Omega-3 Deficiency: 6 Signs & Symptoms
Between TV commercials and self-promoting food labels, we are constantly told about many of the essential vitamins and nutrients we should receive daily. However, there are various nutrients that we hear about less but are still very important for our general health.
Omega-3 is one example of a nutrient that is more important for your health than you might realize, and it is important that you are mindful about receiving enough of it before your body starts to tell you what you’re missing. If you are concerned that you do not receive enough omega-3 fatty acids in your daily diet, you should look out for a few signs.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that make up the foundations of many cells in our bodies.
The body uses three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 precursor, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The two most important of the three, EPA and DHA, are both long-chain fatty acids that offer the most benefits for systems in the body.
ALA acts as a precursor to DHA and EPA, as it is used by the body to create these two fatty acids. Although, the body does not create large amounts of DHA and EPA from ALA alone since it has very low conversion rates. In men, only about 8% of ALA is converted into EPA, while between just 0 and 4% is converted to DHA. In women, these rates are a bit higher, as about 21% of ALA is converted to EPA and approximately 9% to DHA.
Although there are many more dietary sources of ALA, the intake of ALA through diet is rarely enough to provide your body with the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids it needs. Therefore, it is vital that DHA and EPA omega-3s are a key part of your daily intake, either through diet or supplementation, to avoid a deficiency.
What Are the Benefits of Omega-3?
Omega-3s are present throughout the body and are important in many bodily functions. For example, DHA is found in the brain and eyes as it makes the foundation of many cells. EPA, on the other hand, plays a different role, as it produces eicosanoids, which serve a regulatory function in the body and help provide balance for many bodily systems. These two vital fatty acids provide the following benefits:
- Support heart health
- Support healthy fetal development
- Support brain development during childhood
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
- Support emotional wellness
- Aid in circulation
- Support joint health
- Maintain eye health
- Support energy levels
How Can I Tell If I Might Have an Omega-3 Deficiency?
Despite the importance that omega-3 fatty acids have in the body, not everyone obtains the necessary amounts through their diet. Research has shown that over 60% of adults and 95% of children may not consume enough omega-3s in their diet.
The recommended daily intake for omega-3 is 1.6g for men over 14 and 1.1g for women over 14. Because omega-3 is such a vital nutrient for fetal and childhood development, it is recommended that women receive at least 1.4g during pregnancy and lactation.
If you do not receive enough omega-3 fatty acids, you may see the effects through any of the following signs and symptoms.
Omega-3s are a vital source of energy in the body; without them, the effects are noticeable. These fatty acids help provide calories for energy which support general bodily function. They may also help support better sleep, and inadequate levels of omega-3s can lead to feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
2. Poor Memory
DHA has a strong presence in the brain, while EPA plays a vital role in supporting cognitive functions, like motor skills and memory. They also help support concentration and attentiveness. Low levels of omega-3 have also been associated with lower rates of success on visual memory tests. If you find yourself struggling to remember little things throughout the day, it is possible that you are not receiving enough of these important fatty acids.
3. Dry Skin
Your skin largely benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, as they help support the strength of the skin barrier and prevent moisture loss. Omega-3s can also help provide relief for a range of skin conditions. Therefore, a deficiency in omega-3s can result in dry or rough skin.
Dry or irritated skin can lead to various additional symptoms like blemishes, itchiness, redness, and flaking. You may want to talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms regularly or if you have noticed an unusual change in the health of your skin.
4. Mood Swings
Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for their ability to support a positive mental outlook. DHA is highly concentrated in the brain, while EPA omega-3s can permeate through brain cell membranes and affect molecules in the brain.
As a result, both of these nutrients work together in order to support a healthy, positive mood. With a deficiency in omega-3s, this process may be unstable or imbalanced, leading to unsuspected shifts in your mood.
If you feel that your mood has been unpredictable or that it is less positive than usual, then you may not be receiving adequate amounts of omega-3s. Many factors may influence mental health, so talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any sudden shifts, but omega-3 intake may be a helpful start.
5. Poor Circulation
EPA and DHA omega-3s have a significant influence on circulatory health. Since EPA acts as a regulatory force in the body, it helps support healthy circulation. It also helps maintain a healthy balance of triglyceride levels in the blood, which are types of fat that can be harmful in excessive amounts. The eicosanoids that help regulate triglyceride levels also help maintain healthy blood pressure and support a regular heartbeat. All of these factors are vital for healthy blood flow.
Without this regulation in the body, your circulation may not be as strong as it could be, which can lead to weak or numb hands and feet. If you notice any of the above symptoms, you should talk to your doctor and consider increasing your omega-3 intake.
6. Joint Discomfort
One of the biggest benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids is support for joint health. Joint discomfort is more common as you age, but omega-3s can help support the flexibility of your joints while reducing stiffness, swelling, and discomfort. For those with joint discomfort, omega-3s can even provide some relief. However, when the body does not receive enough omega-3s, you are less likely to see these benefits.
How Can I Get More Omega-3s?
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or think you have an omega-3 deficiency, you should start by consulting your doctor about the steps you should take to support your overall health. A simple step you can take to improve your omega-3 levels is to increase your daily intake of omega-3s. You can maintain some peace of mind by including any of the following sources of these fatty acids in your daily diet.
Fish is the main and most popular source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, and other fatty, oily fish are all great sources of the two fatty acids. However, some fish may have higher levels of mercury or other contaminants than others, which may cause concern for some people. These fish include mackerel, swordfish, and bigeye tuna.
Fish and krill oil are two additional sources of omega-3 that are often sought for their convenience. These oils are directly extracted from fish and often taken by a supplement or a spoonful.
For those on a plant-based diet or those who dislike the taste of fish, obtaining the daily recommended intake of omega-3s through fish alone is unrealistic. Fortunately, there is an option available to suit any lifestyle! Algae is a rich source of omega-3 and one of the only plant-based sources you can find. In fact, fish contain so many omega-3s because their diet contains such large amounts of algae.
iwi provides an algae supplement from the species Nannochloropsis, which has the highest omega-3 content of any species. This form of algae, in combination with polar lipids included in iwi’s supplements, allows omega-3s to be absorbed by the body 50% better than from other sources, like krill or fish oil. Plus, because it is grown in saltwater pools in the desert, it is completely free of the harmful contaminants and toxins that cause concern in seafood.
One of the best parts is that you can avoid those uncomfortable fishy burps. Algae supplements have no taste or scent, so you can focus completely on getting the nutrients you need instead of taking another breath mint.
How Long Does It Take To Correct Omega-3 Deficiency?
If you experience a deficiency of omega-3, you should start including the nutrient into your diet daily, whether through food or supplementation. Through the help of supplements, omega-3s can start being absorbed by the body in just a matter of hours.
However, it may take some time for your omega-3 levels to restore to normal amounts and reverse the signs of deficiency, which is why it is crucial to supplement the nutrient routinely. With a consistent intake, you may start to see a relief of deficiency symptoms within six weeks to six months.
Start Boosting Your Omega-3 Intake
Omega-3s are crucial nutrients that support several functions in the body, but not everyone receives as many of these nutrients as they should.
At iwi, we make omega-3 intake easy. Our omega-3 supplement contains 150mg of EPA and 100mg of DHA, so you receive an appropriate amount of both essential fatty acids.
If you are concerned about not receiving enough omega-3s through your current diet, try iwi today. Just taking one of these softgels per day can help you maintain healthy omega-3 levels and enjoy peace of mind. Explore our complete family of omega-3 supplements to see thevariety of benefits that these fatty acids can have for your overall health and wellness.
Study finds most Americans low in omega-3 fatty acids, could impact mood | Nutra Ingredients
Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Health Professional Fact Sheet | National Institute for Health