5 Reasons to Dig Into Fish Oil

When it comes to food with medicinal effects, fish oil is high on the list of dietary musts. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory—and that’s good news for your brain and body.

To get your fill, try to eat two to three servings a week of low-mercury, fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring. If your access is limited or you’re not a fish fan, fish oil supplementation can help you get the essential omega-3 fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which your body needs in order to thrive—and which most Americans are deficient in.

In order to get the optimal nutritional boost from your fish oil supplements, be sure to eat as cleanly as possible. Many of those crappy-for-you processed foods are heavy on vegetable oils, which means they’re heavy on omega-6 fatty acids. The problem? Although omega-6 fatty acids are necessary and healthy in small doses, most people eat way too much, which throws off the all-important healthy ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. And that can set the stage for a number of serious diseases. So eat clean to give the omega-3 fish oil supplements a fighting chance!

Much has been written about the positive effects that omega-3 fatty acids have on our brain—including improved cognition and mood. Here are a few more compelling reasons to add fish oil to your routine:

1. Put a Spring in Your Step

When it comes to maintaining youth, fish oil comes in handy, not only for its anti-inflammatory properties, but also because it helps slow cellular aging in part by preserving the length of your telomeres, the all-important tips of your chromosomes that protect them from fraying. Think of it as a painless, no-brainer way to put a spring in your step.

2. Got Cramps?

If menstrual cramps get you down on a regular basis, resist the urge to take fistfuls of Advil, which can, among other things, lead to liver damage and a leaky gut. A smarter and healthier solution might be to increase your fish oil intake. Research indicates that fish oil supplements offer notable pain relief compared to placebos and, in a recent clinical trial, significantly outperformed standard ibuprofen treatment. Anecdotally, a number of my patients get relief from cramps with fish oil supplementation, including one woman who wisely refused to follow her gynecologist’s highly questionable recommendation to take up to eight (!!) Advil a day.

3. Show Your Heart Some TLC

Studies have shown fish oil supplements help reduce triglyceride levels, which play a key role in overall cardiovascular health. Elevated triglycerides are associated with increased risk of heart disease, so it’s a good idea to get them into a healthy zone. Fish oil can help get you into that zone, but check with your doc to find out where you are on the scale and where you should be. Don’t be surprised if you’re handed a scrip for pharmaceutical-grade fish oil—it might be just the ticket.

4. Take the Edge Off Menopause Symptoms

Menopause is a perfectly natural part of the aging process, but for many women, it has a number of downsides, among them increased risk of postmenopausal heart disease and hot flashes. The good news is that both can be helped by fish oil supplementation, along with other healthy habits like diet and exercise. While it’s not necessarily a magic bullet, fish oil supplements have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes and tame inflammation, which, in turn, helps protect the heart.

5. Goose Your Testosterone Levels

No, we’re not talking the cheesy, blow-the-roof-off testosterone boost—think of it as a light lift, particularly appreciated if you are experiencing, ahem, a dip. By upping fish oil intake, you’ll help tame inflammation, which, in addition to all the other problems inflammation triggers, tends to drag testosterone levels south in both men and women.

In short, fish oil is one of those gifts of nature everyone should take advantage of. Just check with your doc first to make sure it doesn’t interfere with any drugs you may be taking, including aspirin.