Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that everyone needs for a healthy diet. Because the body can’t produce Omega-3s on its own, we have to consume our fatty acids. There are plenty of options in food form, including fish, but most people don’t get the recommended 8 ounces of fish per week. Enter: fish oil supplements. However, fish oil can have a few unpleasant side effects. Diarrhea, gas, and other unwanted gastrointestinal issues are common with fish oil supplements. Here’s a look at the common side effects of fish oil supplements and what you might be able to do to mitigate your discomfort.
Does Fish Oil Cause Diarrhea or Loose Bowels?
Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of fish oil. It’s most commonly reported when a person takes over 3 grams of fish oil per day. It’s not the fish oil itself that causes diarrhea or loose bowels, but it’s actually the intake of Omega-3s. Flaxseed oil is a popular vegetarian version of fish oil, and it also has the side effect of loose bowels. Omega-3s have inherent laxative properties in them, so when you take higher doses you’re more at risk for diarrhea.
Does Fish Oil Cause Gas?
People take fish oil for its many health benefits, such as boosted cognitive function, lowering of “bad” HDL cholesterol, and increased heart health. However, the EPA and DHA Omega-3s do have a few noteworthy side effects. Gas is one of them. Many people report smelly gas as a side effect of taking fish oil supplements. This occurs because of the way that your body digests fish oil in its purest form.
Here’s the breakdown. Your digestive tract is lined with helpful bacteria that enable you to break down foods. Gas forms in your large intestine when these bacteria ferment starches, sugars, and fibers that weren’t broken down in your small intestine. This process is extremely natural and occurs in all people. Having gas does not mean anything is wrong with your health.
Can Fish Oil Cause Constipation?
Since fish oil can have the unwanted side effect of gas and diarrhea, it’s unlikely to cause constipation. However, it is possible. Sometimes gas and bloating can back you up, causing constipation instead of diarrhea.
Some people do claim that fish oil is one way to alleviate constipation. It isn’t an officially recommended use for fish oil. To alleviate constipation, try your fluids and fiber intake first. Since constipation is a rarer, yet possible side effect of fish oil, it isn’t recommended to take fish oil to alleviate constipation.
Does Fish Oil Cause Heartburn?
Since fish oil has a higher fat content, acid reflux symptoms are a common side effect of taking this Omega-3 supplement. Though you might think heartburn is linked to heart health or your cardiovascular system, heartburn is in fact a digestive tract issue. Issues such as acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion are common while taking fish oil.
Does Fish Oil Make You Burp?
Yes. The high-fat content of fish oil is what causes those unwanted fish burps that have become synonymous with taking fish oil. Burping is a side effect of increased gas and indigestion. Some fish oil brands contain enteric coatings and lipase. Enteric coatings stay intact in your body until the supplement reaches the small intestine, reducing the possibility of fish burps. Lipase is an added enzyme that aids in digestion, making acid reflux and other burp-causing indigestion less of an issue.
Ways to Mitigate Fish Oil Side Effects
Side effects of fish oil can be quite unpleasant. After all, no one wants to have smelly gastrointestinal issues. There are a few key ways to mitigate the side effects of fish oil.
Consume With a Meal
As with any supplement, it’s best to take fish oil with a meal. This aids in digestion and can mask a lot of the side effects of fish oil. Try taking fish oil in the evening instead of first thing in the morning.
One alternative that helps with fish burps is to freeze your pills. This slows the digestion process, so your fish oil is further along in your digestive tract before it breaks down. Don’t stress, you’ll still get the same health benefits.
Eat More Fish
Consuming more fish (if possible), means you’ll need a smaller dose of Omega-3s to supplement your diet. Commit to eating fish once per week and use a small-dose supplement of krill oil.
Try an Alternative
Simply taking a different form of Omega-3 supplement can alleviate a lot of the unwanted side effects. Krill oil is a fish oil alternative with plenty of added bonuses. First, krill oil offers better.