Side Effects of Fish Oil - Adverse Reactions and Interactions

Are there any potential side effects of fish oil which we need to take note of before choosing to consume it? Is fish oil harmful in any way?

Fish oil is rich in the omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are well-lauded and well-known for their numerous health benefits. These fatty acids cannot be made by the human body, and thus must be consumed as part of our diets. Now, omega 3's are necessary for good health, but fish oil is not; fish oil is simply a very good source of these essential fatty acids.

Some basic side effects of fish oil supplements (pills, tablets, capsules, etc) include symptoms like bad breath, bloating, belching and nausea. If you suffer from these reactions, you may want to reduce your fish oil dosage and work your way up again. You may also want to try another brand of fish oil. In the worse case scenario, you may have to switch to another source of omega 3 fatty acids.

The side effects of fish oil include the reported possibility of elevated blood sugar levels. This is actually contrary to evidence that fish oil in fact helps to regulate this element. There is some research which has suggested that this possible fish oil side effect could be averted by adding vitamin E to fish oil, or by taking part in moderate exercise thrice each week, for about 30 minutes every time. In any case, persons who suffer from diabetes may want to first check with a suitable natural health care practitioner before taking fish oil.

The addition of vitamin E to fish oil supplements has also been said to help prevent oxidative damage, something which apparently happens quite easily to fish oil. Fish oil which is damaged in this manner could have adverse effects on health, although that itself has not been conclusively proven.

The side effects of fish oil also include the possibility of elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) levels. Again, this is contrary to other evidence that fish oil actually helps to lower levels of this bad cholesterol. Here, research has also shown possible ways to counter this possible side effect. Studies have suggested that a 15-gram intake of pectin every day together with fish oil supplements can help to lower LDL cholesterol; in addition, studies have suggested that the consumption of garlic supplements may help to prevent possible increase in LDL cholesterol levels. Logically speaking, garlic which is consumed fresh should also help in this regard.

Fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids help to thin the blood. Thus, persons who are taking blood-thinning drugs and medications such as aspirin and warfarin must be very careful. Taken together and in large amounts, one could experience an increase in risk of abnormal bleeding as well as hemorrhagic strokes.

One type of fish oil which is often used is cod liver oil. What must be noted here is that cod liver oil has high amounts of vitamin A. Now, this vitamin is definitely very important for good health and wellbeing. However, when taken directly in supplemental form, the possibility of a toxic overdose is dangerous; this is one of the possible side effects of fish oil which must be avoided. Too much vitamin A also affects the body's ability to use vitamin D. If possible, do not use cod liver oil to get your supply of omega 3 fatty acids.

The following are not side effects of fish oil, per se, but are still important points regarding fish and fish oil safety to take note of.

Fish today are heavily contaminated with PCBs, dioxins, mercury and many other toxins. Generally, fish higher up the food chain accumulate more toxins. Trying to obtain large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids by eating a lot of fish is thus not advisable. Further, when choosing a good fish oil supplement, it is very important to find one which is pure and certified to be chemical and toxin-free.

One more issue is that farm-raised fish and grain-fed animals tend to actually have relatively low levels of omega 3 fatty acids, and in fact have relatively high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. Too much of the latter and too little of the former promotes inflammation, which is linked to many dangerous health conditions. Thus, if looking for animal food sources of omega 3's, always seek wild-caught fish and grass-fed (chemical-free) animals.

Broadly speaking, the possible side effects of fish oil are not very severe and, when taken correctly, fish oil should be something safe and effective to consume. Remember, too much of anything, no matter how healthful, can become harmful to health. Always exercise discretion and common sense.

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