The Dish on Fish Oil & Why’s It’s So Essential!

pediatric health careIt’s impossible to overstate how important fish oil is to our overall health. From growing healthy babies to keeping our brains, hearts, joints, skin, and eyes in tip top shape – fish oil’s benefits are myriad.

In this post, we’ll draw from our expertise as functional medicine pediatricians to define the essential fats fish oil affords, explain why we need them, and most importantly:  how to get enough of them. So, let’s start with the basics…

Why is fish oil so nutritious?

Fish oil is chockfull of two important omega-3 fatty acids: Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Generally speaking, EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response while DHA works to strengthen the brain, eyes, and central nervous system

Together, these omega-3s help to prevent and reduce the symptoms of many chronic diseases and conditions, including (though not limited to):

  • Acne / Dry Skin / Eczema
  • ADHD / Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety / Depression
  • Allergies
  • Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol
  • Inflammation / Pain
  • Leaky Gut

Also, a fascinating fact about DHA: it’s known as an “ancient nutrient” that played a vital role in the evolution of the modern human brain! Researchers have identified a correlation between the expansion of grey matter in the cerebral cortex to an increase of DHA in the diet of early humans, who had access to coastal seafood and inland freshwater sources. DHA has been and continues to be essential for brain development. More on that soon, but first…

What’s the best way to get your omega-3s?

Since only small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized naturally in the body, they must be consumed via diet or supplementation. Food-wise wild, cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, etc.) are rich in omega-3s, but getting adequate nutrients from fish is challenging given the rise of mercury and other contaminants (ex: PCBs) found in our seafood supply.

That’s why taking a highly purified fish oil supplement is the safest way to ensure that you and your family are getting enough omega-3s. We offer kid-friendly and adult-appropriate options for purchase in both of our San Francisco offices and also through Fullscript, our virtual pharmacy.

For you seafood-loving families, here are some handy guides to help you find the healthiest fish to eat:

Is fish oil safe to take while pregnant/breastfeeding?

The answer is a resounding YES! Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for growing healthy babies before and after birth. Taking fish oil while pregnant will aid in the development of your baby’s brain (which is more rapid in utero than at any other time in your child’s life) and their vision system. They’ll also keep both of your immune systems functioning optimally.

The same goes for breastfeeding mothers, whose diet should include a healthy dose of a daily fish oil supplement in order to pass along adequate amounts of omega-3s to their growing babies.

PLEASE NOTE: pregnant and nursing mothers should limit consumption of wild (never farm raised) cold water fish to three (3-4 ounce) servings per week to minimize exposure to mercury and other persistent toxins which can be harmful to developing infants. And of course, while pregnant, women should never eat raw fish — no sushi during pregnancy!

Let us help you find the right fish oil supplement.

When you consider its many benefits, taking a fish oil supplement really is a no-brainer. We’d love the opportunity to create a safe and customized supplementation plan for you and your family. Please give us a call at our San Francisco offices at 415-826-1701.