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Will Fish Oil Make Me Smell? - Avoiding Supplement Side Effects

Updated on August 1, 2012

Fatty fish and the oil derived from them are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a health-promoting source of balance in your diet. Unfortunately, fatty fish are also the most likely to have a "fishy" taste and odor. That's why some people ask: "Will fish oil make me smell"?

While it's true that taking a very large dose of poor quality fish oil can produce unpleasant body odor and smelly breath, not everyone will experience this effect. It's also possible to reduce the risk of a fish oil odor by choosing a lower dose or taking supplements designed not to produce unpleasant smells. Here's a look at fish oil smells and the best ways to avoid them.

Will Fish Oil Make Me Smell?

While fish oil produces an unpleasant body odor in some people, that's not the case for everyone. Individual bodies vary, and so does their tendency to exude odorous components of the oil through sweat and skin oils. Your risk of developing a fish oil smell increases if you have a pre-existing tendency to smell like foods you have eaten recently.

It also goes up if you have a history of acid reflux. That's because many people suffer from this problem early in their fish supplement regimen, producing a fishy odor on the breath. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of this problem.

Fish Odor and Dosage

Taking a relatively small amount of fish oil is less likely to give you odor problems than a very high dose. You may also experience better results if you start out with a lower dose than you intend to reach. This will give your body time to acclimatize to the new supplement. Very high dosages of more than three grams of fish oil per day are more likely to produce unpleasant odors. Some therapeutic doses do exceed this level, making odor a possibility.

Supplement Type

Some supplements produce more odor and reflux than others. For instance, conventional gelatin capsules containing standard fish oil are the riskiest choice. Enteric-coated capsules are a slightly safer option. These fish oil supplements are specially designed not to dissolve until they reach the small intestine. By bypassing digestion in the stomach, this type of capsule is less likely to cause fishy reflux and unpleasant-smelling breath.

Even with gelatin capsules, some factors can affect the risk of fish oil odor. For instance, highly-oxidized, stale fish oil is much smellier and likely to produce a stronger reaction in the body. Choosing a supplement with a low total oxidation, or TOTOX, value can help reduce your chances of unpleasant breath or body odors, even if you're taking a relatively high dose of fish oil.

Reducing Odor

If you do find that you experience body or breath odor after taking fish oil capsules, there are two things you should know. The first is that fish oil smells aren't considered a medical problem; they may be unpleasant or undesirable, but they won't hurt you. The second is that there are some ways to potentially reduce the amount of odor your body produces when you take fish oil.

For instance, chlorophyll tablets can neutralize the bad smells instead of covering them up the way other breath fresheners tend to do. Consuming parsley has also been linked with better-smelling breath and reduced body odor in some people. These simple, natural solutions could make taking fish supplements more appealing.

If you are considering taking fish oil for its many health benefits, don't let the possibility of odor scare you away. Fish oil doesn't have to produce a bad smell, and it could do a lot for your physical and mental health.


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