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Many people around the world live with skin conditions, including eczema.
Although eczema is often treated with medicated creams, oral medications, and even injections, people with the condition often want a more natural way to relieve their symptoms.
Fortunately, research has shown that many diet and lifestyle changes can benefit from eczema.
Fish oil, in particular, is a dietary supplement for many people with eczema because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. You may be wondering whether supplementing with it really helps treat this chronic skin condition.
This article reviews the effectiveness of taking fish oil for eczema.
Atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, is an inflammatory disease that affects the skin.
The disease is chronic and usually starts early in life. Eczema is relatively common, with a prevalence rate of around 12% and 7% in US children and adults (1, 2).
Eczema causes adverse symptoms that can negatively affect the quality of life, including severe itching, dryness, and redness of the skin. It can also lead to cracked skin and skin lesions that ooze fluid.
These symptoms typically come on in flare-ups and then improve in periods of remission (3).
They can lead to sleep and mood disorders, as well as problems with self-esteem.
A study of adults in the United States found that a diagnosis of eczema significantly increased the likelihood of depressive symptoms and severe psychological distress (4).
Current research shows that the cause of eczema is multifactorial. It is believed that skin barrier abnormalities, immune system dysregulation, genetics, and environmental exposure play a role (5).
Eczema is often treated with topical medicated creams, moisturizers, phototherapy, which exposes the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light waves, and oral medications including steroids and immunosuppressants (3, 5).
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes various symptoms, including itchy, dry, and inflamed skin.
The goal in treating eczema is to control and calm the symptoms and prevent relapses. Preventing inflammation is key to treating eczema as the condition is viewed as an inflammatory skin condition (3).
Inflammation is a normal immune response that can protect against disease and infection. However, chronic inflammation can lead to negative health effects, including an increased risk of disease (6).
Inflammation of the nervous system and skin both contribute to the development of eczema. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
The omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) counteract inflammation in various ways, including by inhibiting the production of inflammatory proteins (7).
Although research is ongoing, many studies have shown that supplementing with fish oil is beneficial for people with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (8, 9).
Because of the strong anti-inflammatory potential of fish oil, some studies have shown that this supplement can also treat eczema, although larger studies are needed to substantiate this potential benefit (10).
Research shows that fish oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Hence, fish oil supplements can benefit people with eczema.
Fish oil is one of the most popular anti-inflammatory supplements out there – and for good reason. Research shows that it can help treat many inflammatory conditions, including eczema.
Ingesting fish oil can benefit eczema
Some research examining the effects of fish oil supplements on eczema has shown promising results. However, it is important to note that there is a lack of research in this area and more study is needed.
A 2012 review that included 3 studies on fish oil supplements and eczema found that treatment with fish oil significantly improved quality of life and itchiness in people with eczema (11).
It is important to note, however, that researchers have recognized that well-designed, larger studies are needed to verify whether fish oil should be recommended as an alternative treatment for eczema (11).
An older study from 2002 that enrolled 22 hospital patients with eczema found that infusion therapy with fish oil resulted in a significant improvement in eczema severity compared to infusion with soybean oil (12).
Another 16-week study in people with moderate to severe eczema showed that daily supplementation with omega-3 fats along with omega-6 fats, zinc, vitamin E, and a multivitamin increased the severity of eczema by over 80% than 50% reduced. the participant (13).
Remember that omega-3 fats were only part of this treatment. It is therefore not known whether it would have had the same effect if it had been used on its own.
Animal experiments have also shown positive results. A study in rodents found that rats with eczema that were orally supplemented with fish oil for 30 days showed significant improvements in skin hydration and a reduction in scratching behavior (14).
In addition, a study in mice found that treatment with DHA and EPA reduced eczema levels and levels of inflammatory proteins and immunoglobulin E (IgE).
IgE is an antibody produced by the immune system in response to allergens, and high levels of which have been linked to eczema (15, 16).
Keep in mind that not all studies have shown positive results and future research is needed to better understand how fish oil can help people with eczema.
Fish oil can prevent eczema from developing in infants and children
Studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy can help prevent eczema from developing in infants and children (17).
In one study, pregnant women gained 1.6 or 1.1 grams of EPA or DHA daily from the 25th week of pregnancy and an average of 3–4 months after breastfeeding.
The results showed that babies born to mothers who took the supplement had a 16% lower risk of eczema in the first year of life compared to a control group (18).
In another study, infants born to women who took 900 mg of combined DHA and EPA from fish oil from the 21st week of pregnancy to delivery had a 5% lower risk of eczema compared to infants born to mothers who received a placebo (19).
In addition, a review of 8 studies involving 3,175 children found a significant reduction in eczema in infants and children up to 36 months of age whose mothers took fish oil during pregnancy compared to those whose mothers did not (20).
However, not all studies have seen positive effects, with one study suggesting that supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy may increase the risk of eczema in children (21).
It is clear that more research is needed before fish oil supplements can be recommended as a means of reducing eczema in children during pregnancy.
Fish oil supplementation can improve symptoms of eczema and reduce the risk of eczema in infants and children. However, more research is needed.
Aside from the potential benefits associated with treating eczema, taking fish oil supplements can also benefit health in other ways, including improving heart health and reducing inflammation (22).
In the absence of recent studies of fish oil supplementation in people with eczema, there is not much information on the most effective dose for this purpose.
An older study found that a dose of 5,500 mg DHA per day for 8 weeks led to an improvement in eczema symptoms, an improvement in omega-3 fats in the blood, and a suppression of IgE antibody production. However, updated dosage information is scarce (23).
Research also shows that taking up to 4,500 mg of fish oil containing up to 2,070 mg of DHA and 1,600 mg of EPA during pregnancy is safe and can help reduce eczema in children (20).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends keeping the combined intake of DHA and EPA below 3,000 mg per day, with no more than 2,000 mg from dietary supplements. However, many studies have used higher dosages with no side effects (24).
Most dietary supplements on the market contain around 1,000 mg of fish oil concentrate per serving, which provides different amounts of EPA and DHA depending on the product. Some supplements contain higher amounts of DHA while others contain more EPA.
Since amounts can vary by product, be sure to check the supplement label to find out exactly how much EPA and DHA you are taking per dose.
Talk to your doctor to find out how much fish oil to consume per day to treat eczema.
Precautions with fish oil
Fish oil is a popular dietary supplement and is considered safe for most people.
Research shows that fish oil supplements had no adverse side effects when taken in doses up to 4-5 grams per day (22, 24).
Some people may experience mild digestive problems such as indigestion and diarrhea when taking fish oil, although most people can tolerate it well with no side effects.
However, fish oil can increase blood clotting time, which, when taken in high doses, can interfere with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (25).
Also, consult your doctor before taking fish oil supplements if you have any allergies to fish or shellfish (25).
Because dosage information is limited, consult your doctor about the correct dosage of fish oil for treating eczema. Fish oil is considered a safe supplement, but in high doses it can interact with blood-thinning drugs.
Eczema can affect your quality of life, which is why it’s important to properly treat and control this chronic inflammatory skin condition.
While traditional medications are usually the primary treatment for eczema, natural therapies like fish oil can offer some benefits.
Although research has shown promising results in using fish oil to reduce eczema symptoms, future studies are needed to fully understand how fish oil can help people with eczema.
If you want to try fish oil to improve eczema symptoms, speak with your doctor before buying a third-party-tested supplement on the spot on-line.