What Are The Side Effects of Taking Omega 3?

Some people ask what the side effects of taking omega-3s are, so I’m here to talk about this, or more accurately, the effects of taking omega-3s. 

What Are The Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids? 

omega 3 side effects
Omega 3 side effects

Really, the whole concept of side effects is interesting. By definition, there aren’t really any side effects of taking omega-3s — there are only effects.

We hear much about side effects when we are talking about medications. You have all seen the commercials on television about taking a drug for a condition with a very long list of potential side effects while you see happy people picnicking on the screen.

We would like the main effects of the relief a medicine may bring, but without those “nasty side effects.” 

Fortunately, Omega-3s are sourced from real food. As with most foods, Omega-3 provides benefits without any nasty side effects. Omega-3s are most well known for helping support cardiovascular, brain, and skin health. (1, 2, 3, 4)

When taking omega-3s, we are trying to help combat the overdose of omega-6 in our diets, which causes systemic inflammation. We want to establish balance by balancing out our omega-6 to omega-3 ratios

Ok, But What About Side Effects of Omega-3s? 

As mentioned, I don’t view these as side effects, but rather effects. Any adverse effects of omega-3 supplements are usually mild. (5) These often include unpleasant tastes and occasional gastrointestinal symptoms such as loose bowels. 

If you have never taken supplements before, you may want to build up to your digestive system’s tolerance level. Initially, your stool might get a little loose, and in this case, you may want to lower your dose a bit. After a week, you should be tolerating omega-3s very well, as long as the product is fresh and pure.

Important Note: Omeg-3s and Surgery

If you are going in for any kind of surgery, you will be asked to stop any blood-thinning supplements as well as medications, so always talk to your doctor about your current supplement routine as removing fish oil and omega-3s before surgery can be important. 

Reported Symptoms Related to Omega-3 Deficiencies

While potential side effects from omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be very mild, a deficiency can create some symptoms. (6

According to The National Institutes of Health, a deficiency in essential fatty acids can lead to dermatitis as well as rough and scaly skin. (7) Plasma, as well as tissue concentrations of DHA, have also been shown to decrease when dealing with an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. (8)

And, since omega-3 fatty acids play such a huge role when it comes to brain health, it makes sense that research has found a link between reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids and age-related cognitive decline. (9)

Not All Omega-3s Are Created Equally

omega 3 supplements 1
Omega 3 supplements side effects

While omega-3 fatty acids tend to be generally well-tolerated, not all omega-3 supplements are the same, and this really goes for any supplement you take. Quality is key. You want to choose something that is tested for purity and free from heavy metals and contaminants.

Final Thoughts 

Every food, every supplement, and every medication has effects. The bottom line is that you know your body better than anyone. Get accustomed to listening to what your body is telling you and always remember your MEDS: Mind State, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep — it’s all about finding that balance! 

If you want to find out more about omega-3s, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Omega-3 right here.


  1. Emma Derbyshire. Brain Health Across the Lifespan: A Systemic Review on the Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116096/
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Omega-3 For Your Eyes. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/omega-3-for-your-eyes
  3. Tse-Hung Huang, Pei-Wen Wang, […], and Jia-You Fang. Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6117694/
  4. Jung-Il Kang, Hoon-Seok Yoon, […], and Hee-Kyoung Kang. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164340/
  5. National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health. Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth.
  6. National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health. Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth.
  7. National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  8. National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  9. Greg M. Cole, Ph.D., Qiu-Lan Ma, M.D., Ph.D., and Sally A. Frautschy, Ph.D. Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia.

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