A selection from Chapter 7, "Beneficial Fats and Oils"
LA and LNA
The EFAs linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA) also are essential to us. Experts believe deficiency of these fatty acids is widespread in the American population. Because we cannot produce LA and LNA in our bodies, we need to obtain them from eating specific kinds of oil. To understandtheir importance, let's look at the symptoms of LA and LNA deficiency. Without an adequate supply of LA, we may experience kidney degeneration, excessive thirst, chronic infections, arthritis, eczema, hair loss, and behavioral disturbances. Symptoms of LNA deficiency include vision impairment,
learning problems, physical weakness, and tingling in the arms and legs.
The list of benefits researchers have compiled for LA and LNA is long. These EFAs can help those of us with chronic illness through their biochemical attraction to oxygen, which gives them amazing oxygen-carrying properties. They play an essential role in creating life energy from the foods we eat and moving that energy into our cells. If people are extremely deficient in LA, for example, they literally can die from lack of oxygen.
LA and LNA not only transport oxygen, but also hold oxygen in the cell membranes, where it protects our cells against viruses and bacteria. This is important for those of us with lupus, who may have enhanced susceptibility to infections. Those of us with general physical exhaustion can be helped by the added energy that LA and LNA can furnish us. Because I have had muscle pain with lupus, I have been heartened to learn about the beneft of LA and LNA in that regard. When we exercise, our muscles produce 1. lactic acid. If the lactic acid does not leave the muscles, it causes pain. LA and LNA help the body convert lactic acid to water and carbon dioxide, which are easily cleared from
the body. This lessens or eliminates muscle pain and fatigue.
These EFAs also can assist in creating prostaglandins. LA produces PGE1, which is very important in helping avert heart attacks and strokes. PGE1 also slows down cholesterol production. It prevents inflammation, regulates calcium metabolism, improves nerve function, and controls arthritis. It also may hinder cancer cell growth by regulating the rate at which cells divide. LNA produces PGE3, which reduces platelet stickiness and thereby protects us from blood clots of the arteries and brain.
There is a particular reason that those of us with lupus need to have LA and LNA in our diets. At the end of their biochemical pathways through the body, these fatty acids become prostaglandins, which perform the very important role of enhancing the action of our T lymphocytes. We have learned that T Iymphocytes, which are primary immune cells, generally are deficient in SLE and other autoimmune diseases. It would follow, then, that if we can increase the body's ability to make T lymphocytes, we may be able to alleviate lupus symptoms. More specifically, it is the T lymphocytes, or suppressor T
cells, that stop the B cells from destroying our own tissue Suppressor T-cell levels are always low in lupus patients. It is possible that by eating sources of LA and LNA, we can create more prostaglandins, which in turn will raise our suppressor T-cell levels. That could help stop the immune system attacks on our own tissue.
How can we include LA and LNA in our diets? The richest source flaxseed oil. Hemp oil, another excellent source, is now available in sorr health food stores in the United States. Soy oil and walnut oil are also excellent sources of these EFAs, but they may not be easy to find. Neither safflower oil nor sunflower oil contains any LNA, but they do contain LA.
Johanna Budwig, a German medical doctor, has devoted her life to the study of fats in the human diet. She is a brilliant researcher who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine. Dr. Budwig believes that much degenerative disease results from fatty acid deficiencies. Her research suggests that our saturated fat diets are killing us and that LA- and LNA-containing flaxseed oil is the key to correcting our dysfunctional fat metabolism. Dr. Budwig says that we need to eat a sulfur-containing protein food with the flaxseed oil to render the oil water soluble. The best complement to flaxseed oil is sulfur-containing skim milk cottage cheese. She highly recommends a mixture of 100 g skim milk cottage cheese to 40 g flaxseed oil and 25 g skim milk. If you are sulfur sensitive, try reducing the amount of skim milk cottage cheese you eat with the flaxseed oil. You can also dribble fresh flaxseed oil on potatoes, vegetables, and salads.
The flaxseed oil we eat should be expeller pressed, and as unrefined as possible, kept in dark glass away from light, and refrigerated. It should not be used in cooking, since heat can affect its chemical composition. Healthy people can take two tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day. I am able to take only one teaspoon of flaxseed oil a day; any more seems to make me shaky. I believe this effect stems from the fact that my liver cannot metabolize much fat. Over the long term, however, I think that flaxseed oil has helped me by boosting my energy level, improving my symptoms of dry eye and dry mouth, relieving my eczema, and softening my skin. Try taking up to one tablespoon of this oil once daily or dividing the dose to accompany your three meals. It is somewhat expensive. If you are
unable to take the oil because of the cost, you can eat the same quantity of flax seeds, which will still give you the benefit of the LA and LNA they contain. Soak the seeds in water for four to eight hours and strain. These seeds are slippery, so you need to chew them thoroughly to release the EFAs that can improve your health.