I’m thinking about taking a fish oil supplement. I can already here the gasps. A supplement – for a person who believes in getting their nutrition from whole foods? Maybe – here’s why. I don’t eat enough fish. I like fish, but not enough to eat it twice a week, which is what you need to get the enough omega-3’s. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, contain two essential (almost) fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which our body needs, but can only make in limited amounts.
Although I can get EPA and DHA from other sources, such as flax oil and walnuts, these sources do not always provide both. For instance Flaxseed oil does not contain EPA, however it does contain ALA, which the body does seem to convert into EPA and DHA in limited amounts.
Why supplement? Research has shown that most Americans do not get enough omega-3’s through their diet (me being one of them). But there seem to be many health benefits that these essential fatty acids contribute to.
Depression: Although some studies have shown that fish oil reduces symptoms of depression, it isn’t clear whether DHA alone has the same effect. Other studies suggest it may be EPA which has the positive effect on depression.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (my mother has RA): Several small studies indicate that fish oil may help reduce symptoms and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it does not stop joint damage from getting worse.
Menstrual Pain: Fish oil appears to reduce the pain of menstrual cramps when taken on a regular basis (not just when menstruating).
Healthy Skin: Fish oil has been proven to improve the health of your skin, allowing for greater elasticity through optimum collagen production.
I have trouble swallowing pills, especially ones that look to be the size made for horses (a.k.a. horsepills as my grandpap used to say). However, they make liquid supplements as an alternative for most pill supplements, – for people just like me- so I’m sure I will be able to find one for fish oil.
Who should never take it?
Fish oil is probably safe for most people in doses of 3 grams or less per day. Higher amounts might increase the risk of bleeding, increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, and impair immune function. And talk to your doctor before taking it if you have liver disease, bipolar disorder, depression, or diabetes, or if you take a blood pressure-lowering drug or a blood-thinning drug such as aspirin, or if you’re getting chemotherapy treatments for cancer. (It’s always a good idea to tell your doctor about all the supplements you take, whether you have one of those conditions or not.) Skip fish-oil supplements if you’re allergic to fish or seafood, or if you have an implanted defibrillator to prevent irregular heartbeat.