What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is exactly that, oil from fish.  Fish oil contains two important omega-3 fats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  You cannot get these fats from any other source (except algae).


Why not eat fish?

All fish are contaminated with mercury, PCB’s, and other heavy metals.  Larger fish (tuna, bluefin, swordfish) have higher contamination levels; smaller fish (sardines, anchovies, salmon, mackerel) have lower contamination.  It is not recommended to eat fish daily due to contamination, and pregnant women should not have any tuna.  In my opinion, if it’s not good for pregnant women, it’s not good for the rest of us.  Also, don’t eat farmed fish.  Bad things are done to farmed fish, just like bad things are done to farmed cattle and chickens.


Is Fish Oil safe?

It depends on the quality of the product you buy.  The advantage of fish oil over eating fish is that the oil can be filtered.  Better quality products will mention “molecular distillation,” “pharmaceutical grade,” and “free of detectible levels of mercury, lead, PCB’s, and other contaminants” on their labels.  If a product does not mention these things, don’t buy it.  Better quality fish oil will be a little more expensive, but in my opinion, it is worth it.


What is Fish Oil good for?

Medical research and my experience has shown fish oil to be helpful for ADD, AD/HD, OCD, ODD, PDD, GAD, NLD, DCD, DDS, SID, Asperger’s syndrome, Autism, Tourette’s syndrome, Bipolar disorder, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, depression, post-partum depression, schizophrenia, age-related cognitive decline, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acute and chronic pain, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  Fish Oil may reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death as much as 50-80%, lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation (arthritis), and may help prevent cancer.  Omega-3’s help build the brain and synapses, and have been shown to help multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, psoriasis, asthma, type-1 and 2 diabetes, organ transplant function and survival, improved kidney function, learning, visual acuity, increase energy, and strengthen the immune system.


Who should take it?

Almost everyone.  Caution should be used if you are taking blood-thinning drugs so you must check with your PCP, although lower levels are usually safe.  Fish oil should be carefully administered to babies and young children under the guidance of a qualified health care professional knowledgeable about omega-3 supplements.  The best way to get omega-3’s to an infant is through breast milk.  I recommend that moms and dads to be should take fish oil for at least 6 months before conception to help improve the chances of having a healthy baby.  Mom should continue fish oil and antioxidants throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding and beyond, to replenish her omega-3’s and help prevent post-partum depression.  If you have a fish allergy you should not take fish oil.


How much should I take?

Researchers recommend 3,000 milligrams (3 grams) of EPA and DHA combined per day (2:1 EPA to DHA) for a healthy adult, less for children under 8.  However, younger children with a diagnosed problem may benefit from an adult dose.  This decision should be made by a knowledgeable healthcare professional.  If you currently take a fish oil gelcap, read the back label.  You are probably getting much less than 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA.


Antioxidants and Fish Oil

I strongly recommend taking antioxidant supplements with fish oil to prevent oxidation of the oil and to help remove free radicals from your body.  Antioxidants include vitamins B, C, and E, the minerals selenium and magnesium, co-enzyme Q-10, alpha-lipoic acid, and glutathione.  The Nutri-West supplement company (nutri-west.com) sells a product with all of these antioxidants in one tablet, called “Complete Omega-3 Co-Factors,” which are available in the office (unfortunately only available through doctor’s offices).  A 60 tablet bottle of co-factors is $25 at my office.  If you are taking 3 grams of EPA and DHA from fish oil, take 2 co-factor tablets per day, one in the AM and one in the PM.  Children under 5 should use the “Complete Children’s Co-Factors,” unless otherwise directed.  The children’s co-factors are chewable.  Just so you know, your urine will be a bright color when you take the co-factor tablets, which is normal.


Fish Oil and Injuries

Injuries (sports, falls, sprains/strains, car accidents) cause inflammation and pain.  Fish oil (omega-3 fat) is anti-inflammatory, which may assist healing.  Inflammation also produces free radicals, which is why you should take supplemental antioxidants in higher amounts after injuries.


Fish Oil and Athletics

Athletes produce more free radicals from metabolism, and they often have joint and tissue issues.  For example, I met a triathlete (over 50) who was battling an ongoing knee problem and pain.  He tried many treatments with limited success, and began taking fish oil with my suggestion.  A few months later, he wrote me and said his knee was feeling the best it has in 7 years.


Oil or Gelcap?

The main reason to take liquid fish oil instead of gelcaps is cost.  Dose per dose, gelcaps cost about twice as much as oil.  Most fish oils are flavored and are easy to take; a great improvement over cod liver oil in the past, which tasted awful.  People rarely complain about taste, and almost anyone that tries the liquid stays with it.  Also, the gelatin capsules are often made from cow cartilage, with additional health hazards.

Carlson Labs Fish Oil www.carlsonlabs.com

I recommend Carlson Labs Fish Oil.  It is a low cost, good quality oil, and they sell larger bottles.  You can purchase it at my office, or from their website.  We sell the 16.9 oz large bottle for $40.  There are other good quality oils on the market as well, but remember to read labels carefully.  Nutri-West (nutri-west.com) and Nordic Naturals (nordicnaturals.com) have excellent fish oil products.  Only buy fish oil which guarantees non-detectable traces of mercury, PCB’s, and other contaminants.


How should I start?

Start taking one teaspoon of Carlson Lab’s fish oil for a week with one co-factor tablet (the dosage may be different with other products).  Take it in the morning or evening before a meal.  If the taste is funny to you, chew a piece of fruit immediately after taking the oil which will wash any taste away.  After a week, increase to two teaspoons.  You can take it all at once, or you can take one teaspoon in the morning and one in the evening, and take one co-factor tablet in the morning and one in the evening.  One teaspoon of the carlson’s fish oil gives you 1,300 mg of EPA and DHA, and two teaspoons gives you 2,600 mg.  To get the recommended 3,000 mg, I fill a tablespoon close to the top, which will be just over two teaspoons, and I take it once a day, but you can split it up if you want, half in the AM and PM.  Most people find they don’t “burp” or “repeat” the oil, but some do report “repeating” using gelcaps.  If you find you simply can’t tolerate the oil, bring it back for a refund, and we will replace it with a good quality gelcap, also available in the office.  If you start taking fish oil, tell your medical doctor.


Caring for liquid Fish Oil

·                     ALWAYS refrigerate after opening, and keep it refrigerated.  Freeze for long term storage.  Use it in 3 months after opening.  Throw older fish oil away.

·                     Store the bottle on a ceramic dish or paper towel to protect fridge shelves from drips, although the spout prevents most drips.  Pour into a spoon over a sink to contain drips.

·                     If you are using Carlson Labs liquid fish oil, remove the thin plastic seal and twist the white cap to break the next seal.  After using the oil, screw the cap firmly back on the bottle.

·                     Shake the bottle up a few times before pouring on a spoon to keep it uniformly mixed.

·                     NEVER wipe up spilled oil with a cloth, and put into the wash.  You will ruin your wash.  Wipe up spills with a paper towel and discard.  DO NOT use a sponge to wipe the bottle or spilled oil and then reuse the sponge.  Either throw the sponge away or use a paper towel.

·                     The fish oil may cloud and thicken up when in the fridge, which is normal.  If the oil is tough to pour towards the end of a bottle, run warm water for a few seconds on the outside of the bottle to thin the oil, and shake a few times before pouring.

·                     Use fish oil gelcaps when traveling as they are not as sensitive to heat.

·                     If you notice improvements in your health, tell us!  We want to share your experiences.


Recommended Fish Oil Gelcaps

Nutriwest.com has one of the best gelcaps available, only through doctor’s offices.  Nordicnaturals.com makes a gelcap called “Arctic Omega,” which I recommend and carry in my office.  Nordic Naturals also has higher concentration gelcaps, and another that is wrapped in fish gelatin, in case you are concerned about cow gelatin capsules.  Carlsonlabs.com also has excellent fish oil gelcaps.


Supplements vs. food

Please remember that supplements are not a replacement for good eating habits.  Use supplements together with healthy food choices including vegetables and fruit, while reducing your meat, dairy, and especially processed, packaged food.  Eat only wild-caught fish, never “farm” or “Atlantic” fish.



Patients using fish oil have told me about improvements with concentration; decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides; improvements in learning, behavior and school performance with their children; reduced pain; improved arthritis pain; improved skin, hair, and nail health, among others.