Fish oil supplements are one of the most widely used supplements that has been touted as a crucial nutrient for maintaining normal and healthy functioning of the body at the cellular level. Fish oil supplements are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA that aids normal brain development, supports heart health, prevents neurological issues and protects against chronic inflammation. There are numerous research and studies that support the amazing health benefits of fish oil.
But there are also certain downsides to using fish oil supplements. While there are very few side effects of fish oil supplements when they are taken in safe doses, problems arise when they are taken in large doses over a prolonged period of time. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 3grams of omega 3 fatty acids a day from fish is the recommended daily dosage. Anything more than this amount can cause digestive disorders, bleeding, lowered blood pressure, allergy, etc.
Side Effects of Fish Oil Supplements
1. Gas and Bloating
People who take fish oil supplements for the first time often complain of excess stomach gas and bloating. Although, researchers haven’t been able to find the exact mechanism that causes excess gas, it is speculated that the fat present in fish oil stimulates the secretion of gastric acid and digestion process which leads to the production of gas. But the prevalence of gas and bloating seems to vary in individuals as well as the specific fish oil product used.
2. Body Odor
Just like any other sea food, fishes also contain a certain level of contaminants and impurities that passes into the fish oil while it is extracted from the tissues of the fish. When fish oil supplements are taken in large doses, the impurities present in the supplements may trigger a foul and fishy body odor along with foul-smelling sweat and sebum.
3. Bad Breath
The essential fatty acids present in fish oil often irritate the stomach lining and cause acid reflux. This fishy reflux leads to bad breath or halitosis and leaves behind a fishy aftertaste in the mouth. This side-effect is more common is case of lower grade fish oil supplements where the oil was not properly processed or if the fatty acids in the oil turn rancid.
4. Heartburn and Acid Reflux
The fat present in fish oil may irritate the stomach lining and stirs up the symptoms of acid reflux. It triggers the stomach acids to flow back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
5. Allergic Reaction
People having fish or sea food allergy might also be allergic to fish oil supplements. Researchers believe that it is the protein in fish that causes the allergic reaction rather than the fat. People who are allergic to fish oil might experience symptoms like swelling of the throat, lips, tongue or entire face, hives and shortness of breath.
6. Stomach Upset
Just like any other oil, fish oil has to be digested by the stomach and if you are new to taking fish oil supplements then your stomach might not be accustomed to digesting a high amount of fatty acids and this can irritate the stomach lining and cause stomach upset and other digesting disorders such as belching, nausea, loose stool, etc.
7. Prevent Blood Clotting
This is both a positive and negative effect of fish oil supplements. Blood platelets stick to each other which lead to the formation of blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil lowers blood platelet activity which slows down blood clotting and leads to thinning of the blood. While it helps to reduce the risk of formation of dangerous blood clots which cause heart attack and stroke, it increases the risk of excessive bleeding.
Taking fish oil supplements in high doses may increase the risk of severe and persistent nosebleeds. The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil affects clotting time and platelet activity and also increase bleeding time. So, if you already suffer form a nosebleed, taking a fish oil supplement can increase its severity and it may take longer than normal for the bleeding to stop.
9. Heart Palpitations
Fish oil supplements may trigger arrhythmia in people who are already suffering from irregular heart beat. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study of 200 patients with an implanted defibrillator in 2005 and it was seen that out of all the patients who took a fish oil supplement, 65% experienced recurring arrhythmias within 24 months compared to those taking a placebo. The researchers thus concluded that fish oil supplements were ineffective in those prone to arrhythmia and in some cases, it even worsened the symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil supplements help to treat two common chronic ailments – diabetes and high blood pressure. However, some people might experience increase in the level of fasting blood glucose initially when they start taking fish oil supplants, and this can cause dizziness. Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower blood pressure and excessively low blood pressure may also make you feel dizzy or light-headed.
Although, there are numerous health benefits of fish oil supplements it is best not to exceed the recommended dosage to avoid the side effects. Those having any serious health issue or taking insulin or blood thinning medications should consult a doctor before taking fish oil supplements. Get emergency medical help at once if you experience difficulty in breathing, hives, swelling of the throat, chest pain or uneven heartbeat.