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Supplementing with Fish Oil

Countless articles and blogs tout the impressive benefits of supplementing with fish oil over the last 10 years.  Research shows it can benefit cardiovascular health, joint health, skin conditions, chronic inflammation, fertility support, and assist with mood support to name a few.  Is there anything omegas fatty acids can’t do?  And how do we know how to pick the right fish oil and determine whether or not it’s actually working.

Fish oil is found in the tissues of oily, cold water, fatty fish.  These concentrated oils contain the omega fatty acids and are polyunsaturated fatty acids made up of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid).  Generally, dosing ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 mg per day. By comparison, 1 serving of salmon (4 ounces) can yield nearly 500 milligrams.  Many of us are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids and consuming way too many omega 6 fatty acids that are found in abundance in packaged and processed foods.  This imbalance is linked to a variety of disorders and leads to inflammation and chronic illness.  It’s important to note omega 6 isn’t bad for you at all, but our typical American diet shows a 20:1 omega 3 to 6 leading to a major discrepancy.  Therefore finding balance is key.

While I often recommend fish oil supplementation there are many things we should understand before we purchase just any ol’ bottle off the shelf.  Quality matters here!  A couple weeks ago I came across another wonderfully written blog post from the Wellness Mama where she goes in detail about the benefits, the breakdown of 3, 6, and 9, how the ratio of those matters, and sourcing.  Please check out this must read on the importance of Omega 3’s here.

Like most practitioners I have my favorite brands and let me tell you, it makes a difference.  When you look at the bottle it can be easy to get confused as some are higher in DHA, some EPA, some won’t even list what’s actually in the bottle or any possible additives or preservatives.  This is where things get tricky, the types of fish sourced is key.  When larger fish are used, we are more at risk of toxic levels of mercury or pesticides, and when small bottom dwellers are used there is heightened risk of toxic byproducts and chemicals that have settled to the bottom of the ocean.  Sustainably sourced brands will always list where their fish come from and which fish is sourced as well as the amount of actual omega fatty acids in the bottle.  Where we purchase our fish oil is important also.  Companies online that offer third party sales of fish oil may not have exactly what is listed on the bottle inside, therefore I recommend purchasing through your wellness provider or at a local health food store such as Whole Foods.  

The best way to incorporate fish oil into your daily regimen is through diet, sustainably sourced fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, and salmon are some of the best options.  But if you don’t eat fish or regularly consume processed or packaged foods which are high in omega 6, a quality fish oil supplement may be right for you!

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