Does Fish Oil Cure Eczema?

Eczema is an inflammation of the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin. Symptoms include redness, skin swelling (edema), itching, dryness, blistering, crusting, flaking, cracking, oozing, and bleeding in the skin. Problems in the immune system and environmental factors contribute to the development of eczema. About 18 million people in the United States have different kinds of eczema.

Current treatments for eczema include corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and immunosuppressants. These are the common drugs prescribe to patients who have eczema. Natural treatments are also becoming popular including the use of fish oil to cure eczema. A research conducted in Germany demonstrates the ability of fish oil to treat eczema.

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fish oil in capsules (Image from Wikimedia Commons)Researchers from the Allergy-Center-Charité, Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, investigated the efficacy of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in patients suffering with atopic eczema. Their article entitled, “Docohexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in atopic eczema: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial” was published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2008. Below is the abstract of their publication quoted from PubMed:

BACKGROUND: The increasing prevalence of atopic eczema has been linked to the alteration of the Western diet, namely the reduced consumption of omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and an increased omega-6 (n-6) PUFA intake. OBJECTIVES: The aim of the pilot study was to determine the efficacy of dietary n-3 PUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in patients with atopic eczema. METHODS: Fifty-three patients suffering from atopic eczema aged 18-40 years were recruited into this randomized, double-blind, controlled trial and received either DHA 5.4 g daily (n = 21) or an isoenergetic control of saturated fatty acids (n = 23) for 8 weeks. At weeks 0, 4, 8 and 20 the clinical outcome was assessed by the SCORAD (severity scoring of atopic dermatitis) index. IgE production and activation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were analysed. Plasma fatty acids were measured by gas chromatography. RESULTS: DHA, but not the control treatment, resulted in a significant clinical improvement of atopic eczema in terms of a decreased SCORAD [DHA: baseline 37.0 (17.9-48.0), week 8 28.5 (17.6-51.0); control: baseline 35.4 (17.2-63.0), week 8 33.4 (10.7-56.2)]. A significant reduction of anti-CD40/interleukin 4-mediated IgE synthesis of PBMC was detected in the DHA group only. Supplementation led to a modulated activation status of PBMC in both groups. The DHA group showed an increase of plasma n-3 PUFA and a decrease in the n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that dietary DHA could be bioactive and might have a beneficial impact on the outcome of atopic eczema, but our results need to be confirmed in a larger study.(PubMed 2008)

DHA and Eczema

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil and some species of plants. We produce little DHA in our body so our major source of DHA is the food we eat. DHA has many functions in our body which include brain development, prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, spermatogenesis, visual perception, anti-inflammation, and many more.

The anti-inflammatory effect of DHA is probably the main reason why it has the ability to cure atopic eczema, an inflammatory disease.

The researchers wrote:

“Whether or not the observed clinical effect of dietary DHA is of therapeutic significance will need further clarification and have to be confirmed in larger studies.”

“Therefore, a larger randomised, placebo-controlled, three-armed follow-up study should be performed.”

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