Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are health-promoting nutrients that your body needs to perform a whole range of functions. Premenopause women or those in early menopause will find that proper amounts of EFAs will help to reduce the inflammation and pain seen in conditions such as endometriosis and menstrual cramps. ?
Women who are in menopause need EFAs to prevent a wide range of health concerns, including heart disease and breast cancer. These incredible healthy fats also provide moisture to tissues of the skin, vagina, and bladder, as well as the hair.
In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who consumed foods rich in EFAs enjoyed greater vaginal lubrication and tissue thickness. Over a six-week period, researchers took smears from the vaginal wall every two weeks to see if the addition of these types of foods would cause a beneficial hormonal effect on the vagina. Typically, the vaginal mucosa thins out and becomes more prone to trauma and infections as the estrogen level drops with menopause. Interestingly, the vaginal mucosa responded significantly to the additional ingestion of flaxseed oil and soy flour, but returned to previous levels eight weeks after these foods were discontinued and the women went back to their usual diet.
If you are in early menopause or premenopause or suffer from menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, you should definitely up your intake of EFAs.
There are several different types of EFAs, but the two main categories include omega-3 fatty acidseicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)and omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid).
Omega-3 EFAs consist primarily of EPA and DHA. EPAs are your heart-healthy fats. They also promote beautiful, healthy skin, hormonal balance, and immune function. EPA also makes serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter. DHA, on the other hand, is a natural brain booster. Your brain needs DHA to create healthy nerve cell membranes. Your brain uses nerve cells for mood, attention, and memory.
Two of the best sources of omega-3 EFAs are flaxseed and fish. (Other good sources include soybean, hemp powder, walnuts, canola oil, eggs, organ meats, and some forms of algae.) In the case of flaxseed, both the oil and the ground meal are rich in EFAs.
When it comes to fish, I recommend cold-water choices such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. The colder the water a fish lives in, the more omega-3 its body requires and possesses, simply to keep it warm enough.
With omega-6 fatty acids, there are three main types: linoleic acid (LA), arachidonic acid (AA), and gamma linolenic acid (GLA). You only need to supplement with GLA, because you likely get enough of the other omega-6 fatty acids through your regular diet. However, the stress of daily life (as well as poor nutrition, alcohol, chemical carcinogens, cholesterol, saturated fats and low levels of some vitamins), may prevent your body from turning linoleic acid into GLA.
The reason GLA is particularly important for women is that it is converted into inflammation-fighting prostaglandins that help ease menopause symptoms such as depression and breast tenderness. They also help balance blood sugar and may also play a role in preventing certain cancers.
The best food sources of omega-6 fatty acids are whole grains, seeds, and vegetable oils. Other oils such as evening primrose, borage, and black currant are especially rich stores of GLA. If you would prefer to take a supplement, try 3,0004,000 mg of evening primrose oil per day.
Ideally, you want to aim for a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, somewhere in the 4:1 and a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. To achieve this, up your intake of fish, nuts, and seeds (especially flaxseed), and decrease your consumption of red meat and dairy products, which are high in linoleic and arachidonic acids.