Fish Oil

What should I avoid while taking fish oil? | Dietary Supplements

Should I Take a Fish Oil Supplement?


Omega-3 fats are healthy fats with many benefits. Omega-3 fats can help lower your risk of heart disease and some cancers and may improve your immune system. Research is being done to see if omega-3 fats play a role in preventing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. One of the best sources of omega-3 fats is fatty fish like salmon, trout and tuna. But some people do not enjoy eating fish and may benefit from a fish oil supplement.

What are fish oil supplements?

Fish oil supplements are made of omega-3 fats taken from fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines. They are made into pills or liquid supplements. These are called “omega-3 supplements” or “fish oil supplements.” They come in different doses ranging from 250 mg to 2000 mg.

Should I take a fish oil supplement?

It depends. Aim to eat two 75 gram (or 2 ½ ounce) servings of fatty fish each week, which is about the size of a deck of cards. Two servings of fatty fish is equal to about 2000 mg to 3000 mg of omega-3 fat each week.

You may want to take a fish oil supplement if you:

Do not like to eat fish

Are vegetarian or vegan

Are at risk of heart disease

Have heart disease

Have congestive heart failure

Need to lower triglyceride levels

If you are on medication and are thinking of using a fish oil supplement, talk to your doctor. Fish oil supplements are safe for adults up to 3000 mg per day.

Can I take fish oil supplements if I am pregnant?

An omega-3 fat called DHA is essential for your baby’s brain and eye sight. DHA is found in fish and fish oil supplements. If you are pregnant, eating two 75 gram servings of fish each week is the best way to get DHA. Read more about fish and mercury here.

If you do not eat fish, you can safely take fish oil supplements while you are pregnant. The exact dose that you need is not yet known. Check with your doctor for advice. Health Canada suggests you do not take more than 3000 mg per day. For pregnant women who already eat fish twice a week, there is not enough research to show whether taking fish oil supplements will have any extra benefits for your baby.

How should I choose a fish oil supplement?

Make sure you buy a supplement that has been purified. That means it has been tested and meets government standards to be low in mercury and PCBs. Look for one with a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the product label. The NPN will only be found on supplements that have been tested for safety and quality. Ask your pharmacist about fish oil supplements that have a NPN.

Are there any alternatives to fish oil supplements?

If you are allergic to fish or are vegetarian, there are other ways to get enough omega-3 fat in your diet. You can try supplements made from algal oil, which is a vegetarian source of DHA made from sea algae. Algal oil is also added to some foods including some yogurts and fortified soy beverages. Omega-3 enriched eggs and milk and foods like walnuts, ground flax seeds and flaxseed oil are also options.

The bottom line

Fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 fats which are important for your health. If you don’t each fish, you may benefit from taking fish oil supplements. If you have certain health problems, are taking medication, are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor to learn exactly which dose may be right for you.

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How to Tolerate Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to your cardiovascular health. According to Medline Plus, fish oil is effective for reducing high triglycerides in the blood, which may lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, fish oil commonly causes uncomfortable side effects. They include abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, belching and diarrhea. If you experience any of those, don’t give up on fish oil. Just change the way you consume the supplement.

1. Take the recommended dose. Follow the “Directions of Use” on the fish oil supplement label. For example, if a nutritional label says to take 1 to 2 tablets with a glass of water, the serving size is 2 tablets. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, adults should not take more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules per day without consulting a doctor first. Check the amount of omega-3 fatty acids per serving on the nutritional label.

2. Freeze the fish oil capsules. Put your bottle of fish oil in a sealable bag and then place it in the freezer. Freezing the fish oil capsules slows down the release in your stomach, which may reduce the unpleasant side effects.

3. Have your fish oil supplement during or after your meal. The food in your stomach may help slow down the absorption of fish oil, thus reducing the side effects. According to gastrointestinal side effects may be reduced if fish oil is taken during a meal.

What should I avoid while taking fish oil? | Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins and minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Eric Carter