Fish Oil & Bloating

Fish oil supplements contain high levels of omega-3 Fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. The American Heart Association recommends daily fish oil supplementation of 0.5-1.5 grams to reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the organization also recommends two servings of dietary fish per week. Many who take fish oil supplements complain of bloating and excess belching with a fishy aftertaste.

A bottle and wooden spoon filled with fish oil capsules. (Image: peangdao/iStock/Getty Images)

Omega Fatty Acids

Since our bodies are unable to synthesize essential fatty acids; omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are mainly obtained from dietary sources. Fatty acids are used for numerous biological processes such as cell membrane formation, hormone synthesis, and energy. The American diet usually provides 14-25 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. Evidence has shown that a more balanced intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is optimal. Omega-3 fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA can be found in oils produced by seeds, nuts, and vegetables. Although ALA can be converted inside the body into EPA and DHA in limited amounts, they mostly come from fish sources such mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon.

Fish Oil Benefits

Clinical studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may lower risks associated with heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to decrease inflammation which would benefit arthritis sufferers. Fatty acids have also been studied for their role in improving cognition and memory.

Bloating

Patients who use fish oil supplements often complain of bloating and excess stomach gas a short time after taking the supplements. Although the exact mechanism of excess gas production is unknown, it has been speculated that fish oil, like other fatty foods, stimulates gastric acid secretion and digestion processes that release gas. Unfortunately, the resulting release of excess gas through belching often leaves a fishy aftertaste. The prevalence and of bloating appears to vary by individual and the specific fish oil product used.

Fish Oil Options

New odorless formulations of fish oil supplements have been shown to eliminate or decrease fishy aftertaste. Since belching comes from excess gas in the upper digestive tract, delaying digestion until further down in the digestive tract by freezing fish oil capsules or using enteric coated products has been suggested. Patients have also reported that taking fish oil capsules with food also decreases the incidence of bloating.

Safety Precautions

Fish oil can interfere with certain medications and exacerbate existing health conditions. Under certain circumstances, fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding disorders. Always consult a physician before using fish oil supplements.

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