“There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA),” says registered dietitian nutritionist Alice Figueroa, RDN, CDN, founder of Alice in Buongustaio . “It is necessary to consume between 250 and 500 mg of DHA and EPA combined daily to stay healthy and the Adequate Intake (AI) of ALA is 1.1 grams for women and 1.6 grams for men. Unfortunately, in general, most Americans do not meet their adequate daily intake, “he says.
Currently, there is no standardized test for omega-3 deficiency, so it can be difficult to detect, although there are some signs and symptoms that indicate that you may need to consume more sources of omega-3s such as walnuts (walnuts in particular ) and seeds (chia seeds contain a full day of ALA), seafood, fatty fish such as salmon, cod, sardines or mackerel, seaweed (aka seaweed) or supplements such as fish or seaweed oil. “Because omega-3 oils are members of the dietary fat family, they are best absorbed when taken with foods that contain some fat, ”says Dr. Bland.
While not all indicators of omega-3 deficiency are visible, such as chronic inflammation and heart problems, there are some common ways your body will tell you it’s running out. Before starting any new dietary supplement or protocol, however, it is always best to consult with your doctor.
7 signs of omega-3 deficiency
1. Skin irritation, rash or acne
It’s easy to dismiss dry skin for several reasons (dehydration is a common culprit), but that’s the way it is is associated with omega-3 deficiency, both Dr. Bland and Figueroa say. Fatty acids help keep cell membranes healthy, which includes helping them retain moisture. So dry skin can be an early warning sign that you’re not consuming enough omega-3s to make it happen.
There has also been some research indicating that omega-3 supplementation can help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis due to this and their ability to reduce inflammation in the body. According to one study, people who took fish oil containing 1.8g of EPA saw a reduction in eczema symptoms after 12 weeks. And an increase in acne is also a symptom of low omega-3 levels; it is also believed to be caused by increased inflammation.
2. Brittle / thinning hair
Similar to your skin, if your hair starts to get dry, dull, frizzy and the ends start to split or start falling out, these can all be signs of omega-3 deficiency, according to Figueroa. Studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation reduced hair loss in women.
3. Joint pain and stiffness
Since omega-3s produce an anti-inflammatory response in the body, joint pain and stiffness, particularly those caused by inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are thought to be a sign of omega-3 deficiency. And studies have found that adequate supplementation alleviates symptoms for people with RA and joint pain associated with lupus.
4. Brain fog and loss of cognitive function
“Some clues that you’re not getting enough omega-3s include difficulty concentrating or memory problems,” says registered dietitian Maya Feller, RD. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have also been linked to omega-3 deficiency.
According to research, low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with depression, as well as other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
6. Dry eyes
About 14 percent of all US adults suffer from dry eye, which is at least partly caused by inflammation. In a large study of women between the ages of 45 and 84, those with the highest level of omega-3 intake saw a 17% reduction in dry eyes.
Both Feller and Figueroa note that fatigue is a common sign of omega-3 deficiency, and research conducted on the effects of omega-3 supplementation on lupus (which is characterized by joint pain and fatigue), found that fatty acids omega-3s were able to relieve both symptoms.
There are several reasons why you might be experiencing any of the symptoms above, but if you find yourself ticking more than a few from this list, it’s worth checking with your doctor about the possibility of omega-3 deficiency. While there is currently no standardized test for omega-3 deficiency, they will be able to recommend the best way to incorporate more of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids – ALA, EPA, and DHA – into your diet from food or supplements. .
“In general, the recommendation for people who consume seafood is to consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week, as well as plant-based sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, flax seeds and seaweed,” says Feller. “For people who don’t consume seafood that incorporates an abundance of plant-based sources of omega-3s, supplementation may be needed.”
Because omega-3 fatty acids are stored in the cell membranes surrounding each cell, it takes time to correct an omega-3 deficiency, according to Dr. Bland. “It typically takes three to four months after supplementing with 1,000–2,000 mg per day of omega-3s or by increasing the amount of cold-water fish in the diet to raise omega-3s to a healthy level if a person is depleted, “he says. This, of course, depends on the extent of the deficiency with. you’re dealing with and Figueroa says you can start seeing some improvement in as little as two to three weeks.
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