The bumpy rough skin that is often found at the tops of arms is called follicular keratosis and can be one sign that your child isn’t getting enough omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. Follicular keratosis can also be found on the face, cheeks, torso and tops of the legs and we find that when it spreads over the body that child is having problems synthesising and absorbing the omega 3 and it does not boil down to diet alone.
Diet Sources & Supplementation
Omega 3 is found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and prawns as well as omega 3 rich eggs, organic full fat milk and grass-fed beef. There is a little omega 3 in chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts too. Easy ways to boost up omega 3 intake includes fish cakes, kedgeree, walnut pesto, fish pate spread on crackers or adding chia seeds to cereal. Switching eggs to omega 3 eggs and buying blue top organic milk and grass-fed mince for bolognaise will help too.
Omega 3 supplements can make a good addition to the diet, especially for fussy eaters and those not keen on eating fish. Many good quality brands are sustainable and have been purified to ensure they do not contain any mercury, heavy metals or plastics (PCB’s). They can help to restore the balance of omega 3 faster than diet alone.
Omega 3 is an important nutrient that feeds the brain, the immune system and the gut microbiome. It also helps us to regulate our nervous system which in turn helps with emotional regulation and stress management.
Omega 3 Deficiency
This “chicken skin” is usually part of an overall check list of fatty acid deficiency signs such as excess thirst, frequent urination, dry hair, dandruff, dry skin, brittle nails and is much more common in kids with learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyspraxia as well as neurodevelopmental conditions like attention deficit disorder and autism. Kids with eczema and asthma and other inflammatory conditions often get this sandpaper rough skin too.
These deficiency signs have been cited in research from both Oxford University as well as internationally, and not all cases of follicular keratosis mean low omega 3. Some studies have also cited this may happen due to a Vitamin A deficiency and can mean you need both Vitamin A and additional omega 3. Vitamin A can be found in yellow butter, mango, carrots, sweet potato and pumpkin. Cod liver oil contains both Vitamin A and Omega 3 fatty acids, so this works on the skin from two angles at once.
Omega 3 deficiency is a common finding in children who are struggling with their learning and development. I can often spot the kids with learning difficulties or behavioural challenges from 10 feet away, as the follicular keratosis is pretty obvious – the rough skin is mainly on their cheeks which look red and ruddy and it’s on their upper arms as well. In our clinic we analyse the diet and run a fatty acid test to see whether the child is low in omega 3 and we often find quite significant omega 3 deficiencies in these kids. It takes time to correct and we generally find that the skin improves over a few months through dietary modification and supplementation.
Eating oily fish 2-3 x a week can really help, but in some cases a child needs a lot more than that to catch up, and this is why an omega 3 fish oil supplement can make quite a difference. Plant-based kids and fish dodgers need A LOT more omega 3 than fish eaters as the omega 3 in flax, chia and walnuts don’t convert that well into the DHA form of omega 3 that is needed for the growing brain. Luckily there are now vegan omega 3 supplements made from marine algae and these are probably just as good as fish oils.
Why do some kids need more omega 3 than others? It’s complicated but suffice to say that some digest and absorb it better than others and genetics play a role too – that’s where a NatureDoc practitioner can help you unravel things, if upping the omega 3 doesn’t make a difference within a few months.
- Adverse Neurodevelopment and Childhood Behaviors
- Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Fatty acids in dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and the autistic spectrum
- Fatty acid deficiency signs predict the severity of reading and related difficulties in dyslexic children
- Observable essential fatty acid deficiency markers and Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Autistic Disorder and Phospholipids: A Review
- Skin Changes in Nutritional Deficiencies
- Vitamin A deficiency producing follicular hyperkeratosis
- The relation of deficiencies of vitamin A and of essential fatty acids to follicular hyperkeratosis in the rat