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Fish Oil Benefits, Side Effects and Risks

Updated on March 5, 2017

Everyone has heard about the benefits of fish oil. Moreover, if you have high cholesterol your doctor may even tell you to take the supplement. Usually, the side effects are minimal and can be well tolerated by most people. Thus, I'll begin with what many are interested in, the benefits of fish oil. However, after my own allergic reaction to the supplement, I feel it is also important to discuss the possible side effects and possible risks fish oil can have to your health.

Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements have been found to be beneficial in a wide range of conditions. The most notable of conditions that fish oil seem to help is those related to the heart and the blood stream.

Fish Oil has been shown to:

1. Help lower blood pressure

2. Help to lower triglyceride levels (Which is an earmark for heart disease)

3. Help to prevent heart disease or stroke (However, taking more than the recommended amounts can increase the risk of stroke).

4. Help with depression

5. Helps attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder

6. Alzheimer disease

7. Help with dry eye

8. Help to reduce pain and swelling

And, the list goes on.

Most Common Side Effects of Fish Oil

The most common side effects of fish oil are listed below. As you can see, some of the symptoms are minor; while others, may give you pause, especially if you develop the symptom.

1. Belching

2. Bad Breath

3. Heartburn

4. Nausea

5. Loose Stools

6. Rash

7. Nosebleeds

For these side effects, the doctor suggests putting the supplements in the freezer and taking them with meals.

Complications of High Doses of Fish Oil

Though fish oil may be a good supplement, only take the recommended dosage that is on the bottle. It is never wise to assume, that more is better. It has been shown that high doses of the fish oil supplement can eliminate the benefits you are seeking, and cause you to aggravate your current problems.

If you take a too high dose of fish oil:

1. It can cause an increase in your bad "LDL" cholesterol.

2. It can increase the risk of bleeding for those individuals who have liver disease.

3. It can cause an allergic reaction (See below).

4. It can cause symptoms of Bipolar disorder to worsen.

5. It can cause depression to worsen.

6. It can cause a diabetic to have more difficulty in controlling his/her blood sugar.

7. It can cause a person’s blood pressure to lower too much if the individual is also taking a prescribed medication to lower his/her blood pressure.

8. It can cause irregular heartbeats in individuals that have an implanted defibrillator.

Allergic Reaction to Fish Oil- Anaphylaxis

If you have an irregular heartbeat and you have taken fish oil, this may be a sign that you have an extreme reaction to the fish oil. According to the Mayo Clinic, an irregular heart rate is one sign of anaphylaxis, which is an allergic reaction that affects the whole body. This type of allergic reaction causes your body to identify fish oil as a dangerous substance. The body’s immune system will attack the oil in an attempt to protect your body from harm. How will your body react? In many cases, your throat will swell, your blood pressure will drop and your heart rate may increase.

Anaphylaxis can happen within minutes of taking the fish oil. Here are some other symptoms to be aware of, that can indicate an allergic reaction to fish oil.

1. Feeling of warmth

2. Lump in your throat

3. Skin Reaction

4. Itching

5. Nausea

6. Diarrhea

7. Fainting

8. Dizziness

9. Wheezing


11.Flushed skin



If these symptoms are severe, you should go to the hospital. You will need to get a shot of epinephrine to treat anaphylactic shock. If you catch it in time, the hospital may be able to give you medication, like Benedryl, to help calm the symptoms.

My Fish Oil Allergic Reaction

With my high cholesterol, my doctor suggested that I take fish oil tablets along with a Statin medication to get my numbers in order. I know I have been doing this for a while but discontinued the supplement when my acid reflux was bothering me. It seemed to cause a little wheezing. I stated this to my doctor. She said, well, wait until your acid reflux is under control and then give fish oil another try. This is what I did.

A couple of weeks down the road, I decided to try fish supplement again. Believing that possibly, it could have been the quality of the fish oil, I decided to try Krill Oil. Shortly after taking the tablet, I began to feel a little nauseous, my chest began to tighten, I began to wheeze, and a fine rash began to form on my arms. I immediately took two Benadryl. The Benadryl did calm the symptoms down within a half-hour.

To conclude, fish oil does offer many health benefits for most people, but for some, it does not. My advice, always listen to what your body is telling you, and do your research on the supplement’s side effects, possible interaction with your current medications and existing conditions before taking it.

Before taking any supplement, be sure to get your doctor’s approval, especially if you have existing conditions and you are taking prescribed medication. In addition, if you are pregnant, it is advised not to take fish oil because its thinning properties can endanger the fetus.

This article is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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