Friday, April 16, 2010

Fishy Business, Part II

Continuing on with our topic, here are the list of questions that I frequently encounter about taking fish oil:

"Why do I burp it up?"
Two points need to be made here.  First, smell inside your fish oil bottle.  Does it smell fishy?  It shouldn't.  People usually burp up their fish oil because it has already gone rancid before they've taken it.  Rancid doesn't mean that it's spoiled, but it does mean that the chemical composition of the fats have been altered (oxidized) and no longer offer a nutritional benefit.  Actually, ingesting oxidized (rancid) fats will do exactly the opposite: they will place a chemical burden on your system and accelerate inflammation.  That's one of the primary reasons to avoid commercially deep fried foods, the oil they are using is most likely days old and virtually completely oxidized and loaded with trans fats, which are completely incompatible with human life.  (California has even attempted to ban trans fats for that reason.)

The other issue that may be at hand is poor digestion of fats, so that it is not broken down and digested properly, due to a gallbladder that might not be producing enough bile to emulsify the ingested fat, allowing it to putrify in the GI tract.  If you've had your gallbladder removed, then you definitely have fat digestion issues, of which you are probably well aware.  There is a quick and easy way that we check in the office to determine if your gallbladder is a contributing factor. and there are products we use with great success to improve the digestion and assimilation of fats for those with and without gallbladders. 

"What brand is the best?"
There are many, many brands out there, but if you couldn't tell by the price tags, they are not all equal in quality.  As you might imagine, fish oil is pretty delicate and process by which the fish are caught and the oil is processed and bottled is of utmost importance.  Look for brands that have valid third party purity and quality certification.  You want to see that not only are the fats packaged to preserve freshness, but that they are also purified and relatively free of harmful toxins like dioxins, mercury, PCBs, etc.  This is not usually the time to get the cheapest product on the shelf because you will more than likely get what you pay for.  So do you homework before you buy or you can contact our office for more information.

"I already take flax seed oil, do I still need to take fish oil?"
The two fats in fish oil that we are concerned about are EPA and DHA.  EPA is the powerful anti-inflammatory component and DHA is critical for our brains and nervous system.  Flax seed provides the fat ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body.  However, this conversion is not guaranteed because not everyone possesses the enzyme for the conversion.  Even those that possess the enzymatic machinery necessary only make a 10-20% conversion rate at best.  So the best results are often seen by putting people on fish oil, which already have EPA and DHA in it.

"Aren't we over fishing our waters due to the increased demand for fish oil?"
This topic I have more to learn about, but I do know that not all fish oil comes from Norwegian waters, as so many companies would lead you to believe.  Many use fish that are caught in the deep waters off the coast of Peru and Chile, with a small amount coming from African, European, and North American waters.  If you are still concerned about over fishing, some have suggested krill oil as a viable alternative to fish for Omega 3 fatty acids.  At this time I'm sticking to what has worked so well in the past, fish. 

"What is the difference between fish oil and cod liver oil?"
Cod liver oil is specifically made from the liver of cod, and has a slightly different composition than regular fish oil.  There is some concern that one could overdose on the Vitamin A or D in large doses of cod liver oil.  I think these concerns are a bit over-extended, but to be fair, it's NOT recommended for pregnant or lactating women, or women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.  Check with your doctor first, or you can call me and we can decide what the best option is for you.

On the flip side, I might reach for cod liver oil in the winter months when it is impossible to get Vitamin D from the sun and where the extra Vitamin A can go a long way towards strengthening my immune system during the flu season.  If in doubt, go with regular fish oil.

"How much should I take?"
According to patient literature from Nordic Naturals:
  • 1 gram (EPA+DHA) to support healthy joints/muscles
  • 2-3 grams (EPA+DHA) to support the body's natural anti-inflammatory response.
The only word of caution is if you are taking a blood thinner because Omega 3 fats work to thin the blood as well.  Talk to you doctor.

One last thing, if you're going to take fish oil, you might as well go the extra mile and do it right.  Look for an EPA:DHA ratio of 2:1 for long term support.

Next post I'm going to cover an interesting research article from one of the most respected journals in the world, Spine and what it has to say about the relationship between posture and "all cause mortality rates". 

Dr. Darin

1 comment:

  1. Great article Darin! Just saw your link to this on facebook, looking forward to reading more in the future.