How Do you Know you`re Omega-3 Deficient?
Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) is the source of Omega-3. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the essential omega-3s required in foods, as well as their essential precursor alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). If one suffers a deficiency of omega-3, it means the body isn’t getting enough omega-3 fats, and this puts them at risk of negative health effects.
It’s essential to consume adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as they are an important element of the cell membranes. The body needs them to produce signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which help the endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and immune systems function properly.
Although there’s been some research on the symptoms of omega-3 deficiency, there’s no standard test to diagnose its deficiency. Fortunately, there are ways to examine one’s omega-3 levels.
We`ll discuss five indicators of omega-3 deficiency.
Five Ways to Know if you Suffer Omega-3 Deficiency
Joint Pain and Stiffness
Pain and stiffness may not only be results of aging; they may also be related to a condition called osteoarthritis, in which the cartilage covering bones breaks down. On the other hand, it also may be related to an inflammatory autoimmune condition called rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Studies have found that PUFAs may help with osteoarthritis. What`s more? Taking omega-3 supplements will also help reduce joint pain and increase grip strength.
Omega-3 supplements will also reduce disease activity in people diagnosed with RA, as well as improve symptoms in people with the disease.
You`re advised to speak with your healthcare provider if you’ve noticed arthritic symptoms or an increase in joint pain. It could be that your omega-3 fat is low and there’s a need for you to take supplements.
Not only do omega-3 fats help retain moisture in the skin, but they also help keep your hair healthy. Low omega-3 levels may lead to changes in hair texture and density. Taking EPA and DHA improves the fatty acid composition and gives better hair quality.
Also, consuming omega-3 supplements may help if you’re suffering from increased hair loss or have noticed that your hair is feeling dry, brittle and thinning.
Omega-3 fats have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, and these are essential for brain health. These fats particularly treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain disorders such as dementia, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease. A lifelong inadequacy of omega-3 fats can cause changes in neuronal pathways of the brain and result in depression.
You`re advised to consult your healthcare provider to be screened for depression if you’ve felt depressed lately. They will help you determine the appropriate treatment strategies.
Skin Irritation and Dryness
Most people first notice some changes in their skin when their body lacks omega-3 fats. If your body lacks omega-3 fats, you may experience sensitive and dry skin, or even an unusual increase in acne.
Consuming a daily dose of 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) of ALA-rich flaxseed oil decreases skin roughness and increases skin hydration by nearly 40%. Daily use of hempseed oil particularly helps to reduce dryness and itchiness in people with atopic dermatitis, which is also called eczema, a condition that causes dry and irritated skin.
What`s more? Omega-3s fats reduce inflammation, which may trigger acne breakouts. It also increases body resistance to sunburn.
If you desire better skin health, then be sure to get enough supply of omega-3 fats.
Omega-3 fats help relieve dry eye syndrome, ensure the eyes maintain their moisture, as well as provide a healthy production of tears.
Symptoms of omega-3 deficiency often include eye discomfort and even disturbances in vision.
Besides diet issues, some other health conditions contribute to dry eye symptoms. Try speaking with a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing dry eyes or other eye-related symptoms.
How to Confirm Omega-3 Deficiency
There are no standard tests to diagnose an omega-3 deficiency, however, there are ways to analyze omega-3 levels.
Healthcare providers first take blood samples of patients to analyze levels of omega-3s in the blood fats or blood plasma and then express a percentage of total phospholipid fatty acids by weight.
This indirect examination of the fatty acid composition of red blood cells can help healthcare providers assess one’s omega-3 status.
Note, however, that the number of fatty acids in the blood, depending on what you last ate and when can differ significantly.
You may be at a higher risk of omega-3 deficiency if you don’t consume sources of ALA or take a supplement that contains EPA and DHA. There’s less concern about omega-3 deficiency among populations that eat more fish, so you probably want to make fish your go-to food.
How to Improve your Omega-3 Levels
Besides consuming ALA, a precursor to DHA and EPA, focus on getting enough EPA and DHA directly from your diet or supplements as they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, unlike the former with a low conversion rate.
You may consume fatty fishes such as trout, salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and sea bass, and other foods that are mostly animal-based, which contain DHA and EPA. Foods like plant oils, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and other plant foods contain the omega-3 fat ALA.
You`re advised to increase your dietary intake and consider a supplement if you suspect that your omega-3 status is low.
Side Effects of Omega-3 Fats
As much as omega-3 fats have loads of health benefits, there are some side effects. While some of these side effects are negligible, some others require medical attention. We`ll look at both categories of side effects briefly.
Side Effects Requiring Immediate Medical Attention
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, which is the active ingredient in omega-3 may bring about some unwanted effects, hence requiring medical attention. If you notice any of these symptoms, please speak with your doctor immediately:
- red or black, tarry stools
- red or dark-brown urine
- bleeding gums
- coughing up blood
- difficulty with breathing or swallowing
- tightness in the chest
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- hives, itching, or skin rash
- increased menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding
- prolonged bleeding from cuts
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids, face, tongue, or lips
Side Effects Not Requiring Immediate Medical Attention
There are some other side effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that don`t require any medical attention. These side effects usually don`t stay long. Speaking with your doctor may also be helpful, as they will tell you how to prevent or reduce the side effects. Let`s take a quick look at some of them:
- stomach discomfort
- acid or sour stomach
- bad, unusual, or unpleasant taste
- nausea or vomiting
- passing of gas
- stomach fullness
- bloated or full feeling
- change in taste
- excess air or gas in the stomach
- difficulty stooling
- loss of appetite
Now that you Know…
After all that you have read, you certainly want to include seafood in your diet. You might also just opt for omega-3 supplements, however, you should speak with your health care provider, particularly if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Besides these, people on medications that affect blood clotting, as well as those who are allergic to seafood should seek medical advice before consuming these supplements. You also shouldn`t administer omega-3 supplements to children without speaking with their healthcare provider.