Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most important essential nutrients to reduce inflammation and treat autoimmune health conditions, including vitiligo. (1) Various varieties of fish, particularly the cold water ones like cod, salmon, salmon are the best sources of beneficial omega 3 fats. Other sources of omega 3 fats include nuts (particularly walnuts), flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, vegetable oils, tofu, egg yolk and leafy vegetables. (2)
Omega 3 fatty acids, also known as ‘healthy fats’, are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that are particularly beneficial in reducing inflammation and relieve autoimmune health issues. They are categorized as ‘essential’ nutrients because your body cannot synthesize them on its own and depends on external food sources and supplements to make up for their daily requirements. Apart from reducing inflammation, the most prominent functions of omega 3 fatty acids are to maintain healthy nerve, heart and brain functions and to build healthy body cells. (2, 3, 4) Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory reactions in your body to help manage many of the autoimmune lifestyle disorders, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
EPA and DHA are more important than ALA
ALA can be easily found in commonly eaten foods (plant based and animal based foods), but, it got fewer health benefits than EPA and DHA. It is mainly used for energy requirements in your body. However, if your body metabolism is in a good shape, then 15% of the total ALA can further convert into EPA and DHA to provide vital health benefits. But, vitiligo is often linked to a poor body metabolism, hence, this ratio will further reduce in case of people with vitiligo. Thus, it is always better to get EPA and DHA directly from the food sources for best health benefits.
Fish and Fish oil are the best sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
EPA and DHA are also known as ‘marine’ omega 3 fatty acids because they come mainly from Fish (and fish oil).
The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week for good heart health and general well being. One serving weighs around 120 – 150 grams (3 – 4 ounces).
But in case of autoimmune disorders (like vitiligo), consuming 4 to 6 servings (12 to 18 ounces) of wild caught, cold water, oily fish varieties per week is the best way to include highly beneficial omega 3 fatty acids in your diet.
However, if fish is not in your diet menu or you can’t meet these targets, then consume high quality fish oil supplements to get the desired dosage of healthy omega 3 fats which works amazingly well to reduce inflammation and heal leaky gut.
Never heard of ‘Leaky Gut’? Don’t worry, we will discuss it in details in the later parts of this article. Just to increase your curiosity, leaky gut is considered as the main culprit of all autoimmune health issues, including vitiligo.
Who should consume Fish oil?
- Someone who doesn’t eat fish at all or not on a regular basis
- Someone who is concerned about any possible pollutants, toxins and heavy metals in fish because of water pollution
- Someone who wants to boost the anti-inflammatory effect by providing high quality omega 3 fats to the body
- Someone who has poor digestive health
- Someone who is dealing with any other autoimmune disorder along with vitiligo like type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
What is Vitiligo
Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin condition; the immune system is responsible for protecting the body against disease causing external treats. But, in case of autoimmune skin conditions, it gets faulty and starts attacking body’s own healthy skin cells. The color producing skin cells (melanocytes) are damaged in this attack to cause skin de-pigmentation in the form of white patches on various parts of the body.
What causes autoimmunity?
Well, the modern medical world is still clueless about this million dollar question, hence, the exact cause is not known yet. However, the list of probable causes which may play a vital role in autoimmunity are:
- Chronic stress and anxiety
- Compromised gut health (chronic constipation, low stomach acid, lack of healthy gut bacteria, indigestion)
- Impaired liver functioning
- Severe nutritional deficiencies
- Genetic (hereditary)
- Excessive use of steroids and antibiotics
- Skin injuries
- Infections such as strep throat
- Alcohol abuse
- Poor diet and lifestyle habits
- Heavy metal toxicity due to pesticides in food and contaminated water
Considering the side effects of pharma drugs without any long term stable result, more and more people are getting inclined towards alternative medical systems that includes Ayurveda, homeopath, Naturopathy and other medicine systems.
In natural (alternative) healing approach, poor gut health is considered as the root of all autoimmune disorders, including vitiligo because more than 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. (11) Hence, without improving the gut health, vitiligo control or reduction is not possible.
What is gut?
Gut is the whole gastrointestinal tract that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. In recent years, alternative health experts have come up with a new term- Leaky gut syndrome- to explain the relationship between gut health and autoimmunity. Leaky gut, as the name suggests, means ‘leakage’ in the gut. In simple words, consider your gut as a hollow pipe whose linings (walls) have a net like porous structure with micro holes. These holes allow the micro nutrients from your food to pass through and enter the bloodstream and restrict the toxins (bigger particles of undigested food, bad microbes and heavy metal particles) from seeping into the bloodstream. In case of leaky gut, this net structure gets damaged and the holes get bigger so that the unwanted toxins leak into the bloodstream. The immune system, alerted by such a sudden influx of pollutants, malfunctions and triggers an autoimmune reaction by attacking healthy skin cells to cause vitiligo patches on the skin along with inflammation.
What causes Leaky gut?
Here again, there can be numerous reasons that damages the structural integrity of gut walls. Few of the most prominent ones are:
- Low stomach acid and weak digestive fire
- Chronic constipation and indigestion
- Lack of healthy gut bacteria (probiotics)
- Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut and yeast overgrowth (Candida)
- Gut inflammation
- Liver congestion
- Severe deficiency of key nutrients which are required by cells of the gut walls to maintain gut barrier function
How Fish oil is going to help here
Fish oil provides beneficial omega 3 fats (EPA and DHA) which perform below vital functions:
- Omega 3 fatty acids are natural immunomodulators. They modify the response of immune system in a natural way to prevent skin de-pigmentation and reduce inflammation. (1)
- EPA in Omega 3 fats not only reduce the already existing inflammation in your gut and beyond, but, they further decrease the cause of inflammation.
- Healthy Omega 3 fats in fish oil improves the health of cells in the gut walls by giving flexibility and receptivity to the cell membranes. It helps to repair the leaky gut syndrome. (12)
- Omega 3 fats improve gut flora by combating the overgrowth of Candida (yeast overgrowth) and other harmful microbes. (13, 14)
- DHA being vital for brain and nerve functioning, helps in preventing depression and stress by minimizing mood swings.
- Autoimmune disorders are worsened by obesity and fish oil can help in getting rid of excessive body weight when clubbed with regular physical workout. (15)
Read more: Turmeric (curcumin) for Vitiligo
How much fish oil per day?
But, in case of a chronic, autoimmune skin condition like vitiligo, you should consume at least 1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA for a period of 6 months to see some significant improvement because omega 3 fats take some time to get absorbed and exhibit health benefits.
Buy a high quality fish oil supplement capsules and check the dosage of EPA and DHA per capsule.
Too much of omega 3 fatty acids can impart a blood thinning effect to cause excessive bleeding or lower the blood pressure.
Hence, try not to exceed the total omega 3 fatty acids (EPA+DHA+others) beyond 3000 mg per day.
If you are dealing with a chronic heart condition, then consult your doctor before consuming fish oil supplements.
Pregnant women, breastfeeding ladies and young kids are encouraged to consume fish oil supplements. (19) However, doctor’s consultation is recommended to prevent any complication.
Fish oil vs Cod liver oil for Vitiligo
Fish oil is derived from the flesh of oily fish varieties such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna, anchovy and cod. The cod liver oil, as the name suggests, is derived from the liver of cod fish.
Fish oil is rich in healthy omega 3 fats- EPA and DHA- but no vitamins.
Cod liver oil contains less EPA and DHA than fish oil- around 60% less EPA and 20% DHA. But, it contains quite a high amount of vitamin A with a small amount of vitamin D. Due to such a high amount of Vitamin A, consuming cod liver oil in the long term may raise the risk of vitamin toxicity. That’s why, pregnant women are strictly advised not to consume cod liver oil unless advised by a registered medical practitioner.
In short, prefer fish oil over cod liver oil for long term consumption.
From where to buy
Choose fish oil supplement capsules of a reputed brand to get away with the risk of harmful contaminants. Check below Amazon links to buy high quality, cost effective fish oil products:
If you are from USA, click here
If you are from UK, click here
If you are from India, click here
The highly potent anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil (omega 3 fats) capsules make them one of the most recommended dietary supplements to manage vitiligo symptoms.
Apart from consuming high quality fish oil supplements, do try to consume nuts and seeds in the breakfast and wild caught, oily fish in the dinner for additional benefits.
However, please do note that fish oil alone can’t do any magic. There is no known cure for vitiligo, but, it can be controlled and even stimulate the re-pigmentation process if you follow a healthy diet, positive lifestyle, stay away from stress and consume high quality dietary supplements and natural herbs, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, turmeric (curcumin), virgin coconut oil, ginkgo biloba, glutamine and n-acetyl cysteine.
Hope you find this article useful. Got any further questions about vitiligo? Ask me at [email protected]