Common Sense Health: Fish Oil — Superhero of Supplements

You may be forgiven if you are unfamiliar with Aquaman, a superhero who breathes underwater, communicates with sea creatures, and possesses superhuman strength and agility. But revisit past columns if you haven’t learned that fish are the real superheroes. Why? Because when mere mortals consume fish, their bodies gain extraordinary powers to fight the arch-nemesis of illness.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have remarkable health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, improving cognitive function, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.

To gain these benefits, eating enough fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel, isn’t easy, especially with high food prices. For a fraction of the cost, fish oil supplements are a no-brainer.

What’s preventing some people from taking this superhero of supplements?

Some people suffer from “fish burps.” It’s what happens when your digestive system lets out a little aquatic airfare, and a pungent reminder of your fish oil supplement.

The prevalence of burping or other gastrointestinal side effects when taking omega-3 fish oil supplements can vary depending on the individual. Some studies report that 30% of individuals may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as burping, heartburn, or diarrhea. Most people experience no effects at all.

Why do people burp from fish oil? The main reason is that fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be difficult for the body to digest, leading to the release of gas, which causes burping.

For those who are affected by burping, taking fish oil supplements can be a real problem. Not only is the burping unpleasant and embarrassing, but it can dissuade people from taking fish oil altogether, leaving them without the health benefits.

The likelihood of experiencing burping or other gastrointestinal side effects may also depend on the dose and formulation of the supplement being used.

And that’s where there is a good solution to the burping problem. Look for a fish oil supplement that offers a form more readily accepted by the stomach. One example to be found at health food stores is Certified Naturals Omega3X fish oil containing MaxSimil, which is pre-digested with enzymes, leading to better absorption and making it much less likely to cause burps.

To explain, omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are often found in the form of triglycerides. Triglycerides are the main form of fat in the human body and in the food we eat. They consist of a glycerol molecule and three fatty acids. In consuming omega-3 fatty acids, the role of the digestive system is to capture them for use as energy.

But our bodies contain a lot of water, and these oily triglycerides therefore can pass right through the body’s digestive system and out the other end, all benefits missed. The purpose of using enzymes is to convert the fats from a triglyceride to a monoglyceride. Monoglycerides are the form of fat that our body must convert fish oils into, so having it pre-digested into a monoglyceride makes it easier for our system to absorb, and thus less burping.

In another approach to reduce burping, some supplements involve gelcaps that are enteric-coated for delayed release, but these can contain undesirable plasticizers.

For some, no matter how good the supplement, burping can remain a problem. Try refrigerating the capsules and taking them with food. Remember, accepting a little burp is better than forgoing the benefits.

If persistent or severe burping persists, talk to your healthcare provider, as these symptoms may indicate an underlying health condition or allergy.

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