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My Bone to Pick with Fish Oil

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  • My Bone to Pick with Fish Oil

    Ok, I'm getting really frustrated with fish oil. I constantly see it advertised as this all-important health supplement. I hear how good it is for your heart. For your skin. How effective it is at regulating hormones. It's anti-inflammatory. It's a potent blood-thinner. It even helps in building lean muscle. Yada, yada, yada. Fish oil: the magic pill. But there's a problem.

    FISH OIL MAKES ME BREAK OUT TERRIBLY!

    I'm a 25 year old guy. I got rid of all my acne 6 years ago. I fist started taking fish oil when I turned 18 and went to college. I also had an issue where I broke out into rashes at that same time, so I assumed it was either the fish oil, the new stress of college or both, so I discontinued use. I started taking flaxseed oil and the rashes went away. I've been taking 3 flaxseed oil pills a day ever since. About a year ago, before I went primal, I decided to give fish oil another shot. I took 3 a day. After about a week, I broke out. Oh, but this was no normal breakout. This acne was HUGE, it HURT and the blemishes were HARD. And the odd thing was the location I'd get them. They would be on my legs above my knee and to my hip. These are not normal "acne locations", and they tend to signify hormonal imbalances.

    Well, I got off the fish oil and the acne went away after a few weeks. My skin cleared up and I continued with the flax.

    After going primal about 3 months ago and learning that flaxseed oil is pretty ineffective at converting from ALA to DHA in meat-eating men (flaxseed oil is actually more effective for vegetarians at converting to DHA than fish oil is), I feel like I'm wasting my time with it. Hoping that getting off grains and sugars would provide better hormonal stability, a better gut and less overall inflammation, I figured I'd give fish oil another try....only this time, I had a plan. Instead of immediately taking 3g a day, I would slowly build my tolerance with a measly 1g a day, then build to 2g/1g every other day, then 2g a day, etc. I bought a small bottle of 60 fish oil and started taking one 1g fish oil pill a day, along with one 1.2g flaxseed oil pill a day. I made it through the whole bottle of 60 pills with no major acne issues! I got a blemish every now and then, but it wasn't anything major that I wouldn't normally get.

    I assumed that my small intake of fish oil was allowing my hormones to balance out without sending a big jolt of omega-3 through my system. Well, a little over a week ago, I started upping the dosage to 2g fish oil pills one day, then 1g fish oil pill the next, 2g the next day, 1g the following, ect. Well, now the breakouts are starting again! I have painful acne all over my legs again above my knees. What the hell is going on?

    I've heard of this issue happening to many people, so I know I'm not alone. However, it seems that these people get buried under this "fish oil propaganda machine" that seems to exist. I REALLY want to balance my n3/n6 ratio, so I would love a better alternative to flaxseed oil. It probably isn't doing a damn thing for me. What are my options? I know of krill oil and seal oil, but I'm scared that they'll have the same effect, I'll need another 2 weeks of acne recovery and I'll be out another $25 in supplements I can't use.

    What should I do? Should I try alternatives? Should I just ride this out and hope that my hormones balance and it goes away? Is it even a hormonal thing? Maybe it's a fish oil allergy? I've never had an issue from eating fish, shellfish or crustaceans before. Has anyone else had this issue and fixed it somehow? I really need a good n3 source in my diet and I'm pretty desperate for an answer.
    Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

  • #2
    I am wondering if you just may be allergic to the type of fish used in your fish oils. Typical fish oils use sardines, mackeral or anchovies. I know certain seafoods like crustaceans make me break out in a rash after consuming too much. This may be the same issue for you. I am just guessing here of course. Maybe you can take a look at what types of fish are used in your fish oil. Maybe try cod liver oil instead as an alternative? Or you can even try Algal DHA. I have heard Matt Lalonde and Chris Kresser recommend algal DHA n3 to be perhaps superior than your typical fish oil.

    If none of that works the best alternative is to always limit n6 consumption and try to eat good sources of n3 rich fish a few times a week. I think that is far superior to taking any supplement anyways. Hopefully you figure out what is going on and you get better.
    "If man made it, don't eat it" - Jack Lallane

    People say I am on a "crazy" diet. What is so crazy about eating veggies, fruits, seafood and organ meats? Just because I don't eat whole wheat and processed food doesn't make my diet "crazy". Maybe everyone else with a SAD are the "crazy" ones for putting that junk in their system.

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    • #3
      I don't see the point in paying for fish oil unless you really don't have access to and/or don't like fish. A can of sardines is much tastier than any capsule and won't give you breakouts.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Paleobird View Post
        I don't see the point in paying for fish oil unless you really don't have access to and/or don't like fish. A can of sardines is much tastier than any capsule and won't give you breakouts.
        +1. What I like even more is buying sardines or mackerel from the fish market (typically previously frozen so don't worry if you're inland) to cook; good taste, cheaper to get a significant amount of n-3.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by AndreaReina View Post
          +1. What I like even more is buying sardines or mackerel from the fish market (typically previously frozen so don't worry if you're inland) to cook; good taste, cheaper to get a significant amount of n-3.
          Yum, love mackerel. Yes, on the coast here we do get spoiled with good fresh seafood all the time. That's why I said a can of sardines, because anyone, anywhere can get some of those any time of year and they probably even cost less than supplementing with capsules.

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          • #6
            This exact same thing happens to me. I've always had an acne problem, but fish oil gives me acne like I normally wouldn't get. Huge, deep, painful bumps that pop up in all sorts of funky places and take forever to go away. I've tested it half a dozen times and have tried different things like slowly working up to a proper dose and each time I get the same result. I love fish, and I can eat all of the whole fatty fish that I like without any problems, but even a small amount of fish oil from a supplement will break me out something fierce. I don't know what's up, maybe it's rancid?

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            • #7
              I just eat wild salmon and call it good. That, and if you're eating avocadoes and other good-fat foods, there's no need to supplement with a pill. I am very prone to boils and acne as well, and only tried fish oil once but was still eating SAD so I wouldn't have noticed an increase in boil number or intensity. As long as I avoid HFCS I'm boil free these days. But, really, if you're eating enough coconuts, almonds, good butter and the like, I wouldn't worry about adding rarefied fish oil to your diet.
              Crohn's, doing SCD

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              • #8
                The cost of a good piece of salmon minus
                The cost of whatever else you would have eaten minus
                The cost of fish oil capsules
                =saving money+bonus of no breakouts+bonus of yumminess

                =Good deal all around

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                • #9
                  I have Cod Liver Oil and don't find myself getting break outs. I do find that I get break outs from "cheating" though.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ChocoTaco369 View Post
                    I REALLY want to balance my n3/n6 ratio, so I would love a better alternative to flaxseed oil. It probably isn't doing a damn thing for me. What are my options?
                    I second the suggestions for just eating fish, but I'll also add that for many people the most effective way to balance the n3/n6 ratio isn't to seek more n3, but rather to cut back on n6.

                    Just a thought. Not sure what your diet is like though, maybe your n6 is already super low?

                    EDIT: I just found your log. Looks like you've got the diet dialed, so yeah... ignore me.
                    Last edited by ciep; 05-30-2011, 11:06 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Are you taking a mutlivitamin as well? I'm actually have the same effect when taking a multivitamin with vitamin E (and a lesser extent vitamin A). Both cause me to break out if I take too much for too long. Or does fish oil happen to have added vitamin E?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cassel_man View Post
                        Are you taking a mutlivitamin as well? I'm actually have the same effect when taking a multivitamin with vitamin E (and a lesser extent vitamin A). Both cause me to break out if I take too much for too long. Or does fish oil happen to have added vitamin E?
                        Interesting. All of the fish oil I've used has added vitamin E to help keep it from oxidizing. I think most of them do.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Balance View Post
                          I am wondering if you just may be allergic to the type of fish used in your fish oils. Typical fish oils use sardines, mackeral or anchovies. I know certain seafoods like crustaceans make me break out in a rash after consuming too much.
                          I've never had a problem eating any seafood before. That being said, those are the 3 fish that make up my budget fish oil. I may give krill oil a shot and see if I have better results. If it's an allergy to refined fish oil, maybe I'll be okay. I really hope it's not a hormonal imbalance due to omega 3's as that will be a huge issue.
                          Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Paleobird View Post
                            I don't see the point in paying for fish oil unless you really don't have access to and/or don't like fish. A can of sardines is much tastier than any capsule and won't give you breakouts.
                            I'm really not that big of a fish fan. I like whitefish, but they don't have any n3's, defeating the purpose. I like salmon, but even farm-raised salmon at Shop Rite is $9/lb. That's way too much for me. The wild stuff is insanely expensive. Fish oil, on the other hand, is $7 for a 300 count bottle that'll last me months. I simply can't afford to get all my n3's through real fish. It's n3-oil supplementation or nothing, unfortunately.
                            Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Styrofoam Jones View Post
                              This exact same thing happens to me. I've always had an acne problem, but fish oil gives me acne like I normally wouldn't get. Huge, deep, painful bumps that pop up in all sorts of funky places and take forever to go away. I've tested it half a dozen times and have tried different things like slowly working up to a proper dose and each time I get the same result. I love fish, and I can eat all of the whole fatty fish that I like without any problems, but even a small amount of fish oil from a supplement will break me out something fierce. I don't know what's up, maybe it's rancid?
                              I've been off the fish oil for 48 hours and they're all going away. They look 100% better than they did 2 years ago, and they don't hurt anymore. Maybe the issue is that I'm not storing the fish oil in the fridge? Apparently, that's where you're supposed to store it since they're PUFA's, and they're not even in dark containers...but they come that way on the shelves! I don't know our deal is haha.
                              Don't put your trust in anyone on this forum, including me. You are the key to your own success.

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