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fish oil supplement

Fish Oil: Overview, Uses, Side Effects - Supplements for Women

Fish oil

Sounds a bit gross, doesn’t it? Also, brings to mind the numerous Sundays spent grocery shopping in the seafood aisle. As delicious as a warm plate of traditional fish curry and rice sounds, the smell is nothing to write home about. And if you’ve ever broken open a capsule of fish oil, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

There must be a reason then why every nutritionist worth their salt swears by fish oil supplements, right? The answer lies in a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids called Omega-3 fatty acids that seafood and fish oil is known to be rich in. 


Let’s break that down. 

Fatty acids: Building blocks of the fat we eat, and that is present in our bodies. 

Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs: Healthy fatty acids that are known to play an important role in many physiological functions. 

Omega-3 acids: A type of PUFAs consisting of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While ALA is found mainly in plant sources such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils, the other two DHA and EPA are primarily found in fish and other seafood.

The Omega-3 acids are not produced by our bodies, but the role they play in helping us stay healthy is very vital. ALA, for instance, is essential for eye and nerve development. DHA is used for hormone production. It is therefore necessary to have enough of these healthy fatty acids in our diet, for a long and healthy life. 


This is where fish oil supplements come in.

If your diet is primarily vegetarian, or if you’re allergic to seafood, then you may not be getting enough of the Omega-3 fatty acids through your diet alone. While you could get your recommended dose of the ALA through plant sources - seeds, nuts, oils etc. - you could end up lacking the other two Omega-3 acids. 

A simple solution to this fish oil capsules. Despite their bad smell and the slight grossness of the term, fish oil capsules are your best bet when trying to add healthy fats to your diet and lifestyle. 

The (possible) benefits of fish oil supplements for women:

  • It may alleviate menstrual cramps: Some studies have shown that use of Omega-3 supplements may help in reducing the symptoms of dysmenorrhea (period pain) in women, and reduce the use of ibuprofen which is normally used for pain management. There is not a conclusive report, however, so it is hard to prove this hypothesis.

  • It may reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis: Women have a higher risk of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis than men, and it usually occurs in middle age. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of cells, causing pain and inflammation in joints. Reviews published in 2012 and 2017 seem to suggest that the use of Omega-3 fatty acids can lower inflammation and reduce morning stiffness. However, it is still unclear about the exact dose required for this. More research is needed, and the evidence is still anecdotal.

  • It can help with your baby’s health: Eating higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids can help with neonatal development. However, eating more amounts of fish can also increase your chances of mercury poisoning, which can be detrimental to your baby. In this case, fish oil supplements can be a safe alternative for you to get enough healthy fats required for the baby’s growth without putting yourself, or your child at risk.

  • It’s good for your heart: Many studies have shown that people who have cardiovascular issues may benefit from taking regular fish oil supplements. The supplements can reduce the risk of heart failure and other terminal illness. Patients with a history of heart attack may also benefit from using these supplements. 


So, who should be taking fish oil supplements?

In India, fish oil supplements are taken over the counter and their sale is not regulated. While generally considered safe, the overuse of these supplements can lead to some gastrointestinal issues. This, however, does not mean that you should go out and buy a bottle right away!


Experts agree, that in most cases, a person who has one or two weekly servings of fish in their diet, and enough nuts and seeds, will probably be consuming the recommended dose of Omega-3 acids. For them, a supplement is not really needed. Fish oil capsules become important for those who cannot get their recommended dose of Omega-3 from natural sources. Since the primary sources of these fatty acids are very limited, you should be able to make out if you’re getting enough of it in your diet or not. 


Food

Omega -3 Fatty Acids

FISH

DHA & EPA

Grams ofOmega-3 Per 200 Calories 

Mackerel

Yes

2,1-3,4g

Salomon Wild 

Yes

Yes

Whitefish

Yes

2,4g

Herring

Yes

2,1g

Anchovies

Yes

2,0g

Tuna

Yes

1,8g

Blue Crab 

Yes

1,1g

Shrimp

Yes

1,1g



As suggested above, one of the best uses for fish oil supplements can be for pregnant mothers. Once again, we do recommend talking to your doctor before you start taking these supplements, but you might find them to be to your benefit. 


If you, or your family members, have a history of heart disease, you might also benefit from adding fish oil supplements to your diet. But do ensure that you talk to your health care expert before taking the pills, so as to be doubly sure that they do not interfere with any of your current medications.

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