One of the most common questions that I get from patients is in regards to what basic supplements they should be taking regularly to “stay healthy.” There are so many supplements on the market today, all of them claiming to be the “next best thing,” which makes it very difficult to decipher which products are necessary and which ones can be avoided to save money. So, what is my “must-have” recommendation? Fish oil.
Fish oil is one of the best-researched natural products on the market and has so many different types of benefits that I recommend it to all my patients. Also, because a typical Canadian diet is lacking in many healthy fats and omegas, it is beneficial to top up ones diet with a fish oil supplement.
As a word of caution, fish oils can interact with certain medications and health conditions, so before starting such a supplement, please consult with your naturopathic doctor.
What else is so great about fish oil? Here are just some of the research-based uses of it:
° High triglycerides (a form of cholesterol). Research suggests that fish oil from supplements and food sources can reduce triglyceride levels.
° Heart disease. Research suggests that fish oil can be obtained by consuming fish and can be effective for keeping people with healthy hearts free of heart disease. People who already have heart disease may also be able to lower their risk of dying from this disease by eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement.
° Preventing a progressive eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Some evidence shows that eating fish more than one time per week lowers the risk of developing AMD.
° Asthma. Research states that taking fish oil improves symptoms and lowers the need for medications in some children with asthma.
° Hardening of the arteries (Atherosclerosis). Fish oil seems to slow or slightly reverse the progress of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries.
° Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Early research shows that taking fish oil improves attention, mental function and behavior in children 8 to 13 years-old with ADHD.
° Cancer-related weight loss. Taking a high dose of fish oil seems to slow weight loss in some cancer patients. Taking low doses of fish oil does not seem to have this effect.
° Menstrual pain. Research shows that taking fish oil alone can improve painful periods and reduce the need for pain medications in women with menstrual pain.
° High blood pressure. Fish oil seems to slightly lower blood pressure in people with moderate to very high blood pressure.
The uses of fish oil described above are just a few of the many reasons why this supplement is so beneficial to your health. However, did you know that not all fish oils are created equal? For the most part, you get what you pay for, and this is not an area to cheap out on or you may be doing more harm than good to both your health and your pocket book.
Aside from cost, factors to keep in mind when choosing a fish oil include: Freshness, purity, potency, how well it is absorbed and sustainability practices in sourcing the fish oil.
When it comes to potency in fish oils, there are specific doses required for each, individual health situation, so it is best to speak to your medical provider. However, in general “good” fish oils have a combined EPA and DHA amount around 1000-3000mg in a daily-recommended dose. If it is going to take your more than four pills to reach this amount, it is probably not a great product.
Often times, it is not always possible to consume sufficient quantities of fish. Therefore, fish oil supplements offer a great alternative and still provide the numerous health benefits that come from eating fresh fish.
Talk to your naturopathic doctor today about which fish oil supplement may be right for you and start reaping the rewards!
Dr. Shane Johnson ND was born and raised in Red Deer and is the owner of Aspire Natural Medicine. He completed his naturopathic medical training at the prestigious Bastyr University, and is among only a handful of naturopathic doctors in Alberta to complete an additional one-year residency in family medicine. For more detailed information on naturopathic medicine visit www.aspiremedicine.ca.