Understanding Potency and the Side Effects

Fish oil, a well-known supplement derived from the tissues of oily fish, has long been praised for its health benefits, particularly for joint pain relief. However, not all fish oil supplements are created equal, and understanding the nuances of their potency and how to mitigate potential side effects is crucial for maximum benefit. This comprehensive guide delves into the myriad benefits of fish oil, the importance of EPA and DHA potency, and practical tips to enhance its use.

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Understanding Fish Oil: More Than Just an Oil

Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These components are primarily responsible for the health benefits attributed to fish oil. Unlike other fats, omega-3s are essential fats, meaning our body cannot produce them, and they must be obtained through diet or supplementation.

How Does Fish Oil Work?

Fish oil is widely recognized for its effectiveness in relieving joint pain, primarily due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Here’s how fish oil helps in alleviating joint pain:

Anti-Inflammatory Properties:

  • Reducing Inflammation: The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic joint pain, especially in conditions like arthritis, is often a result of inflammation in the joints. By reducing inflammation, fish oil can help to alleviate pain and stiffness in the joints.

Reducing Muscle Pain:

  • Muscle Recovery: Besides direct effects on joints, fish oil can aid in muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness, which can indirectly benefit joint health, especially in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions.

Interplay with Medications:

  • Complementing Conventional Treatments: Fish oil can complement conventional treatments for joint pain. It may enhance the effectiveness of certain anti-inflammatory medications, allowing for lower doses. However, care should be taken if you are taking blood thinners. Discuss using fish oil with your prescribing physician or pharmacist if you are taking blood-thinning medications.

The Joint Pain Relief Connection

One of the most celebrated benefits of fish oil is its ability to alleviate joint pain. Chronic joint pain, often a result of conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can significantly impair quality of life. Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are vital in reducing joint inflammation, thus easing pain and improving joint flexibility. Regular consumption of fish oil can lead to a noticeable decrease in joint stiffness and soreness, particularly in those suffering from rheumatic conditions.

Beyond Joint Pain: Muscle Maintenance and Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Apart from joint health, fish oil has shown promise in preserving muscle mass during periods of disuse, like recovery from surgery or immobilization due to injury. Its anti-inflammatory capabilities extend beyond joints, assisting in overall muscle and tissue recovery. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil combat inflammation throughout the body, which is beneficial not just for joints but for overall health, including cardiovascular health and cognitive function.

Not All Fish Oil Supplements Are Equal

When selecting a fish oil supplement, it’s crucial to understand that the label “1000mg of fish oil” does not directly relate to the potency of the essential omega-3s, EPA and DHA, it contains. The 1000mg typically refers to the weight of the fish oil capsule, not the actual omega-3 content. It’s essential to look at the specific amounts of EPA and DHA in each capsule for optimal benefits. Higher concentrations of these omega-3s often translate to more significant health benefits, making potency a key factor in choosing a supplement.

Decoding Potency: EPA and DHA

EPA and DHA are the stars of the fish oil show. Their concentrations within a supplement determine its effectiveness, especially for joint health and anti-inflammatory purposes. Higher potency fish oil, with a greater concentration of EPA and DHA, often provides more pronounced health benefits. When shopping for fish oil, it’s advisable to choose a product that transparently lists the EPA and DHA content per serving, ensuring you receive a potent dose.

For example, a common name brand from a popular convenience store in one 1000mg capsule contains 330mg EPA and 125mg of DHA. Lately these brands are only placing the combined doses of EPA + DHA on their labels to make it look more potent. But the brand that I recommend that removes as much of the impurities as possible from its fish oils has a combined potency of 2150 mg of omega 3’s in 2 capsules which is the serving size of most fish oils. 1125mg of EPA and 875mg of DHA. Therefore when reading the labels of fish oils, don’t look only for the mg that each capsule holds but instead look for the potency of the actual EPA and DHA.  So it would take 3 or 4 capsules of other popular brands to meet the same potency of the EPA and DHA in Nordic Naturals.

The fish oil that I recommend is Nordic Naturals Promega 2000. You can find this from the Nordic Naturals Amazon store here: https://amzn.to/3N3eYUd

Mitigating Side Effects: The Fishy Aftertaste and Burping

A common complaint among fish oil users is the unpleasant fishy aftertaste and burping. This can be particularly off-putting for many, but there are ways to mitigate these side effects. Freezing fish oil capsules is a practical solution. By placing the fish oil in the freezer, you can prevent it from “exploding” in the stomach, which is often the cause of fishy burps. The frozen capsule will melt slowly in the stomach, reducing the likelihood of burping up a fishy taste throughout the day. Additionally, taking fish oil with meals can also help minimize gastrointestinal discomfort.

Incorporating Fish Oil into Your Routine

To harness the full benefits of fish oil, consistency is key. Incorporating fish oil into your daily routine, ideally with a meal, can amplify its effectiveness. For joint pain, a regular dosage, as recommended on the supplement or by a healthcare provider, can lead to gradual and sustained improvement in joint function and pain relief. It’s also important to note that while fish oil offers numerous health benefits, it’s not a cure-all and should be part of a comprehensive approach to health that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Fish oil stands out as a natural remedy for joint pain relief, thanks to its high omega-3 fatty acid content, specifically EPA and DHA. However, recognizing the differences in potency among various fish oil supplements is crucial for reaping its full benefits. You can effectively integrate this supplement into your health regimen for improved joint health and overall well-being by choosing high-potency fish oil and employing practical tips like freezing capsules to avoid fishy backups. As always, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications.

If you would like to streamline your supplements and improve your overall health and wellbeing call 414 299 8121 for more information about our 15 minute free phone consultations or full evaluations.

Boe, C., & Vangsness, C. T. (2015). Fish Oil and Osteoarthritis: Current Evidence. American journal of orthopedics (Belle Mead, N.J.)44(7), 302–305.

Cordingley, D. M., & Cornish, S. M. (2022). Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Management of Osteoarthritis: A Narrative Review. Nutrients14(16), 3362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14163362

Kuszewski, J. C., Wong, R. H. X., & Howe, P. R. C. (2020). Fish oil supplementation reduces osteoarthritis-specific pain in older adults with overweight/obesity. Rheumatology advances in practice4(2), rkaa036. https://doi.org/10.1093/rap/rkaa036


Kyriakidou, Y., Wood, C., Ferrier, C., Dolci, A., & Elliott, B. (2021). The effect of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition18(1), 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-020-00405-1

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