Omega-3 supplements are a popular natural remedy for psoriasis. How do they work, and which sources are best?
Omega-3s have been shown to have various health benefits, which include improving skin conditions and boosting heart health.
In this article, we look at the research behind the benefits of omega-3s for psoriasis symptoms. We also discuss what dosages, sources, and supplements are best.
Research has suggested that omega-3s may improve various signs and symptoms of psoriasis.
The benefits included improvements in skin reddening, itching, scaling, and inflammation.
The researchers suggest that when taken orally, omega-3 was most effective over a period of 3 months or longer.
Along with the external symptoms, omega-3 can also help with long-term health risks. People with psoriasis are more likely to develop heart disease, and omega-3s may reduce the risk of cardiac death and heart disease.
The United States government's current Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that including seafood in the diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Also, people may have a reduced risk of obesity when they consume seafood. However, not all studies agree.
It is also important to note that many research studies give participants high omega-3 doses, or administer omega-3s via injections or intravenous drips (IVs). Consequently, the results do not always reflect what people may experience in their daily lives.
To get the benefits of omega-3s, people should make sure their supplements contain a balance of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are present in most fish oil supplements.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that eating around 8 ounces of fish or other seafood per week, or about 250 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA, can reduce the risk of cardiac deaths.
Speaking to the National Psoriasis Foundation, Wilson Liao, M.D., a dermatologist at the University of California, San Francisco, recommends that people should start slowly when they begin taking omega-3 supplements.
"If [people] want to try supplements I advise one gram of EPA and half a gram DHA daily for eight weeks to see if they notice improvements in their skin," he said.
People should take omega-3 supplements during or right after a meal for the best effects.
Before taking omega-3s for psoriasis, they should talk to a doctor. High doses of the supplement can cause nausea, diarrhea, or other digestive issues. If these do occur side effects, they are usually mild.
Research is still underway regarding the best sources of omega-3s.
Supplements are a more convenient option for omega-3s, particularly when someone does not eat fish or seafood.
However, omega-3s may be better absorbed by the body when obtained from dietary sources than when taken as supplements.
Some healthy food sources for omega-3s include:
- flaxseed oil
- chia seeds
There is no current research to suggest that one source of omega-3 is better than another for psoriasis.
Depending on a person's preference, they can choose from a range of popular sources of omega-3 supplements. People can find them in many health food supermarkets.
Below is a list of omega-3 supplements with links to where people can buy them online:
- Fish oil is one of the most popular omega-3 supplements. Shop for fish oil here.
- Krill oil is made from small crustaceans called krill instead of fish. Shop for krill oil here.
- Algae oil is made from organisms called algae. Algae oil contains no animal products, so it is suitable for people who do not eat fish or seafood. Shop for algae oil here.
- Flaxseed oil is made from small, brown seeds. It is also suitable for people who do not eat fish or seafood. Shop for flaxseed oil here.
Doctors and scientists still do not know which supplements are best for improving psoriasis symptoms, but research is underway.
Natural remedies that may help, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, include:
- Vitamin D: Taking vitamin D supplements can boost and maintain immune system functions, which may improve symptoms of psoriasis, as it is an autoimmune condition.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant root. Taking oral turmeric supplements may relieve psoriasis symptoms and flare-ups for some people.
- Oregon grape: Oregon grape can treat moderate to mild symptoms of psoriasis when applied as a topical cream. It is also available as an oral supplement, but people should talk to a doctor before taking Oregon grape orally.
To date, studies have revealed minimal or no benefit for other popular supplements for psoriasis, including milk thistle and evening primrose oil.
Other home remedies that can help with the external symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Aloe vera. Using aloe vera on the skin can reduce redness and scaling.
- Apple cider vinegar. Using apple cider vinegar on the scalp may reduce itchiness. Using this remedy should be avoided if the scalp is cracked or bleeding, as it can irritate the skin.
There is very little comprehensive research about the effectiveness of supplements for psoriasis, so people should be wary of any products that make big claims.
Some people with psoriasis may benefit from omega-3s. However, these supplements may not work for everybody, and researchers are still working out the best sources of omega-3s, and how they affect psoriasis symptoms.
Eating fish is likely to be better nutritionally than taking supplements, but supplements can also be effective.
There is some evidence that omega-3 supplements can improve cardiovascular health, which is a concern for people with psoriasis, and it is normally safe to use omega-3 supplements under a doctor's supervision.
There appears to be no significant risk with omega-3 intake. According to one review, most common side effects observed in those with psoriasis were nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, and a fishy taste in the mouth.
People taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin should not take omega-3 supplements, as they can increase the risk of bleeding.
What other dietary choices can improve symptoms of psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a condition that is frustrating because it is difficult to treat. Changing habits, such as what you eat, is something that is within your power. Since psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, it makes sense to eat a diet that is thought to reduce inflammation. People can try the following:
- Eat cold water fish.
- Avoid fats from meat and milk.
- Avoid red meat and refined sugar.
- Work on getting to within a healthy weight for your age and height.
- Eat whole foods rather than processed or prepared foods.
- Test out going gluten free for 2 weeks and see if that helps.
Keep a food journal and reward yourself for good progress with a movie or massage. You should feel the difference a healthy diet makes and that will motivate you to continue.Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.