Load up on fish oil to help avoid eczema flare ups

When it comes to treating eczema, many patients will have their own self-care regime in place.

We’re becoming increasingly aware of the addictive nature of certain medicated creams and as such, some people want to treat their condition in a more holistic manner. That might involve using only mild, perfume-free soaps, taking warm (not too hot) baths, and moisturising daily.

But dietary changes may also play a role in managing eczema - notably upping your intake of fish oil.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition so the goal in treating or controlling symptoms is to reduce that inflammation. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

There’s not been a great deal of research on the relationship between fish oil and eczema but what studies there have been have found that taking supplements can significantly improve symptoms.

A 2012 review of three studies found that fish oil significantly improved the itchiness in people with eczema, while a 16-week study involving people with moderate to severe eczema who supplemented daily omega-3 fats alongside a range of other vitamins and minerals reduced their symptoms by more than 50% in over 80% of participants. The obvious catch there is that it’s hard to pinpoint the fish oil as being the main beneficial element - but it does suggest that loading up on good fats rich in omega-3s, omega-6s, vitamin E and zinc - may help.

There have even been studies to suggest that fish oil taken during pregnancy may help to prevent the development of eczema in children and babies.

A review of studies involving 3,175 children found a significant reduction in eczema in those born to mums who took fish oil during pregnancy compared to those mums who didn’t take anything.

Fundamentally, more research is needed but if you are struggling with eczema and other inflammatory issues, it may be worth looking at your diet to see where you can squeeze more vitamins in.

How to get more omega-3 in your diet

You don’t have to eat fish or take fish oil supplements to find good sources of omega-3.

There are plenty of sources of the nutrient, including:

  • Chia seeds (add them to salads, mix a spoon into smoothies or make into a ‘chia pudding’ by allowing seeds to soak in milk for five minutes and then mixing in a spoon of honey - the perfect filling, low-carb breakfast).
  • Walnuts
  • Kidney beans
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Soybeans (you can find these in the frozen veg aisle in most big supermarkets)
  • Seaweed (fish is so rich in omega-3 because fish eat seaweed...so it makes sense that seaweed is packed full of the stuff too. You can get dried seaweed in lots of shops - simply tear bits up and put on top of salads, soups etc).

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Last revised: 26 February 2020
Next review: 26 February 2023