Q. Are fish oil capsules safe if I'm allergic to fish? If not, how do I get omega-3s?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 22 July 2013.
Tagged: allergies, healthy eating, healthy heart, oil, omega-3, supplements

Q. Are fish oil capsules safe if I'm allergic to fish? If not, how do I get omega-3s?

THE QUESTION IN FULL

Q. I avoid seafood as I have an allergy to fish. So how would I increase my intake of omega-3 fats? Are fish oil capsules safe for me?

A.  Fish oil capsules are quite refined, undergoing several filtration, purification and deodorisation steps to remove impurities, heavy metals and virtually all protein (which is the compound that triggers the allergic reaction). Because of these processes, theoretically they should be safe but, this may vary from brand to brand.

As you have a documented fish allergy, however, it's wise to be extra cautious. The Allergy Unit of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney (the leading centre for allergies) suggests you test your reaction by having your doctor do a skin prick test with the contents of a fish oil capsule.

Have your auto-injector of emergency adrenalin (e.g. Epipen, Anapen) on hand and make sure there is resuscitation equipment just in case.

If you have no reaction to the skin prick test, follow it up by swallowing a capsule, but again do it when you're with your doctor.

Other ways to get your omega-3s

If you don't want to go through this procedure, there are 3 other ways to boost your intake of omega-3s. These are:

  1. Eat more lean red meat (beef, lamb), game meats (venison, kangaroo) or liver and kidney
  2. Buy omega-enriched eggs - these have been fed on flaxseed and canola so are richer in omega-3 naturally
  3. Eat more flaxseed oil, canola oil, pecans and walnuts which have the simple form of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid. However only a SMALL proportion (less than 15 per cent) is converted into the longer-chain EPA and DHA our bodies use so it's not ideal.
 
 
 
 
Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.

References / External articles