by Dr. Leo Galland
Fish oils are a major source of omega-3 fats which have many health benefits. However there are numerous side effects of fish oil supplements. Breaking out a bottle of fish oil could lead to breaking out in acne.
Some fish oil side effects include:
- Fish oils decrease the tendency of blood to clot. This action can cause side effects like bruising or prolonged bleeding from a cut. Some studies have found that this side effect is more likely to occur in people who take aspirin in addition to fish oils. Fish oil supplements should usually be discontinued about 2 weeks before elective surgery.
- Fish oils can cause diarrhea, which is the most commonly reported side effect in clinical research studies. Diarrhea may necessitate lowering the dose of fish oil. Taking fish oils with food or with calcium pills (but not magnesium) may decrease this side effect.
- People may burp fish oil, or experience heartburn or reflux, a potentially damaging side effect. The side effect of burping fish oil may be reduced by using a delayed-release or enteric coated fish oil and by taking the capsules on an empty stomach with a large glass of water and a capsule of digestive enzymes.
- Fish oils may cause acne. This is more likely in people with oily skin. Acne as a side effect may be prevented by also taking zinc tablets (about 15 to 30 milligrams per day) and by avoiding supplements that contain vitamin B12. Acne is a potential side effect of vitamin B12.
- Fish oils may increase the need for omega-6 fats, especially those found in supplements like evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant seed oil. Because the omega-3 fats found in fish oil compete with omega-6 fats for use by the cells, it may actually induce a relative deficiency of omega-6 fats by taking fish oils. Signs that this side effect is happening are dry skin or hair, hair loss, brittle nails or menstrual irregularities, that start or get worse when taking fish oil.
- Fish oils may suppress the immune system, rather than strengthen it. This side effect can contribute to having more infections while taking fish oils. Reduction in the amount of fish oils used or taking antioxidant supplements could help.