Omega-3s and Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation. The most common symptom of psoriasis is dry, scaly patches of itchy skin. There are several treatment options for psoriasis, but there is no cure for it.
Having psoriasis is a risk factor for heart disease and psoriatic arthritis. It’s important to have your psoriasis diagnosed properly before starting any traditional or holistic treatment.
If you have been diagnosed with psoriasis, you may have heard that certain diet adjustments can lessen symptoms. Omega-3s are one of the most proven and popular diet inclusions that doctors recommend for psoriasis.
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that affect many bodily functions, from blood clotting to inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients that you can only get through certain foods. The human body does not produce these nutrients naturally.
There are three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids:
- alpha-linoleic acid (ALA): found in oils, vegetables, and nuts
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): found mainly in fish
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): found in fish and shellfish
ALA, EPA, and DHA are polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats may not contribute to plaque buildup in your artery walls. They promote a healthy heart because they lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure levels in some people.
The two omega-3s known as “marine” are EPA and DHA. They are mostly found in fish and shellfish. They are called long-chain because of the structure of their chemical composition. The marine omega-3s are of particular interest to researchers for their benefit to brain growth and their anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-3s and Psoriasis
Omega-3s help psoriasis symptoms by reducing inflammation. When they enter the bloodstream, they lubricate the cells of the body. This lubrication can have a healing effect on cells that are particularly in need of it, such as brain cells and cells that make up your joints. This lubrication can also reduce inflammation.
When a person has psoriasis, the immune system tells skin cells to turn over at an abnormally rapid rate. No one knows why this happens exactly. The result is redness, inflammation, and dry, scaly patches of skin that can cover almost any part of your body. The use of omega-3s can make this inflammation more manageable and less irritating.
Omega-3s are often used in conjunction with medical treatment for a long list of conditions, many of them autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, including:
- rheumatoid arthritis: another type of autoimmune disease
- Crohn’s disease: an inflammatory bowel condition
- ulcerative colitis: inflammation of the digestive tract
- lupus: an autoimmune disease
- atopic dermatitis: a skin condition
Sources of Omega-3
Fruits and Vegetables
A number of foods, including berries, green vegetables, and tofu contain ALA omega-3s. Chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are rich in ALA omega-3s, as well. Seaweed and sea vegetables are also high in omega-3 content.
Two out of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in fish and shellfish. For those who love seafood, increasing consumption of this essential nutrient can be easy. Salmon, cod, and mackerel are the fish that are known to have the highest levels of DHA and EPA omega-3s. Sardines and herring are also rich in omega-3s.
Of all of the nutritional supplements being researched for their effect on psoriasis, the American Academy of Dermatology declared fish oil to be the most promising. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about taking fish oil supplements if your diet is lacking omega-3s.
Omega-3s in any form are an essential part of any healthy diet. They promote brain cell growth and memory function. They are also beneficial to regulating the contents of the bloodstream. The additional benefit of their anti-inflammatory properties is something that people with psoriasis should consider. Omega-3s are worth trying as a supplement to any psoriasis treatment plan, with the consent of your doctor.
Are there any warnings or concerns to be aware of when taking omega-3 supplements?
There may be an increased risk of bleeding with omega-3s and aspirin or clopidogrel. Omega-3s should be avoided if you have any fish allergies. Excessive dosing of fish-based omega-3s may increase the concentration of toxins (mercury) in the body.Mark R. Laflamme, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.