Detailed, evidence-based help for common painful problems

Fish as medicine

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

A new scientific paper reports efficacy of anti-inflammatories for severe depression. Like many other diseases with these days, depression is increasingly linked to neuroinflammation. That’s interesting in itself, but what really jumped out at me is that they tested omega-3 fatty acids as a medication — so fish, basically — and the results for that were positive. In general, omega-3 fatty acids do not have strong evidence of efficacy as an anti-inflammatory agent, but this evidence suggests that people with more serious acute neuroinflammation might be much more responsive to ω3s.

This is potentially relevant to any condition where symptoms are driven by neuroinflammation. While I would never recommend fish oil as an “anti-inflammatory” for the average person, it’s probably a no-brainer worth-a-shot option for people troubleshooting any persistent medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), especially if it might be attributable to neuroinflammation. And, yes, that could include many chronic pain problems.

Eating fish is as safe and accessible as “medicine” gets. To get a respectable medicinal daily dose of ω3s, you need to eat about 40g of wild salmon, or about 60g of farmed salmon. Mackerel and sardines are also excellent sources. Mackerel is actually really tasty — I prefer it to tuna — and it’s even a sustainable fishery.

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