Fish oil has been a problem for me over the past five years or so. Actually, it’s not really fish oil but omega-3 essential fatty acids from any source. Omega-3s in relatively low quantities (as in eating a small piece of salmon three days in a row) have given me many nights of insomnia. So when I started reading Dr. Cutler’s AI, I laughed when I saw his recommendation for 15 to 50 g of flax oil or 2 to 6 g of fish oil per day — impossible for me.
When I started blogging here, my friend Viking mentioned that I needed to get my omega-3 supplementation way up and suggested I try methylation as a possible fix. I’ve done that and have been making steady progress. Also increased my vitamin B1 supplementation thinking this could be another fix based on Dr. Cutler’s notes in AI. Yesterday, however, I had a real brainstorm about omega-3’s.
I was in the process of making notes on my supplementation list about the benefits of each supplement I take and adding reference links. I got started on this when Tara asked me what the importance of fish oil was. Since I didn’t have a quick answer, I thought I should have notes handy to remind me why I take each supplement. Here’s what I found about omega-3’s:
- Dr. Cutler says mercury destroys EFAs
- Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, are a key component of cellular membranes and brain tissue.
- Any factors that affect the mitochondrial membrane can severely impact the body’s ability to to produce energy.
- With insufficient intake of EFAs, our cellular membranes may experience inflammation and a loss of permeability essential to cellular and mitochondrial functioning.
- When mitochondrial membranes are less permeable, the requisite nutrients required to produce ATP are not available quickly enough, and the body is not able to produce energy efficiently. Red blood cells are not able to oxygenate efficiently either, nor to deliver their payload of oxygen to the cells.
After reading this, I started to think about my insomnia episodes with omega-3. There’s a curious fact that I never paid too much attention to which now seems critical to me. Frequently my omega-3 insomnia has been preceded by increasing energy over a couple days. So for example, I eat some salmon on Monday. I repeat again on Tuesday and noticed that my energy level is a little higher and my mental clarity a little better. On Wednesday, I eat salmon again and once again notice a little boost in energy level and mental clarity. That night, after eating salmon for three days in a row, the insomnia hits me.
This coincides perfectly with the mitochondrial membrane damage theory above. So I have a strong feeling that Viking was right – mercury related omega-3 deficiency is probably at the center of my nearly 30-year history of chronic fatigue. Now, if I can just break through the insomnia!
In reality, I think I’m well on my way. I’ve been increasing my fish oil consumption steadily and haven’t had any insomnia from it in months. I’m doing it slowly and nervously because the impact is so unpleasant when it happens.
The insomnia I get from omega-3 is very strange. My body is able to relax deeply and I’m even able to drift in and out of a very light sleep with the help of GABA. But, the sleep is not restorative at all. It feels like there is a light bulb lighting up a screen deep in my brain which will just not turn off. It takes a couple days of avoiding omega-3 for this to go away.
As I think about how to go forward, I’m reminded that many of the supplements that are currently giving me a boost are ones that came with startup reactions which faded with time. Should I push forward aggressively with higher quantities of fish oil or push forward moderately with more frequent small increases? I’m leaning towards the latter but if there were a holiday around the corner when I had fewer responsibilities I’d be tempted to try the aggressive path…