Natural Healing

The secret miracle for pain, disease

By Nonie DeLong, ROHP, CNP

Dear Readers,

This week’s topic grew out of a comment on my recent article on headaches. After reading my recommendation to use fish oils to treat migraines naturally, I received this letter:

 Hello Nonie,

I just read your article about migraines. I started getting brutal migraines beginning in 2001. I saw several neurologists, took different medications and nothing really helped. In 2011, I started taking fish oil with high DHA daily. Since then, my migraines have dropped 95 per cent overall. It’s been a miracle. I’ve been preaching this for years to whomever will listen, hoping to help. There aren’t any bad side effects for fish oil so I figure it’s worth a try.



So today we’re going to explore DHA a bit more. What is it? What is it good for? How do you get it? Read on to find out more.

What is DHA?

DHA refers to docosahexaenoic acid, one of the omega-3 fatty acids. The others are EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid and ALA or alpha linolenic acid. We are now seeing a rise in the data supporting the benefits of DHA in particular. We’ll explore why as we go.

Recap: What are omega-3s?

No doubt you’ve heard of them, but do you really know what they are? Put simply, they are a group of healthy fats that are essential for optimal health. Whenever we say something is essential in nutrition, we mean they have to be taken in through diet or supplementation, because our bodies need them and cannot create them out of other things. So, these are things we need to eat enough of to have good health. It’s that simple.

To go a little deeper, omega-3s and omega-6s are classified as polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs. Both are necessary for good health. However, the current standard diet provides much more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s and it’s believed that this ratio is important. For optimal health it’s often advised that we consume less omega-6s and more omega-3s. However, we need to also consider the source of our fats. Are they coming from processed vegetable oils and hyper processed baked or fried foods or from natural meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, and seeds? The source matters at least as much as the ratio, it seems.  (For a deeper understanding of this, read Mark Sisson’s “Why the Omega-3/Omega-6 Ratio May Not Matter After All.”) The takeaway here is that we have too many toxic omega-6 fatty acids in our diets. For optimal health we need more omega-3s.

What do they do? Omega-3 fatty acids are super important for a number of functions in the body, and are known to down regulate inflammation. That is to say, when we have pain that is caused by inflammation, omega-3s can actually shut that down. 

This is great news because every disease that ends with “itis” is caused by inflammation. And on a cellular level, most chronic disease states are caused by inflammation. So, we can drastically cut inflammation just by consuming enough omega-3s.

Your fibromyalgia? It will be better if you reduce inflammation.

Your arthritis? It will be better if you reduce inflammation.

Your migraines? They will be better if you reduce inflammation.

Your IBS? It will be better if you reduce inflammation.

Your MS? It will be better if you reduce inflammation.

Your PMS, your menopause, your hypothyroidism, your colitis, your acne, your Lyme disease,  your frozen shoulder, your chronic fatigue, your eczema, your psoriasis, your sciatica – all of it will be improved if you reduce inflammation. And omega-3s significantly reduce inflammation!

Now you realize why people go on and on about omega-3s. They are a very powerful little tool for good health.

DHA – What is it good For?

Remember, DHA is a type of omega-3. And it seems to have unique functions in the body. Let’s review some of the data on what it has been shown to do for us.

Brain health

DHA is known to be particularly important for brain health and development. It’s also important for memory and mood. Adequate omega-3 intake has been associated with a reduced risk of depression.

“Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. DHA is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning. DHA is taken up by the brain in preference to other fatty acids.” Source

“One of the most derived features of Homo sapiens is our allometrically large brain. While many nutrients are important to brain growth and function, essential dietary omega‐3 fatty acids – especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – are particularly important and are relatively scarce in terrestrial environments. DHA comprises roughly 10 per cent of the dry weight of the human brain and is critical to all aspects of neurodevelopment and brain function. Animal studies have shown that DHA availability is strongly related to cognitive development and learning ability; and dietary DHA insufficiency may also compromise neurodevelopment in infants and children.” Source

“Controlling for such environmental factors, previous work has shown that individual American children who consumed more dietary omega‐3 and less omega‐6 performed significantly better on four cognitive tests, including a mathematics achievement test.” Source

“The visual acuity of healthy, full-term, formula-fed infants is increased when their formula includes DHA. During the last 50 years, many infants have been fed formula diets lacking DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids. DHA deficiencies are associated with foetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, unipolar depression, aggressive hostility, and adrenoleukodystrophy.” Source

“Dietary and supplemental intake of the ω-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and ameliorates symptoms.” Source

“Twenty-four week supplementation with 900 mg/d DHA improved learning and memory function in age-related cognitive decline and is a beneficial supplement that supports cognitive health with aging.” Source

Heart Health

“The leading cause of death in western nations is cardiovascular disease. Epidemiological studies have shown a strong correlation between fish consumption and reduction in sudden death from myocardial infarction. The reduction is approximately 50 per cent with 200 mg day of DHA from fish. DHA is the active component in fish. Not only does fish oil reduce triglycerides in the blood and decrease thrombosis, but it also prevents cardiac arrhythmias. The association of DHA deficiency with depression is the reason for the robust positive correlation between depression and myocardial infarction.” Source

Cancers and Inflammation

“Fish oil decreases the proliferation of tumour cells, whereas arachidonic acid, a longchain n-6 fatty acid, increases their proliferation. These opposite effects are also seen with inflammation, particularly with rheumatoid arthritis, and with asthma. DHA has a positive effect on diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, and some cancers.” Source

“Chronic inflammation is a major factor in a wide range of problems from arthritis to cardiovascular disease, and DHA is known to temper this problem… Specifically, researchers found that macrophages (a type of white blood cell) use DHA to produce “maresins,” which serve as the “switch” that turns inflammation off and switches on resolution.” Source

Eye Health

DHA is also shown to be important for eye health. “A new study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that DHA, one of three forms of omega-3 fatty acids and the substance that makes up about 30 per cent of brain matter, prevented age-related vision loss in lab mice.” Source

To date DHA is still being studied for its impact on human health, but we can already see it has tremendous potential.

How do you get it?

DHA is found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines and shellfish like crab, shrimp, and lobster. We can also get it from fish oil supplements, fish liver oil supplements, and more recently, from microalgae grown in labs to create a vegan Omega-3 supplement.

How much is enough?

David Perlmutter MD recommends 1000mg/day of DHA from supplements or diet. I agree it’s essential to get enough. You can find his recommendation here.

Thank you, Brian, for writing in with your story of hope for migraine sufferers! If you haven’t tried DHA for your own health problems I encourage you to try it or to take up eating fish daily for a month. Then write to me with your results! As always, if you have your own health issue or question, just send me an email at nonienutritionista@gmail.com. And if you’re looking for more specific health information check out my website at hopenotdope.ca.


Nonie Nutritionista

Nonie DeLong is a registered orthomolecular health practitioner, licensed nutritionist in both Canada and the U.S., and student of the Ontario College of Homeopathy.  

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