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What are the side effects of wild Alaskan salmon oil?

Wild Alaskan salmon oil has become a popular supplement in recent years due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3s provide many health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and enhancing brain function. However, some people may experience side effects from taking salmon oil supplements. In this article, we will explore the potential side effects of wild Alaskan salmon oil and provide tips for safe supplementation.

What is Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil?

Wild Alaskan salmon oil is extracted from salmon caught in the wild waters of Alaska. It contains high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA provide anti-inflammatory effects in the body and support cardiovascular, cognitive, and joint health.

Salmon oil from wild Alaskan salmon is considered superior to farmed salmon oil. Wild salmon eat a natural diet of krill, plankton, and smaller fish. This diet provides higher omega-3 content compared to farmed salmon, which eat an artificial diet. Additionally, wild salmon oil has lower levels of contaminants like PCBs and dioxins.

Potential Side Effects of Salmon Oil

While generally safe when taken in appropriate doses, there are some potential side effects to be aware of with salmon oil supplementation:

1. Fishy Taste and Belching

One of the most common complaints with fish oil supplements, including salmon oil, is unpleasant fishy burps or aftertaste. This side effect occurs when the fish oil is not fully digested and instead gets broken down later in the stomach, releasing fishy odor as you belch.

Ways to prevent fishy burps include:

– Take salmon oil with meals, instead of on an empty stomach
– Freeze the capsules before taking them
– Look for enteric-coated capsules that dissolve in the small intestine rather than the stomach
– Drink plenty of water when taking fish oil
– Slowly introduce higher doses over time to allow your body to adjust

2. Nausea and Upset Stomach

Some people may experience nausea or indigestion when taking salmon oil, especially in high doses. Consuming salmon oil with food can help minimize stomach upset. Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing over 2-4 weeks can also help your body acclimate.

3. Diarrhea

Too much salmon oil at once may cause diarrhea or loose stools. This is more likely with doses over 3 grams per day. Stick to recommended doses on supplement labels and adjust slowly over time. Diarrhea will often resolve on its own once your body gets used to salmon oil.

4. Headache

Headaches have been reported with fish oil supplementation. This may be related to changes in blood clotting and inflammation pathways. Staying hydrated can help prevent headaches when starting salmon oil. Lower doses around 1-2 grams per day are less likely to cause headaches.

5. Blood Clotting Changes

Omega-3s can make platelets in your blood stick together less, resulting in longer bleeding times. This may be dangerous for people with clotting disorders or taking blood thinners. Talk to your doctor before taking salmon oil if you have a bleeding disorder or upcoming surgery.

6. suppressed immune system

High doses of salmon oil may suppress immune system function. This is likely due to reductions in inflammatory compounds that also play a role in immunity. Do not take more than 3 grams daily of salmon oil without medical supervision.

7. Increase in LDL Cholesterol

Some studies show salmon oil can slightly increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in certain people. However, it also increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Overall, salmon oil benefits heart health. But monitor your cholesterol levels with your doctor.

8. Prostate Cancer Risk

Omega-3 fatty acids may raise prostate cancer risk in men, according to some research. The link is not definitive, but men with prostate cancer should consult their doctor before taking salmon oil supplements.

9. Allergic Reaction

People with fish or shellfish allergies may react to salmon oil. Discontinue use if you develop hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing after taking salmon oil. Seek emergency care for severe reactions.

Who Should Avoid Salmon Oil?

While generally safe, certain people should exercise caution or avoid salmon oil due to potential side effects or interactions:

– People with fish or shellfish allergies
– Pregnant women – Dosing above 3 grams per day is not recommended
– People taking blood thinners like warfarin – Can increase bleeding risk
– People scheduled for surgery – Can prolong bleeding time
– People with compromised immune systems – High doses may further reduce immunity
– People with bipolar disorder – Can trigger manic episodes
– People with diabetes – Can raise blood sugar levels
– People with rheumatoid arthritis – May worsen symptoms

Always speak with your doctor before taking salmon oil supplements if you have any medical conditions or take medications.

Safe Dosage Recommendations

The following daily dosages of salmon oil supplements are generally considered safe for most healthy adults:

– 250-500 mg EPA/DHA – For general health
– 1-2 grams EPA/DHA – For high triglycerides and cardiovascular support
– 2-4 grams EPA/DHA – For anti-inflammatory effects
– Do not exceed 5 grams total fish oil per day without medical supervision

Start with a low dose around 250-500 mg per day and gradually increase over 2-4 weeks. Splitting the dose between morning and night can help minimize side effects like fishy burps. Also, take salmon oil capsules with food to prevent stomach upset.

Look for salmon oil certified free of heavy metals, PCBs, and other contaminants. Third party testing like from the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) can help verify purity.

The Bottom Line on Salmon Oil Side Effects

In summary, potential side effects of salmon oil supplements can include:

– Fishy taste/belching
– Nausea/upset stomach
– Diarrhea
– Headaches
– Blood clotting changes
– Immune suppression
– Increased LDL cholesterol
– Prostate cancer risk (unconfirmed)
– Allergic reaction

However, salmon oil is very safe for most people when used properly at recommended dosages. Start with low doses around 250-500 mg daily with food. Slowly increase over several weeks while monitoring for side effects. Avoid contaminants by choosing third-party tested supplements. Speak with your doctor before taking salmon oil if you have medical conditions or take medications that could interact.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is wild salmon oil better than farmed salmon oil?

Yes, wild Alaskan salmon oil generally has higher omega-3 levels and lower contaminants compared to farmed salmon oil. The natural diet of wild salmon provides more omega-3s.

2. What are the signs of an allergic reaction to salmon oil?

Signs of an allergic reaction can include hives, itching, swelling, tingling of the mouth, tightening of the throat, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. Discontinue use and seek emergency care if you experience severe reactions.

3. Can I give salmon oil to my child?

Yes, salmon oil is safe for children in appropriate doses. Check with your pediatrician for a recommended dosage based on your child’s age, weight, and health status. Infants under the age of 2 should avoid fish oil due to the potential for mercury exposure.

4. How much salmon oil should I take per day?

General health: 250-500 mg EPA/DHA daily
High triglycerides: 1-2 grams EPA/DHA daily
Anti-inflammatory effects: 2-4 grams EPA/DHA daily
Do not exceed 5 grams total fish oil daily without medical supervision.

5. Should you take salmon oil with food or on an empty stomach?

Take salmon oil capsules with food, rather than on an empty stomach, to minimize side effects like fishy burps, nausea, and stomach pain. Food helps absorb and digest the oil properly.


Wild Alaskan salmon oil provides anti-inflammatory omega-3s that support many aspects of health. Potential side effects are usually mild and often preventable with proper dosing. Start with low doses of 250-500 mg daily, increase slowly over time, and take with food. Avoid contaminants by choosing reputable supplements with third party testing. Speak to your doctor before taking salmon oil if you have any medical conditions or take medications, as interactions are possible. With responsible use, salmon oil can be a safe and effective supplement for health promotion.