Cod Liver Oil for Acne
Cod Liver Oil contains Vitamins A and D as well as EPA and DHA, 4 effective anti-acne supplements.
Cod liver oil is a fish oil obtained from the liver of cod fish. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) as well as in vitamins A and D.
In fact, cod liver oil is used more because of these vitamins than the fatty acids previously mentioned. Today, those who take cod liver oil as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids are advised to reduce other dietary intake of vitamin A and vitamin D to prevent hypervitaminoses.
Cod liver oil capsules used to be commonly recommended for kids to prevent rickets and correct the signs of vitamin D deficiency.
However, cod liver oil has other therapeutic uses. It is recommended for arthritic patients to help reduce joint stiffness and the pain associated with it. Cod liver oil helps build and repair the bone, nails, teeth, hair and broken skin. This restorative ability is the main reason this nutritional supplement is used in acne treatment.
Cod liver oil is also beneficial for the heart and it is useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.
The supplement is also good for pregnant women since it lowers the risk of Type I Diabetes in children during gestation. It is also recommended for breastfeeding mothers since it can also increase the fatty acid content of breast milk.
However, care should be taken with oral administration of cod liver oil especially in pregnant women. This is because vitamin A may be linked to birth defects and hypertension during pregnancy. Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can be accumulated in the body at dangerous levels.
Since cod liver oil is obtained from cod fish, there is a risk of exposure to environmental toxins such as mercury.
This risk is lowered when cod liver oil is purified during manufacturing.
The form of vitamin A which promotes skin health is retinoic acid. Retinoic acid is produced from retinol and it is described as a growth factor especially for epithelial cells.
One of the functions of vitamin A in the body is to maintain skin health. The vitamin does this by turning immature skin cells into mature cells that make up the epidermis. In this way, vitamin A increases skin turnover and encourage new skin to replace damaged skin. This is essential for clearing acne spots and scars.
In addition, vitamin A reduces the size of sebaceous glands. By extension, it reduces the production of sebum.
Increased sebum production is one of the three components of acne breakouts. The other two are bacterial colonization of the skin and increased rate of keratinization (production of dead skin cells).
Therefore, vitamin A reduces the amount of sebum available to mix with bacteria and dead skin cells. By extension, this reduces the chance of the pores clogging up with dirt while also making the skin not ideal for bacterial growth.
Vitamin A analogs are commonly used in acne products. These are called retinoids and a good example is Accutane.
However, the vitamin A obtained from cod liver oil, which is a natural source, has less side effects that the synthetic retinoids.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Experimental Dermatology detailed the many benefits of vitamin D to the skin.
The most important form of vitamin D in skin health is vitamin D3 or Cholecalciferol which is synthesized in the skin too.
The study showed that the anti-oxidant and anti-comedogenic properties of vitamin D are beneficial to acne patients. This means that vitamin D protects the skin by mopping up harmful free radicals. It can also prevent the formation of acne comedones such whiteheads and blackheads.
Whiteheads and blackheads are acne lesions just like pimples. They are both plugged with a mixture of dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum. However, blackheads are only partially blocked, they are more stable and they show as black specks on the skin.
Vitamin D also breaks up whiteheads and blackheads to open up pores. The vitamin can also reduce the production of sebum by signaling the cells of the sebaceous glands.
In addition, vitamin D is involved in the stimulation of cathelicidins. These are peptides found in the cells of the epithelium. Cathelicidins have antimicrobial properties, and a 2008 study found that they are effective against Propionibacterium acnes.
P. acnes is the major bacterium responsible for acne breakouts. It increases sebum production and causes the cycle of inflammation that produces acne lesions.
However, the cathelicidins do produce an inflammatory response to P. acnes.
Researchers found that vitamin D regulates these peptides in such a way that there is a balance between their beneficial antimicrobial effects and their unwanted inflammatory effects to produce a net positive outcome for acne patients. The exact mechanism by which vitamin D achieves this delicate balance is still unknown.
Omega-3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA have been shown in multiple studies to be effective for treating acne.
Reducing local inflammations on the skin is the most important contribution of Omega-3 fatty acids in acne treatment. These fatty acids also have a mild antibacterial effect.
By reducing growth of P. acnes on the skin and stopping the cycle of inflammation caused by them, Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve skin health and clear acne breakouts.
Since they reduce skin inflammation, Omega-3 fatty acids can be especially useful in the treatment of severe acne. In severe acne, inflammatory lumps on the skin such as nodules and cysts populate the skin.
Nodules and cysts are large, hard and painful lumps which form under the surface of the skin.
Cysts are differentiated from nodules because they are filled with pus. Both of these deep acne lesions can cause scarring and more skin infection especially when aggravated.
To reduce the severity of acne nodules and cysts, an anti-inflammatory agent is needed to bring down the swelling. Since Omega- 3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory agents, they can resolve nodules and other acne lesions while preventing scarring and producing no side effects.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also contribute to the structural integrity of the skin. They are incorporated in the membranes of follicle cells and involved in the production of proteins that make up the skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids bring out the sheen of the skin by clearing out the pores through its lubricant actions. In this way, it can help fade away acne scars too.
When choosing cod liver oil to buy, make sure to pick fermented cod liver oil. Fermented cod liver oil is manufactured without chemical agents.
There are two ways of making cod liver oil.
Fermentation is the first method to be used. To start this process, a wooden barrel is filled with fresh cod livers and seawater and allowed to ferment so that the oil can naturally separate. It is a slow process that can take up to a year before the finished oil is removed.
The modern method is much faster. It involves cooking the tissues of fatty cod fish and can also include bleaching, treatment with alkali, winterization and deodorization.
Since this harsh refinement removes most of the vitamins in the oil, synthetic vitamins are added after to the oil after it has been expressed from the fish.
Vitamins are not the only compounds removed from refined cod liver oil. Certain cofactors are also removed and are not replaced in the final product. These cofactors are essential for the absorption and bioavailability of the vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids found in the oil.
Therefore, fermented cod liver oil provides the full complement of the natural contents of cod liver oil, and these contents are available in easily absorbed forms. This type of cod liver oil provides the most benefits for acne patients.
Furthermore, cod liver oil is best ingested in gel form. To take the equivalent doses in capsule forms would mean ingesting a lot of gelatin capsules.
If you can only get cod liver oil in capsules, make sure to break the capsule and remove the oil before ingesting the supplement. Alternatively, you can bite the capsule, suck out the oil and spit out the gelatin shells.
Cod liver oil in liquid form needs to be refrigerated. A daily dose of ½ - 1 teaspoon is recommended.
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