There are two EFAs in the human diet: alpha-linolenic acid (the parent fatty acid of the Omega-3 family) and linoleic acid (the parent fatty acid of the Omega-6 family). Omega-6 is the class of EFAs found most commonly in the American diet, but Omega-3 is sorely lacking in many diets.
Part of the reason fats and oils have earned such a bad reputation in recent years is because people eat too much fat; however, many people don't realize that in North America most people consume only 20% of EFAs required for optimal health. In fact, EFAs are considered valuable in weight management and weight loss. Specialized fat cells, which comprise roughly 10% of total body fat, are capable of burning approximately 1/4 of calories consumed. It takes fat to lose fat.
EFAs are the only fats that become prostaglandins, which play a key role in regulating the immune system.
Eczema and EFAs
The National Institute of Health ("NIH") sent me a draft of their Handout on Atopic Dermatitis that they are preparing for the public. It states ...
- "Biochemical Abnormalities: Scientists
suspect that changes in the skin's protective barrier make people with atopic
dermatitis more sensitive to irritants. Such people have lower levels of fatty
acids (substances that provide moisture and elasticity) in their skin, which
causes dryness and reduces the skin's ability to control inflammation ....
Scientists are focusing on identifying new treatments for atopic dermatitis
including ... fatty acid supplements
- "In people with atopic dermatitis, monocytes
appear to play a role in the decreased production of an immune system hormone
called interferon gamma ("IFN-y"), which helps regulate allergic reactions.
This defect may cause exaggerated immune and inflammatory responses in the blood
and tissues of people with atopic dermatitis."
"Researchers also think that an imbalance in the immune
system may contribute to the development of atopic dermatitis. It appears that
the part of the immune system responsible for stimulating IgE is overactive, and
the part that makes IFN-y and handles skin viral and fungal infections is not
working sufficiently. Indeed, the skin of people with atopic dermatitis shows
increased susceptibility to skin infections. This imbalance appears to result
in the skin's inability to restrain dermatitis, or inflammation, even in areas
of skin that appear
Flaxseed favourably influences immune response. The flaxseed component alpha-linolenic acid ("ALA") alters membrane phospholipids, inhibits arachidonic acid biosynthesis from linoleic acid, inhibits the production of proinflammatory eicosanoids from arachidonic acid, and suppresses lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine production. Flaxseed lignans are potent inhibitors of platelet-activating factor, a mediator of inflammation. Through these effects, flaxseed has the potential to be used for the treatment of disorders characterized in part by activated lymphocytes and a hyper-stimulated immune response. Such disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Omega-3 fatty acids modify immune and inflammatory reactions. The key to a healthy immune system is found in EFAs. EFAs common to flaxseed oil are ultimately converted to hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins, and are important for the regulation of a host of bodily functions including:
- inflammation, pain, and swelling
- pressure in the eye, joints or blood vessels
- secretions from mucus membranes and their viscosity
- smooth muscle and autonomic reflexes,
arterial, ear, heart
- water retention
- blood clotting ability
- allergic response and rheumatoid arthritis
- nerve transmission
- steroid production and hormone synthesis
Essential and Metabolic Fatty Acids Analysis. Excellent reading!
1. To help you get the most out of flaxseed oil, try to limit the refined oils you consume. This includes hydrogenated oils. These oils are metabolized in the same pathways as the natural oils and can block their functions. Moderation is good, nothing radical.
2. There are special proteins in yogurt or cottage cheese (non-fat or low-fat) that enhance the properties of the EFA's; so, mixing the oil with either one is beneficial.
3. Vitamins A, C, E, B-2, B-3, B-6, Pantothenic acid, B-12, biotin, and minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and zinc are all involved in EFA metabolism. Taking a good multivitamin and mineral supplement with special attention to B-6 is recommended.
Most of this information from http://itchy.net.au - I really like their natural eczema cream from here: