Omega-3s & Curcumin: Contributors to a Healthy Immune Response

All About Science

Think of the last time you scraped your knee. It’s sometimes surprising that such a tiny injury can cause so much pain. But that inflammatory pain is actually a good thing—it’s the first step to healing.

Inflammation signals your body to quickly stop any bleeding, and send white blood cells to the injured area to protect against infection. Inflammation is an essential first-step in the immune system’s healing response. It’s literally a lifesaver, the first line of defense against harmful bacteria, pollutants, and viruses.

So why does inflammation so often get a bad rap? Inflammation becomes a problem when it can’t be resolved once its job is done. This has become all too common, unfortunately. For too many of us, our inflammatory response has become hyper-reactive, and chronically triggered. We find ourselves living with pain and shrugging it off as just the way it is. But does it have to be?

Inside our bodies, the signals that help trigger and resolve the body’s inflammatory response are called eicosanoids, and they are metabolized from a surprising source—dietary fats. That means that the type of dietary fats we consume can influence the function of our inflammatory response.

Dietary Fats and the Healing Process

The human body is capable of producing an astonishing spectrum of fats from dietary sources, with the exception of two groups: omega-3s and omega-6s. These essential fats must be obtained from either diet or supplementation. Omega-6s are the source of the eicosanoid signals that largely initiate our inflammatory response, while omega-3s help resolve it.*

Between these two, the predominant fat in our diets is unquestionably omega-6. Omega-6s come from many sources, but mostly from “vegetable” oils like soybean, sunflower, and safflower oil. Once omega-6s accumulate in the body, they have the unfortunate consequence of ramping up the inflammatory immune response to unnecessary levels.*

The key to ensuring an appropriate inflammatory response is maintaining an adequate intake of omega-3s, which are found mostly in wild-caught, fatty fish. But many of us don’t get enough of these dietary fats—specifically, EPA and DHA. For that reason, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends daily servings of omega-3s EPA and DHA, whether through food sources or supplementation. This serves the dual purpose of both correcting pervasive omega-3 deficits and combating abnormally large intakes of omega-6s.*

In addition to omega-3s, other nutrients also offer benefits for managing the body’s inflammatory response. And since our environment is loaded with more triggers than ever (e.g. pollutants), nutritional backup is welcome. Curcumin has long been recognized as a homeopathic solution to help manage inflammation, and it’s increasingly recognized by science as beneficial.*

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is the most active component of turmeric, a tropical plant and spice in the ginger family. Curcumin is what gives turmeric its bright yellow-orange color. It has a wide range of beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions.*

In Southern Asia, where turmeric grows natively, curcumin has been used both as a spice and a medicine for thousands of years, especially for inflammation.* It is also used extensively in India’s Ayurveda system of herbal medicine. Western science first isolated curcumin in 1815, and curcumin is currently the subject of human clinical trials for a wide range of health issues linked to unchecked inflammation.

What makes curcumin such a powerful nutrient is that it works by influencing not just a single inflammatory pathway, but multiple pathways to promote a healthy, balanced inflammatory response.* In technical terms, curcumin regulates various transcription factors (such as NF-kB), inflammatory cytokines (such as interleukin 1 and interleukin 6), protein kinases (such as Akt), and other enzymes (such as COX-2 and 5-LOX).* Curcumin also has potent antioxidant activity, neutralizing the chain reaction of free radical formation, offering further support for a healthy immune and inflammatory response.*

Bioavailability is Key

Unfortunately, getting curcumin in your body isn’t as easy as just eating more delicious South Asian delicacies. Curcumin is known to be poorly absorbed by the human body, and this has always been seen as limiting its nutritional potential.

Newer innovations in supplemental curcumin formulation, however, have made it possible to produce curcumin in a form that is readily absorbable and utilized by the body. In clinical studies, “optimized curcumin” has been shown to be 65 times more bioavailable than standard curcumin extract.*

Optimized curcumin, especially when combined with omega-3s EPA and DHA, delivers a potent one-two nutritional punch that supports an ideal inflammatory response*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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