Many IBS Life readers may have heard about the benefits of fish oil to their health. But how can this healthy fat help with IBS?
Fish oil, which is extracted from fatty fish like anchovies, herring, tuna, or mackerel contain high amounts of omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) that play an important role in keeping the body healthy and stimulated. Since most people don’t eat enough fish to protect against diseases, fish oil supplements are great alternatives.
Now there are two types of fish oil supplements — one that contains omega-3 and another than has omega-6. The difference between the two lies in their chemical structures. The number refers to the position of the final double bond in the structure. In omega-3, the position is three carbon atoms from the “omega,” or tail end of the molecular chain; in omega-6, the last double bond is six carbons atoms from the omega.
When it comes to IBS, researchers recommend omega-3, because omega-6 fatty acids may play a role in complex regional pain syndrome and promote inflammation.
How fish oil affects IBS
Omega-3 is essential when it comes to cell membranes and regulation of the brain and blood processes, including inflammatory responses in the body, according to research published in the American Heart Journal. The fatty acid helps reduce inflammation in the mucosal lining.
Research from the Nova Scotia Collaborative Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Program suggests omega-3 may help to decrease inflammation in the intestine, which can help ease the severity and frequency of symptoms. The study also suggests the fatty acids can help to relieve joint pain related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Incorporating omega-3 into the diet
One way to consume omega-3 is through supplements. Make sure to check with your doctor first before choosing to take these dietary nutrients. Look at the label and see if the product contains Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which has been shown to reduce inflammation in studies. Omega-3 supplements are easy to find at the local grocery or pharmacy. They also are available in various forms, like liquid, soft-gel, or gummy chews, making them easy to administer to young and old alike.
Eating fresh fish, of course, is another way to get the healthy dose of omega-3. The types of fish that contains high EPA are:
The don’ts with fish oil
It’s important to keep in mind that the idea of “more is better” does not apply with omega-3 supplements. Consuming more than the recommended dosage may thin the viscosity of blood, possibly causing some bleeding.
Eating high amounts of fish oil from food may also be unsafe. Some fish are contaminated with mercury and other chemicals. Side effects of eating too much of a “good thing” can include:
· Loose stool
· Bad breath (or "fish breath”)
If you have bipolar disorder, fish oil may increase some symptoms of the condition. Taking fish oil with diabetes can also make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. If you are someone with a seafood allergy, the chances of being allergic to fish oil supplements are high.
Wondering how to start adding more omega-3 in the diet? The first step begins with the physician or a nutritionist. Then, let IBSLife know how it went!