The side effects of fish oil
Is taking fish oil absolutely safe?

Are there any fish oil side effects? What about Omega-3 side effects? Are those two the same?

Let's start off right away with the side effects of fish oil as reported by Prof Brian Peskin. Just watch this video...

Are you still sold on taking fish oil despite the side effects mentioned by Prof Brian Peskin?

I won't try to convince you one way or another - I hope therefore that you'll do your own research before you decide what is best.

However, if you do decide to take fish oil then be aware of the side effects further down at the very least, depending on:

  • whether you’re suffering from diabetes, heart disease, bleeding disorder and/or have concerns over your cholesterol levels
  • certain medication you may be taking
  • the 'source' of your omega-3s - a good fish oil is essential (no, I’m afraid there isn’t a 'pharmaceutical grade' fish oil!)
  • the fish oil product you choose
  • the dosage (if you are taking blood thinning medication)

A large section of the medical community considers fish oil to be safe and well-tolerated (do make sure you have watched the above video). However, if you do decide to go ahead and take omega-3, be sure you have at least read all the information on this page. So, read on...

Diabetes, heart disease and fish oil side effects

omega 3 capsules - any side effects?

Are you taking any medication? If so, please inform yourself thoroughly and speak to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. The Institute of Optimum Nutrition provides relevant information on diabetes, heart disease and cholesterol.

Your doctor is likely to tell you that there are no Omega-3 side-effects as such. However, you may need to adjust your medication.

Your doctor will want you to have some extra blood tests done to make sure that values remain stable (although actually, they’re likely to improve!).

The Institute of Optimum Nutrition reports that fish oil can help make your statins more effective.

If you happen to take beta-blockers, you may already have found out that these can have a detrimental effect on your sex life. Your libido may already have plummeted!

As a couple counsellor I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point you to my page on How to Increase Libido for further help and information.

Blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants)

Any medication - blood-thinner or otherwise - has a benefit / risk ratio.

Do you have a bleeding disorder? Are you taking anticoagulants? Then you absolutely should consult a doctor before trying fish oil, especially if you want to take a higher dosage.

Fish oil stops platelets clumping together, hence its 'blood-thinning' effect. If your doctor has no qualms about fish oil he or she would be happy for you to get all the supposed health benefits of fish oil, rather than risk the side effects of the available drugs. You will need advice on the right dose of fish oil for you to prevent any side effects.

The side effects of fish oil

The source of your Omega-3 is really important.  For example, if you start taking pure fish oil there is chance you'll notice the following side effects:

  • minor belching - hardly a terrible side effect of fish oil!
  • nausea
  • lose stools - you may feel that is a benefit
  • bloating
  • See also: drug interaction - further down

So, at least be sure that you choose a quality product.

A badly fishy back burp is not a good sign: fish oil is a fat... like butter - if it’s treated badly or it’s old it becomes rancid - not healthy (or nice) at all! Prof Brian Peskin argues that all fish oil quickly becomes rancid from the moment it reaches our mouth. Logical, when you think that fish goes off in any warm environment.

Remember too that many companies mask bad taste and smell from bad products by adding chemical additives and perfumes. The manner in which the oil is extracted, purified and packaged is extremely important too.

This guide has lots of information on buying Fish Oil in case you've decided you do want to take fish oil.

Fish oil for depression?

What about Omega-3 for depression?  There is a link between cardiac disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and depression*.

Find out if you're suffering from depression here.

Fish oil side effects: the problem with vitamin A

Make sure in any case that you’re not mistaking the dosage for fish liver oil, such as cod liver oil, for that of omega 3, because it's very possible for you to overdose on vitamin A or D if you are taking the quantities advised for fish oil. Both of these vitamins are naturally part of the product or are routinely added to fish liver oils (if previously removed by processing).

The dosage of fish oil you're recommended to take is too high if you were to use a liver oil, such as cod liver oil.

New studies show that modern processed cod liver oil may even raise death rates. In developed countries people normally don't have a Vitamin A deficiency, rather more likely a 5% a Vitamin A toxicity according to Dr Mercola.

Safe products

Fish was traditionally fermented to preserve it and thereby maintain it's health-giving benefits.

The Weston A Price Foundation (non-profit nutrition education foundation) recommends:

Best
Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Green Pasture Cod Live Oil

Good
Garden of Life Olde World Icelandic Cod Liver Oil (also available from Live Superfoods)

Fish oil and pollution

It’s important to state that certain side effects from fish oil depend on the quality and source of the fish (oil). Many people start out trying to add Omega-3s by eating more fish.

Unfortunately fish is now heavily polluted with methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (pcb) and dioxins. These toxins for sure are detrimental to your health.

Salmon with lemon and chives - omega 3 or fish oil benefitsA scrumptious piece of salmon. Be sure you know where it comes from.

Are you vegetarian?

It is said that the supposed benefits of Omega-3 lie in its conversion to DHA and EPA.  Many people don’t have the chemical needed to convert fish oil into those substances.  Flax seed oil may then not have the reported benefits gained from fish oil.  However, I noted the following in an article on Dr Mercola's website:

"It is thought that the conversion of the plant-based ALA into the fish-oil based eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is not that efficient," he says, "But we find that our vegetarian patients actually do it very well and don't use the fish oil or animal-based omega-3 fatty acids as effectively."  

-Dr Nicholas Gonzales

In addition Dr Mercola reports on flax-seed oil that it increases prostate cancer, whilst fish oil apparently decreases it.

Drug interactions?

Fish oil can apparently help prevent or reduce the severity of side effects of Cyclosporin (a drug used to suppress the immune system) and help statins (a class of drugs used to reduce high levels of 'bad' cholesterol) to be more effective, due to their anti-inflammatory effect.

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Other helpful links

Marine Conservation Society
University of Maryland Medical Center - omega 3
Journal of Lipids - Why fish oil is harmful
Weston A Price Foundation

References

*) "Get in Your Best Shape Ever in 2014!" Harvard Health Blog RSS. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2014.

Images courtesy of: ArtsieAspie and Lockstockb