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Eicosanoids & Essential Fatty Acids

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What are Eicosanoids?

by © Diana Thurbon
BA. Dip Med. Herb., Dip Soc Science Snr Fellow AANMP
Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist, Meditation Teacher

Eicosanoids, Essential Fatty Acids and your Health

Virtually every disease state in the body begins at the cellular level with an imbalance of a tiny hormone like molecule called an "Eicosanoid". 

In biochemistry, eicosanoids are known as signaling molecules. They exert complex control over many bodily systems, including the  central nervous system, immunity and inflammation.

Eicosanoids are involved in these physiological functions turning cells off and on at a second by second basis.

They are responsible for numerous "opposing actions".


  • Anti-inflammatory - - - Pro inflammatory

  • Stimulate immune response - - - Depress immune response

  • Increase pain transmission - - - Suppress pain transmission

  • Promote platelet clumping - - - Inhibit platelet clumping

  • Insulin production - - - Glucagon production

Eicosanoids are derived from either omega-3 or omega-6 EFAs.

The omega-6 eicosanoids are generally pro-inflammatory - turn inflammation on.

The omega-3 eicosanoids turn inflammation off.

The amounts and balance of these fats in a person's diet will affect the body's eicosanoid-controlled functions, with effects on cardiovascular diseases, triglycerides, arthritis, blood pressure and allergies.

Although we tend to think of Eicosanoids as good and bad we actually need both in balance.

If you want to read more about Eicosanoids I recommend any of Barry Sears Zone Diet books for clear explanations.

The most important thing you should know about Eicosanoids is that they are influenced by the diet you eat. 

A diet too high in carbohydrates and without sufficient protein promotes the production of “bad” Eicosanoids. 

Good fats are also vital to maintain the right balance of Eicosanoids

Your body makes 20 different fatty acids from two fatty acids:  Omega- 3 (linolenic acid) and Omega- 6 (linoleic acid).

Even weight loss requires these fatty acids because the right Eicosanoids are needed to stimulate the release of stored fat. ( You need fat to burn fat )

You need to eat equal or more Omega- 3 fatty acids than Omega-6. 

Most of us do the opposite.

To increase Omega- 3s:

  • Use flax oil, macadamia, or walnut oil, uncooked on salads and in dips

  • Eat 150 grams of walnuts, macadamias, almonds or hazelnuts a week.

  • Use cashew or almond butter spread instead of hydrogenated margarines

  • Eat 4-6 free-range eggs a week

  • Add flax seeds to breads and cereals.

  • Eat oily fish four to six times a week or take at least 4-8 grams of fish oil supplements daily.

You still need some Omega- 6 as well:

  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables daily – half should be raw

  • Use pumpkin and sunflower seeds in cooking or snacks

  • Use tahini (sesame paste) as a spread (hummus contains tahini)

  • Eat oatmeal porridge twice a week.

  • 1 or 2 evening primrose capsules a week can be taken

To increase Omega-9 (a neutral fatty acid):

  • Use avocado as a spread and in salads

  • Use olive or peanut oil for cooking (at low temperatures).

  • Use olive oil on salads or as a dip for bread.

If you prepare your own food it is not too difficult to get the balance right.

If you use lots of supermarket/prepared / refined food, it is almost impossible. 

Bakery goods contain "TRANS FATS"; these are altered fats which distort body chemistry, never eat those !

Save the Tim Tam or donut for a very occasional treat. (If the food label says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil that means it contains these very bad fats).

Use cooking methods that don’t require added fats.

To lose weight 1 tablespoon (35 grams) of good fat should be eaten per day.
If you don’t need to lose weight 60 grams per day should be eaten.


Article provided by : Diana Thurbon

BA. Dip Med. Herb., Dip Soc Science Snr Fellow AANMP

Naturopath, Herbalist, Nutritionist, Meditation Teacher


Compiled by:

Dieter L. Editor of useNature Gold Coast

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The information provided in this article is intended for general use and for personal interest only. It should not be used or understood as suggestion or medical advice.

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