Ways to Minimize Fish Oil Side Effects

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can lower lipids and support heart health. Brian A. Jackson, istockphoto

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in studies to help lower triglyceride levels. In fact, taking anywhere between 2 and 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily can result in a lowering of triglyceride levels between 25 and 45%. Fish oil supplements, which can be found over the counter in pharmacies and other health foods stores, are a common way omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained. However, in some cases, taking these supplements may cause some undesirable side effects, which can include nausea, heartburn, and belching, which is commonly referred to as a “fish burp”.

Not everyone who takes fish oil supplements will experience these side effects, which can range from very mild to severe in some individuals that take a daily fish oil supplement. The good news is that there are a few ways you can minimize side effects experienced by taking fish oil supplements to lower your triglycerides.

  • Start with low doses.  Starting with small doses may help lower the likelihood that your body will experience side effects from taking fish oil supplements. 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. You should make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before increasing to higher doses, especially since large daily doses of fish oil could increase your chances of bleeding.
  • Take your supplement with meals. Some people may experience nausea when first starting to take fish oil supplements. Consuming your fish oil supplement with a small snack or meal can help lower the likelihood from experiencing nausea.
  • Use an enteric-coated formulation. Some manufacturers of fish oil supplements make enteric-coated formulations. These supplements will have a special coating on the surface of the pill or capsule that may be a little bit gentler on the stomach. The fish oil supplement bottles will usually state this on the label. Using an enteric coated form of a fish oil supplement may help with nausea, heartburn, and the “fish burps” some people experience when beginning fish oil supplements.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider. If the side effects experienced from taking fish oil supplements become too bothersome, or you are wanting to increase doses of fish oil, you should talk to your healthcare provider before doing so. Although fish oil supplements are readily available off of the shelf, they can still interact with other medications and cause certain conditions, such as excess bleeding. Talking to your healthcare provider can minimize your chances of further experiencing side effects from the supplement. Additionally, he or she can either adjust your dose or offer other treatments to help you lower your triglycerides.


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