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Are There Any Side Effects Associated with Using Fish Oil Supplements?

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Updated December 20, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Are There Any Side Effects Associated with Using Fish Oil Supplements?

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

Brian A. Jackson, istockphoto
Question: Are There Any Side Effects Associated with Using Fish Oil Supplements?
Answer:

If you are one of those people who does not want to consume the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week for your heart health, you may have considered taking fish oil supplements instead. The omega-3 fatty acids found in these supplements have many healthy benefits -- including lowering high triglyceride levels. Although using over-the-counter fish oil may seem like an easier – and less harmful – way of improving your heart health and triglyceride levels, there are side effects associated with using them. These side effects appear to be dose-dependent, so the higher the dose, the more likely you will experience one – or more – of these side effects. The most commonly noted side effects associated with using fish oil include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • “Fish burp” – belching with a fish-like after taste

If you want to use fish oil supplements to lower your triglycerides, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider first. This especially holds true if you are taking blood thinners or have diabetes or hypoglycemia, because higher doses of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil could alter your risk of bleeding and altered blood glucose levels, respectively.

If you take fish oil supplements and are experiencing any of the above side effects, there are ways to you can minimize them. However, if the side effects become too bothersome, you should discontinue the fish oil and talk to your healthcare provider about other options to lower your triglycerides.

Sources:

Micromedex Healthcare Series [internet database]. Greenwood Village, CO: Thomson Reuters (Healthcare) Inc. Updated periodically.

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

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