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Ways to Minimize Fish Oil Side Effects

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Updated December 19, 2012

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Ways to Minimize Fish Oil Side Effects

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can lower lipids and support heart health.

Brian A. Jackson, istockphoto

Not everyone experiences fish oil side effects, which can range from very mild to severe. The good news is that there are ways you can minimize these unpleasant effects from the beginning. Here's how:

  • Start with low doses. Starting with small doses may help lower the likelihood that your body will experience these side effects. Most supplements may have you taking up to three pills a day. Since in most cases you cannot split the supplements in half, taking the lowest dose -- and increasing the dose over time -- can help. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before increasing to higher doses, since large daily doses of fish oil could increase your chances of bleeding.
  • Take your supplement with meals. Consuming your fish oil supplement with a snack or meal can also lower the likelihood from experiencing unpleasant side effects, such as nausea.
  • Use an enteric-coated formulation. Some manufacturers of fish oil supplements may make enteric-coated formulations. These supplements will have a special coating on the surface of the pill that may be a little bit gentler on the stomach. The bottles will usually state this on the label. Enteric coating may help with nausea, heartburn, and the “fish burps” some experience when beginning fish oil supplements.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider. If the side effects become to bothersome, or you are wanting to increase doses of fish oil, you should talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can either adjust your dose or offer other treatments to help you lower your lipids.

Sources:

DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products. Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. 2010.

Dipiro JT, Talbert RL. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiological Approach, 7th ed 2008.

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