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High Omega-3, Low Omega-6 Diets Help Brains Recover

High Omega-3, Low Omega-6 Diets Help Brains Recover
April 2, 2016 Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

LA SourcesA growing body of scientific studies are suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, flax, wild fish, and grass fed beef can lead to the reduction of abnormal inflammation and restore a wide variety of cellular functioning within the body.

A recent study has shown that long term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation coupled with omega-6 fatty acid restriction improves cognitive function, reduces neuroinflammation (i.e., TNF-α expression), and increases brain cell production (i.e., neuronal progenitor proliferation) in mice. These results parallel and support the therapeutic benefit of high dose omega-3 therapy and omega-6 restricted diet recommended in the Autonomic Advantage Brain Recovery Program.

Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., ALA, EPA, and DHA) are a variety of molecules important in the regulation of inflammation and cell function.  Omega-6 fatty acids (e.g., LA and AA) are also important in activating inflammation necessary for tissue repair and the maintenance of healthy tissue and organ function.  Maintaining a healthy ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fatty acids is critical in normal physical functioning, inflammation control, and long term health.

Unfortunately, Americans have experienced an explosive increase in their consumption of an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid (LA), predominantly in the form of soy oil. In the 20th century, soy oil consumption increased 1000-fold.

The high intake of linoleic acid leads to decreased omega-3 levels by three mechanisms: 1) by the impairment of the conversion of ALA to EPA, 2) by the inhibition in production of DHA, and 3) by the competitive inhibition of EPA and DHA into the cell membranes.

The net effect of these changes has resulted in a significant increase in the omega-3:omega-6 ratio, and is believed to contribute a heightened level of persistent metabolic inflammation throughout the body.

Increased Progenitor Cells

Each Arrow Indicates a Stem Cell in Section of Mouse Brain

Metabolic inflammation is rapidly being linked to the inability of the brain to recovery from traumatic brain injury in addition to other forms of neuronal damage such as emotional trauma, inflammatory insults, and stroke.  Metabolic inflammation is also linked to to a wide variety of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, this study also showed that an increase microglia number does not seem to be a major contributing factor, and that other mechanisms such as an increase neuronal progenitor cells and the reduction in CNS cytokine levels (TNF) activity may be more of a factor in cognitive decline and the neuroinflammatory disorders.

Understanding that the inflammatory cytokines, not the high numbers of microglia, are the problem points us in the direction that lowering inflammation is key to healing the brain after injury.

Other studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation reduces pathological microglia and astrocyte activation which occurs in post concussion syndrome, persistent traumatic brain injury, CTE, chronic depression, PTSD as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

In respect to patients recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), this study tells us that increasing omega-3 and reducing omega-6 fatty acid intakes can reduce the brain inflammation commonly found in TBI, can improve the ability to replace or repair damaged brain cells, and may potentially improve recovery of cognitive function.

Combining high omega-3 supplementation and low omega-6 fatty acid intakes with other forms of neuroinflammatory suppression is central to the success of the Autonomic Advantage Brain Recovery Program’s ability to reverse and restore underlying brain injury.

44 Comments

  1. Thea Peluso 1 month ago

    Hello Dr. Nemechek –
    In your book for Autism and Developmental Disorders you provided a list of acceptable oils and those to avoid.
    + Is High Oleic Sunflower Oil (HOSO) acceptable? Could it be used in place of olive oil?
    You also explained that almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews and walnuts are good sources of ALA.
    + Are the oils from these tree nuts acceptable or are they to be avoided?
    + If these tree nut oils separate out when making their nut butters, would you discard the oil or mix it back in?
    + Would you put macadamia nuts in the same group?
    Thank-you for the clarification!

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 month ago

      Generally nuts, raw or dry-roasted are fine. Once generating them into butter, the products (additives, other oils) vary greatly and I leave that up to the consumer to decide.

      The amount of oleic acid in “high oleic” oils varies a great deal. Just stick to high quality olive oil, it works.

    • Elizabeth 1 week ago

      Hi Dr. Nemechek, I found this comment while searching to find your opinion on this, since I was just looking at a table that indicated high oleic sunflower and safflower oil actually are 75% oleic, the same as EVOO. Is that not true? Thanks!

      http://www.centrafoods.com/blog/why-choose-high-oleic-instead-of-regular-oil

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 7 days ago

      Yes, a few of the high-oleic acid vegetable oils have the same oleic acid content.

      But many oils labeled “high oleic” are only 30-40% oleic acid. The term “high oleic” only means higher than the typical oils which run around 10-15% oleic acid.

      The term “high oleic” is unregulated and is in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Liz W. 2 months ago

    Hi there! I had a stroke three years ago at 37. I have been left with complete numbness in my affected hand and near total loss of fine motor skills. I went through extensive occupational therapy and do daily weight-bearing exercises and “sensory stimulation” as directed by my therapists. A friend referred me to the Protocol and I just finished the 10-day course of rifaximin, as well as the DHA and EVOO. Would you expect to see improvement in my hemiparesis were I to continue? There seems to be so little research on nerve regrowth and regaining sensation, so I figured I have nothing to lose by trying.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 months ago

      I think you can experience more regeneration and function if the vagus nerve stimulation is added with rehabilitation exercises for your hand.

      You would need a visit in my Arizona office to obtain a VNS. I use this with other post stroke or spinal cord injury patients and have had a lot of success.

  3. Óscar Corona 4 months ago

    Dr. Nemechek

    Good morning! I just want to ask you, is Carlson Fish Oil a good source of Omega-3?

    Thank you!

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 4 months ago

      Generally yes.

  4. Rebecca Yarros 4 months ago

    Hi Dr. Nemechek! In your book, you went in-depth on oils we should avoid, one of which was peanut. Does this mean we should avoid peanut butter as well? Or Almond butters?

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 4 months ago

      No, I’m talking about frequent exposure.

  5. Allison 5 months ago

    Hi Dr. Nemechek, in the book you mention palm kernel , coconut and canola oils as the acceptable oils. Is palm oil the same as palm kernel? Is it acceptable?

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 5 months ago

      Both are acceptable as long as the palm is not hydrogenated.

  6. Natalia Marmol 5 months ago

    Dear Dr Nemechek,
    I have a bit of a confusion regarding the issue of vegetable oils,
    In your book you mention that people following the protocol should avoid “bad Oils” ( sunflower, soy, corn, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, peanut, margarine, shortening),
    I understood that those oils needed to be removed from the diet in order to achieve the best result.
    Here is my confusion, I have been told that EVVO will counteract all the bad effects that the above oils have in our bodies and therefore there is no need to avoid them in our diet.

    I will be so grateful if you could please state whether the oils need to be removed from the diet or not
    ( I thought that Olive Oil was there to increase the omega 3 amounts to balance out the Omega 6-9 and to help out for any occasional intake of bad oils) .
    I just started my 4 year old in the protocol and I would like to do it right.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 5 months ago

      I recommend trying to get rid of these in the home as much as is practically possible.

      The EVOO will protect from any remaining omega-6 fatty acids getting in when eating out etc.

  7. Roshan 5 months ago

    Doctor my son is 6 years old.I have always seen that whenever i have given him antibiotics he seems to be fine and present.Do you think i should straight away try rifaximin and continue with inulin after that .what do you suggest. or can i use any other antibiotic?

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 5 months ago

      I always recommend starting with inulin in children under 10.

  8. Anonymous 8 months ago

    Have you had any success in implementing your protocol in stroke patients? My father in law suffered a stroke last year. He is now struggling with aphasia, swallowing problems, emotional changes among other symptoms.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 8 months ago

      Yes but with a caveat.

      The process of having a stroke sets in place an inflammatory wave throughout the nervous system that can loosely be called an inflammatory concussion.

      Although the primary focus of the stroke may not fully recover, a great amount of the secondary events (memory, fatigue, altered balance) can.

      We also add in vagus nerve stimulation in effort to improve further stroke recovery via neuroplasticity.

  9. MK 8 months ago

    Forgot to add my name, show the previous comment shows up as Anonymous:) So repeating it here:

    Thank you Dr Nemechek.

    The only intestinal symptoms are diarrhea (Bristol type 6), multiple times a day with the fatigue, brain fog, lack of focus and interest. Have lost weight also over the past four years, I got much worse after an H Pylori treatment in 2014, though the IBS preceded that. I don’t have gas, bloating, or cramps or GERD. Mornings are the worst, most of the times, better by evening.

    I will just continue the protocol. Do you think I should add/remove anything else?

  10. MK 8 months ago

    Hello Dr Nemechek,
    I have IBS-D, with food intolerances, fatigue, brain fog, depression., lack of focus. I have tried various treatments and diets, and it seems like eating light food keeps things at bay a bit, but not a lot. My SIBO test showed 23 ppm, and I did take Rifaximin, but it didnt help as much as I thought it would, this was 6 months back. Blood tests for food intolerances found nothing, and doctors want me to go on low dose TCAs.

    I just started your protocol a week back and I will continue to do it for a bit. I am doing the adult protocol(3000mg DHA, 100mg flaxseed oil, inulin and 2 tbsp EVOO). Do you think doing Rifaximin with this protocol would be useful? Also. should I stay away from foods, or eat everything (other than Omega 6 oils which you recommend not having)? I would really really appreciate your answer, it has been too long without relief:)

    Thanks.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 8 months ago

      Chronic intestinal symptoms are often from either from SIBO or autonomic dysfunction, and many patients have both.

      If you have both, rifaximin might help some but it leaves many intestinal symptoms unchanged (cramping or bloating for instance, or even GERD) because they may be from underlying autonomic dysfunction.

      These other symptoms will continue to improve over time with the protocol.

      I avoid all excess omega-6 FA in my food at home but I cannot avoid it when I eat out. The EVOO will protect from the omega-6 FA you ingest when eating in restaurants.

      BTW, inulin use after rifaximin may cause bloating.

  11. Cil 11 months ago

    I hit my head pretty hard about 4 years ago and still get headaches in the area where I hit it. I’ve fallen into a vicious cycle of not eating fish after developing terrible histamine intolerance two years ago. Every time I eat fish, I feel nauseous, like vomiting, and get lightheaded within a few hours after. I get hives daily, sometimes from food, other times from no noticeable trigger. No IgE allergy to fish (or any other food) and I used to eat it all of the time. I know I need the omega-3s but am not sure how to get them.. just suffer through feeling poorly for a while, or is there a better solution? Would love to hear your thoughts. I personally feel like many of my symptoms can be attributed to SIBO but am not sure – I had a negative sibo test a little over a year ago.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 11 months ago

      The typical SIBO breath tests can miss so many people that I’ve given up using them.

  12. Jody 1 year ago

    What fish oil do you recommend for children ages 5-12? We have used Nordic naturals in the past. Also, what inulin supplement do you recommend? We have four adopted children who were previously in orphanages and their guts are seriously messed up. No autism, but similar behaviors in several. Thank you!

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      I discuss how the types and dosages of fish oil and inulin I use to treat my patients in my book.

      You may purchase an inexpensive ebook version at https://autonomicrecovery.shop

  13. Amber 1 year ago

    Hi Dr. Nemechek
    My son is 18 with Autism mostly non verbal but can say a few words. Understands everything. Last summer he started becoming aggressive. Long story short he has Pyroluria and is now in 7th month of treatment. It has been extremely rough but lowering. He has been tested gut dybosis with bacteria . I want to start your program but in his current pyroluria treatment it calls for evening primrose oil and to refrain from omega 3. I am so confused by this which one to keep or add. Also due to his age do I go directly to the perscriptiom? I have the inulin and actually gave him 1/ 8 tsp today. This past year his aggression has gotten worse and I am desperate to help him . I know pyroluria is a big reason but I know his gut is his real problem. I will add he has been off Risperidone going into month 2 after being on .05 for a couple years. I hope this isnt adding to his behavior. Just feeling lost today as to what to do.
    Thank you

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      I don’t believe in the theoretical belief that pyroluria plays any role in autism, and I am unaware of any scientific studies which suggests it does.

  14. Lily Kalikas 1 year ago

    Dear Dr. Nemechek,
    In the last two years my 87 year old mother has gradually started to cognitively decline where it is frightening her and me. Two years ago she had a pace maker and stent procedure, also was placed on two lots of blood thinners. I have recently learnt through a radiologist that medications like blood thinners can cause memory to decline? A year ago she fell heavily into her bath tub and suffered concussion/amnesia and was hospitalized. At the time this was so severe it took her back 70years and lost the English language and who I was. Slowly over the months we have been able to bring her back but now she is showing signs of confusion worse than ever? Her decline is too quick and whilst I search for answers can Omega 3/6 help her or can you offer any suggestions how to help my mother from this cognitive decline? Just to add a neurologist has ruled out Dementia and Parkinson’s.
    Thank you for your valuable time.

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      My protocol helps significantly with post concussion syndrome.

  15. Toni 1 year ago

    Hi Doctor,
    I’m really interested in your protocol for my son who is 2 and has autism. I’ve seen great gains through diet and a nutritionist has recommended fish oils and probiotics but I also have inulin which I’ll start once finished the probiotics. He’s taking the olive oil too. Could I ask if I should limit his egg and nut intake as they are a big part of his diet? (He’s dairy, gluten and sugar free)
    Thank you

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      Most children are able to discontinue all food restrictions after stabilizing the bacterial balance with either inulin or rifaximin.

      The reactions (inflammatory, histamine, “yeasty”) they were observing were primarily due to the overgrowth of colonic bacteria and not to the specific nutrients themselves.

  16. Daniela 1 year ago

    Instead of using fish oil, how do you feel about hemp oil which is supposed to contain a balance amount of omega-3, six and nine.?

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      It will not work. While hemp oil contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, it is predominantly ALA and does not penetrate the brain much.

      Fish oil contains much more DHA and this is required for control in pro-inflammatory cytokines within the brains.

  17. Anonymous 1 year ago

    Can you list the top omega 6 foods to avoid please?

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 1 year ago

      Soy oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, margarine, shortening and grape seed oil.

  18. Marge Reynolds 2 years ago

    I wrote a week or so ago about possible appointment and did not get a response. Could you check and see why no reply and let me know please?

    Thank you

    • Author
      Patrick Nemechek, D.O. 2 years ago

      We’ve been out of the office on vacation.

      Please call 623-208-4226 sometime next week for more information.

      Thanks

      Dr. N

  19. Michelle Adams 2 years ago

    I live in NJ I have Blue Cross Blue Sheid. Can you assist me from NJ?

  20. william harrison 2 years ago

    Dr. Nemechek is a modern day Einstein. Einstein looked at people’s research and came up with new revolutionary ideas.

    “Combining high omega-3 supplementation and low omega-6 fatty acid intakes with other forms of neuroinflammatory suppression is central to…” is a profound discovery.

    For those of us who want improvements in health, follow Dr. Nemechek’s http://www.nemechekconsultativemedicine.com and then make an appointment to see him in Buckeye, Arizona. His is one of a kind, a tremendous resource, a doctor who practices real medicine for the right reasons!

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