Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Breast Cancer and a new study looking for volunteers. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we are going to talk about Fish Oil. My ophthalmologist recently prescribed Fish Oil, twice a day for eye health. I was surprised because, in my experience, doctors don’t usually dabble in supplements. So I did some research and wanted to share what I found.
(Photo credit: Harvard)
First, let’s talk about why Fish Oil was prescribed. It was for a common condition known as Dry Eyes.
The Mayo Clinic describes dry eyes and why it’s not good to have them. “To maintain eye comfort and good vision, the front surface of your eye must be covered with an even layer of tears that contain the right mix of water and oils. If tears are not of sufficient quantity or quality to maintain that layer, dry eye disease (also called ocular surface disease) can develop.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
“Symptoms of dry eyes can be bothersome and may include a stinging, itchy, or burning sensation in your eye; sensitivity to light; blurred vision; mucus in or around your eye; and excessive tearing. Dry eye disease tends to be a chronic condition, and it usually cannot be cured completely. However, various treatments can be used to ease symptoms, including over-the-counter artificial tear eye drops“.
How Does Fish Oil Help?
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve the eye’s oil film that’s produced by small glands on the edge of the eyelid, called the meibomian glands. That improves dry eye symptoms and reduces the need for artificial tears.
All About Vision tells us “Fish oil benefits vision for both children and adults. Its properties enrich the functions of the eye that produce tears and keep them moisturized, and research has shown that fish oil can also help prevent macular degeneration from developing“.
“Fish oil promotes proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, which can reduce the risk of high eye pressure (IOP), a condition that can lead to glaucoma and even vision loss when it is left untreated.
“Clinical trials have found that oral supplements of omega-3s can reduce the level of IOP significantly when taken on a regular basis. One trial found that reducing your risk can happen in as little as three months“.
I don’t like taking pills
No problem. You can also get Fish Oil in the foods you choose to eat. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week in order to reap the full benefits for your health (and your vision). Fatty fish is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids and can provide the nutrients you need. Consider incorporating the following into your diet:
- Albacore tuna
- Lake trout
- Cat Fish
- Striped Sea Bass
- Sea Weed
- Flax Seed
- Chia Seeds
I tried taking the supplements but I was burping fish all day…gross.
Fish Oil burps are the worst, aren’t they? You’ll be happy to hear there are options.
Balance, the superfood shot says “Fish burps are a common side effect of taking an Omega-3 / Fish Oil Supplement. Fish burps have become the endearing term for a big belch after taking a fish oil supplement that leaves a fishy taste in the mouth. Fish burps are caused by gas, which is produced in your stomach as you begin to digest a fish oil supplement (this is normal and occurs with lots of other foods, like beans and cruciferous veggies). Don’t resign yourself to the infamous fish burps! Here’s how to easily prevent them.
5 Steps to a burpless pill
Step 1: Take only pharmaceutical-grade Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements.
Step 2: Begin your regimen small.
Step 3: Take with a large meal.
Step 4: Is your Omega-3 Fish Oil Enteric-coated?
Step 5: Freeze them. Yes, literally stick them in the freezer and take your normal dosage as usual. If your body is ultra-sensitive to Omega-3’s this is a no-fail solution for the prevention of fish burps. The freezing, like enteric-coated soft gels, allows the Omega-3 to avoid breaking down in the stomach which prevents fish burps 100%. And no this doesn’t hurt the fatty Omega-3’s.
I’ve heard fish has mercury in it
The Mayo Clinic addresses this concern. “Some fish can contain high levels of mercury. While the mercury in fish doesn’t lead to problems in most healthy adults, it can be a concern for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If that’s the case for you, ask your healthcare provider about the right amount of fish in your diet and the types of fish that are safest to eat”.
Are there other benefits to taking Fish Oil?
Yes. SO much yes. Healthline walks us through some of them.
Multiple risk factors for heart disease appear to be reduced by the consumption of fish or fish oil. The benefits of fish oil for heart health include:
- Improved cholesterol levels. It can increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and may also lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Decreased triglycerides. It can lower triglycerides by 15–30%.
- Reduced blood pressure. Even in small doses, it helps reduce blood pressure in people with elevated levels.
- Plaque prevention. It may prevent the plaques that can cause arteries to harden, as well as make arterial plaques more stable and safer in those who already have them.
Your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and much of this fat is omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3s are essential for typical brain function.
In fact, some studies suggest that people with certain mental health conditions have lower omega-3 blood levels.
In two older studies — one in people with obesity and one in people experiencing stress — fish oil was found to reduce the production and gene expression of inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
Moreover, fish oil supplements can significantly reduce joint pain, stiffness, and medication needs in people with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes pain in the joints.
While inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also triggered by inflammation, there is no clear evidence to suggest that fish oil improves its symptoms.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids.
Skin health can decline throughout your life, especially during old age or after too much sun exposure.
That said, fish oil supplements may be beneficial in a number of skin disorders, including psoriasis and dermatitis.
PREGNANCY AND EARLY LIFE:
Omega-3s are essential for early growth and development.
It’s important to get enough omega-3s during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Taking fish oil supplements during these times may improve fetal brain development. However, it’s unclear whether learning or IQ will also be improved.
Taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding may also improve infant visual development and help reduce the risk of allergies.
REDUCE LIVER FAT:
Your liver processes most of the fat in your body and can play a role in weight gain.
Liver disease is increasingly common — particularly nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), in which fat accumulates in your liver.
Fish oil supplements can improve liver function and inflammation, which may help reduce symptoms of NAFLD and the amount of fat in your liver.
IMPROVES SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION:
Depression is expected to become the second-largest cause of illness by 2030.
Interestingly, older studies have shown that people with major depression appear to have lower blood levels of omega-3s. However, the results have been inconsistent so far.
Moreover, some studies have shown that oils rich in EPA help reduce depressive symptoms more than DHA. Again, more research is needed.
MAY IMPROVE ATTENTION AND HYPERACTIVITY IN CHILDREN:
A number of neurodevelopmental conditions in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), involve hyperactivity and inattention.
Given that omega-3s make up a significant proportion of the brain, getting enough of them may be important for preventing these conditions in early life.
Fish oil supplements may improve perceived hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and aggression in children. This may benefit early life learning. But more research is needed.
As you age, your brain function slows down and your risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases.
People who eat more fish tend to experience a slower decline in brain function in old age.
However, studies on fish oil supplements in older adults haven’t provided clear evidence that they can slow the decline of brain function.
Nevertheless, some very small studies have shown that fish oil may improve memory in healthy older adults.
ALLERGIES AND ASTHMA:
Asthma, which can cause swelling in the lungs and shortness of breath, is becoming much more common in infants.
A number of studies show that fish oil may reduce asthma symptoms, especially in early life.
However, not all studies have found similar results.
In an older review of nearly 100,000 people, a mother’s fish or omega-3 intake was found to reduce the risk of asthma in children by 24–29%.
Furthermore, fish oil supplements in pregnant people may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
During old age, bones can begin to lose their essential minerals, becoming more likely to break. This can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
Calcium and vitamin D are very important for bone health, but some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go ahead and take my doctor’s advice and add in the supplements. I know I don’t get nearly enough fish throughout the week, and in order to stay as healthy as possible, I’ve convinced myself through the research that Fish Oil is important.
Check with your doctor to see if Fish Oil is a good idea for your health as well!
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!