In contrast, Omega-3's are the good guys and are important in our diets according to nutritionists, who point out that this information isn't well known, even among doctors. They say that Omega-3 fatty acids lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol, raise the good (HDL) cholesterol, and reduce the inflammation of the arteries that otherwise leads to heart disease. In addition, Omega-3's keep the blood platelets from being so sticky, thus reducing the risk of blood clots and build-up in the blood vessels. Cultures with high Omega-3 intake have low incidence of heart disease and diabetes. And Omega-3 also helps decrease arthritis.

Omega-3's are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. The American Heart Association says we should eat two servings of these each week, and some nutritionists say we should have a serving every day. But, there is concern over the safety of fish due to the occasional presence of heavy metals in their flesh.

For those of you who are like me and are allergic to fish, there is still hope. Omega-3 is also available in nuts, olives, olive oil, dark leafy-green vegetables, avocados, and flaxseed.

You've never heard of flaxseed? Nutritionists are very big on it. Natalie, my nutritionist friend, says that flaxseed is an ancient grain that was so highly regarded in Egypt that it was buried with the pharaohs to assure them of a healthy afterlife. Flaxseed has a higher level of Omega-3 than fish. It also contains lignins, which appear to reduce the incidence of breast and prostate cancer, and is high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps prevent colon cancer.

Most of us need only 2 tablespoons per day of ground flaxseed, which you can add to your breakfast cereal for a nutty taste, or sprinkle over other foods. Those with heart and other diseases can benefit from 4-6 tablespoons per day.

A friend was recently commenting that his wife was reluctant to eat flaxseed as she was concerned that it would change the taste of her foods. But after trying it, she was surprised at how much she liked the mild, slightly nutty flavor of flaxseed. I agree. I've developed a taste for it, and I know it's good for my health.

Flaxseed could well cure your fatty acid imbalance. Just think about it: in addition to keeping you healthy, it might even put an end to "bad-hair days".

Mellanie True Hills is The Health & Productivity Revitalizer. She coaches individuals to create healthy lifestyles, and works with organizations to create healthy, productive workplaces. See Mellanie at WITI's Southwestern Regional Conference May 7-8, 2004, where she will be speaking on "Designing the Plan for Your Life and Health".

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Copyright 2004 Mellanie True Hills Company.  All Rights Reserved.

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