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Can Fermented Cod Liver Oil Heal Your Eczema?
Among fish oils, cod liver oil is known for its high content of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. This oil is especially recommended for infants to help promote brain development and innate immunity as well as to reduce the risk of allergies. Although the use of cod liver oil in the treatment of eczema is not well studied, evidences from available studies and users’ testimonies confirm that cod liver oil can help. Read on to find out how cod liver oil can heal your eczema and what makes fermented cod liver oil better than regular cod liver oil supplements.
Cod liver oil is a nutritional and medicinal fish oil derived from the liver of cod fish. Like most fish oils, cod liver oil is rich in the essential fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Besides these omega-3 fatty acids, cod liver oil is also rich in vitamin A and vitamin D. Cod liver oil contains more of these vitamins than other fish oils.
In fact, its high content of these vitamin makes it a ready means of supplementing with vitamins A and D.
For example, one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 4080 micrograms of vitamin A (Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A = 900 micrograms per day) and 94 micrograms of vitamin A (RDA = 15 micrograms per day)
The omega-3 fatty acids found in cod liver oil are useful for their anti-inflammatory and rejuvenating properties. Because of them, cod liver oil is used in the treatment of arthritis, multiple sclerosis as well as for healing wounds and restoring the skin, teeth, hair and nails.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for bone health and the cardiovascular system.
Cod liver oil is especially recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it can lower the risk of Type 1 diabetes in infants while promoting brain development and the innate immune system.
Modern preparation of cod liver oil involves expressing the oil from the fatty tissues of cod fish while it is cooked. However, the cooking process and the subsequent refining will remove some of the bioactive components of cod liver oil.
The traditional manufacture of cod liver oil, on the other hand, produces a more nutritious and medicinal oil. This process relies on fermentation rather than cooking to extract the oil from the tissues of cod fish.
Traditionally, cod fish livers are put in wooden barrels and then filled with seawater. The mixture is allowed to ferment for up to 12 months before the oil is separated and made into dietary supplements.
Another difference between the traditional and modern processes of manufacturing cod liver oil is the choice of the fish part used. While the modern process uses whole body tissue of the fish, the traditional process uses only the liver of cod fish.
This difference is important because cod fish is not an oily fish but a white fish.
Most fish oils are derived from the fatty body tissues of seawater fish. Because it is a white fish, cod is not as fatty as oily fish such as sardine, tuna and mackerel. Rather, it has a fatty liver where most of its omega-3 content and vitamins are stored.
This means that the traditional process of manufacturing cod liver oil is more efficient than the shorter, modern process. Cooking whole body fatty tissues of cod liver is bound to destroy some important bioactive compounds while introducing other unneeded “contaminants”.
Therefore, the traditional process may be longer but it is more rigorous and produces a superior product.
Besides the choice of manufacturing process, the choice of cod fish used in the production of cod liver oil is also important.
Naturally, cods live in the cold waters of North Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Cod is naturally a cold water fish. Therefore, the best form of cod liver oil is fermented cod liver oil derived from cold water cod (and not fish farm cod).
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good health and they are especially necessary for a healthy skin.
Both EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties. By contributing to the reduction of inflammation in tissues, omega-3 fatty acids can relieve certain symptoms of eczema such as blistering and red, inflamed skin.
Besides their anti-inflammatory properties, omega-3 fatty acids are also incorporated into the skin cells.
When the blood levels of omega-3 acids falls, the skin becomes dry, flaky and easily irritated. Studies have shown the omega-3 fatty acid deficiency increases the keratinization of skin cells.
Therefore, without these essential fatty acids, skin cells are increasingly destroyed and dead skin cells accumulate.
These actions are responsible for a number of skin diseases including acne, psoriasis and eczema.
However, omega-3 fatty acids are important in the treatment of eczema in other ways. By serving as a source of these fatty acids, cod liver oil can help increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the body relative to omega-6 fatty acids.
When omega-3 fatty acids predominate, the balance of essential fatty acids protects the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids can be used to reverse the damage caused by leaky gut syndrome.
By tightening the pores of the gastrointestinal tract, these essential fatty acids prevent toxins, pathogens and partially digested food particles from getting into the bloodstream and overwhelming the immune system.
Because most of the immune system is directly wired to the gut, omega-3 fatty acids can prevent the kinds of hypersensitivity reactions mounted by the immune system in response to the introduction of foreign substances leaking from the gut into systemic circulation.
Therefore, the combined anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties of omega-3 fatty acids can help heal eczema.
Multiple studies have confirmed that omega-3 fatty acids, such as the ones in cod liver oil, can lower the incidence of atopic eczema caused by the immunoglobulin, IgE. In fact, omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy and lactation was demonstrated to lower the risk of IgE-related eczema in infants.
The vitamins in cod liver oil are also important to the treatment of eczema. Vitamin A and its analogs, for example, are commonly used in the treatment of skin diseases.
Vitamin A deficiency causes dry scaly skin, itching, as well as red, inflamed lesions on the skin. These are also signs of eczema. Therefore, the vitamin A found in cod liver oil can help rejuvenate the skin and prevent hyperkeratinization (increased production of dead skin cells in form of dry flakes) and inflammation in the skin.
Vitamin D can also help your eczema and in more ways than vitamin A. Vitamin D can function as an anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antimicrobial agent.
As an anti-inflammatory agent, vitamin D relieves skin inflammation and can quickly redyce the hypersensitivity reactions mounted by the immune system.
However, this vitamin not only reduces the production of pro-inflammatory immune factors, it can also boost the immune system. Specifically, vitamin D improves the production and activities of immune cells needed for hunting down pathogens.
In this way, it can help remove pathogens, such as candida, that can potentially promote chronic eczema.
Lastly, vitamin D stimulates the production of a family of antimicrobial compounds known as cathelicidins. Cathelicidins are naturally released in the body and can also help remove the pathogens that can cause eczema.
Very few studies have been done to investigate the benefits of cod liver oil for eczema. In contrast, a lot more studies have been done to determine whether essential fatty acids are any good in the treatment of eczema.
One study even concluded that atopic eczema may be caused by a genetic flaw responsible for the abnormal metabolism of essential fatty acids.
In a 2000 study published in the journal, American Society of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that although linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) was present in the right concentrations in the tissues and blood samples of patients with atopic eczema, it is poorly utilized.
On the other hand, the researchers discovered that the levels of the metabolites of linolenic acid, such as gamma-linolenic acid, were significant lower in these patients.
In addition, they observed that the patients’ eczema got better when gamma-linolenic acid was given.
This results suggest that eczema may be the result of reduced metabolism of essential fatty acids.
Therefore, the administration of anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids, such as the EPA and DHA found in cold liver oil, may help sidestep this metabolic abnormality and provide relief for eczema.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health investigated the effects of fish and cod liver oil consumption during pregnancy and first year of life on the risks of asthma and eczema.
The researchers took data from a Norwegian study that investigated the prevention of allergy among children in Trondheim, Norway.
The study covered over 3,000 children and found that those who consumed fish and cod liver oil during infancy had the least risk of eczema in childhood.
The results of the study showed that giving children fish or cod liver oil during their first year of life was more effective at lowering the risk of childhood eczema than maternal fish intake during pregnancy.
The importance of early childhood fish (or cod liver oil) consumption was also highlighted by a 2013 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this study, the researchers analyzed data for 3,285 children involved in a birth cohort study in Sweden.
They found that the children who consumed omega-3 fatty acids in their first year of life still had lower risks of allergic diseases more than 10 years later.
Specifically, first-year supplementation with these fatty acids lowered the risks of allergic rhinitis by 74% and the risk of eczema by 78% by age 12.
Therefore, cod liver oil should be given to infants to help lower the risk of chronic eczema later in life.
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