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Question:
I've tried a number of fish oil supplements, all of which make me nauseous. What is the best non-fish alternative? I am primarily interested in getting EPA.

Answer:
Although there are a number of other marine sources of EPA, they tend to provide more DHA than EPA. These include oil from krill, algae, and squid. However, in our experience, all of these can, like fish oil, have a "marine" odor and taste. Seed oils, like flaxseed, contain another omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) and a very small percentage of this may be converted to DHA and EPA in the body, but not in sufficient quantity to produce the same effects as oils that contain DHA and EPA.

This pretty much leads you back to fish oil as the best source of EPA. If it appears to make you nauseous, here are a few things to try assuming eating fish itself is not an option for you:

  • Take your fish oil in smaller, divided doses, with a meal not on an empty stomach.
  • Refrigerate your fish oil (even softgels). This will reduce the taste/aftertaste and help keep it from becoming rancid which, itself, can contribute to nausea. Be sure your fish oil is not already rancid when you buy it this is one of many things for which ConsumerLab.com tests fish/marine oil supplements.
  • Try an enteric-coated fish oil, as this is less likely to cause a fishy burp of aftertaste. A theoretical downside of these, however, is that absorption of the oil might be reduced as there is less opportunity for it to be broken down into smaller and more absorbable droplets in the stomach. You might also consider formulations with added flavors, such as lemon.

Hopefully one or more of these approaches will help you. ConsumerLab.com has tested, reviewed, and compared all types of fish and marine oils noted above, including enteric-coated supplements, which you can find in the Fish and Other Marine Oil Review >>



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Comments
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Nancy1716   May 17, 2015
I take the odorless fish oil supplements from Trader Joe's. There is no aftertaste.

Thomas15430   August 23, 2017
I agree with the comment about odorless fish oil from Trader Joe's, though I usually get my fish oil from Costco which seems to be cheaper and more concentrated with higher amounts of EPA/DHA.

Louise562   February 21, 2015
This comment section is new to me and I LOVE IT! Thank you so much for letting us speak with each other. Your site has grown and I'm loving being connected with all the healthy-loving people who write in.

At the risk of sounding very foolish, is taking the krill oil taking food from the whales and other krill-eating critters of the sea? Please forgive me but I don't want to eat something that might be depriving the whales, etc. of their food. There! I've asked what I've wanted to for a long time. Anyone?

Kathleen15435   August 23, 2017
I googled this once and Dr. Mercola also has some comments on his website, as he has a krill based product/capsule he sells. Someone told me the krill ball or feeding area near the South Pole is enormous, plenty for all, and I think that may be where the harvests are. My personal concern is that so many of the icebergs and glaciers are melting, it is raising the general temperature of the world, also that ice contains methane and CO2, so the more it melts, the more contaminated everything is - water, air, etc. (Same with the tundra I just read.) I think it might be affecting krill feeling areas where whales eat.

I definitely worry about whales and feeding areas all the time - the Bow Head whales up north are some over 200 years old, real leaders and caretakers of other smaller whales. We should google it...find out for sure. Krill doesn't give me nausea like the highly processed fish oils, so my intuition is it is a better supplement for humans.

ConsumerLab.com   August 24, 2017
Hi Kathleen - Thank you for sharing your experience with this. You can read more about how fish oil and krill oil supplements compare regarding side-effects in the "Concerns and Cautions" section of the Fish Oil Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/omega3/#cautions

Please also see the Krill Oil section of the review, which includes information about krill harvesting concerns: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/omega3/#astaxanthin

Dan557   February 19, 2015
My friend who had tried many fish oil capsules and liquids gave up. Then after about a year he tried "Life Extension Super Omega-3 with Sesame Lignans and Olive Fruit Extract" and was able to costume this brand with no problems of nausea and gas. I use this brand and accidentally bit one of the capsules. The fish oil tasted like I had just filleted the fish. Not sure if LEF just has very fresh oil or the other ingredients help digestion.

Deborah503   February 5, 2015
What do you think of cod liver oil for DHA and EPA? Any down side to using this?

ConsumerLab.com   February 6, 2015
Hi Deborah - Cod and other fish liver oils can provide significant amounts of DHA and EPA, but may also contain high amounts of vitamin A, which can be toxic at excessive doses: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/fish_oil_supplements_review/omega3/#liveroils.

See our tests of cod liver oil supplements (amounts of vitamin A are included in the Results table and listed amounts of omega-3s can be seen by clicking on "Ingredients") for more information: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/%20/Vitamin_A/.

Deborah526   February 8, 2015
Thanks for your reply. Since I'm a bit low in my EPA and DHA levels, my naturopath recommended cod liver oil. But after reading your statement and warnings, I think I'll find another product. I don't like the excessive amount of Vitamin A from retinol in this oil. My problem is that I can't swallow pills and thought the liquid would be the perfect solution. Guess I'll keep looking...

ConsumerLab.com   February 9, 2015
You're welcome Deborah! There are certainly some Approved liquids in our Fish Oil Review. Here's a direct link to the section: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/%20/omega3/#results3

Michele448   January 29, 2015
It could be that this person is not able to digest fats very well and needs gallbladder support. Fish oil digestion should really start in the mouth with salivary lipase and not later on in the digestive process.

richard444   January 28, 2015
Absolute only answer is Coromega packets, comes in chocolate or orange flavor, no fish oil aftertaste and even kids love it. You must try it , looks like little ketchup pack you squeeze.

Ann 443   January 28, 2015
Thanks Tracy. I have just put my fish oil caps in the freezer as a test; I had not connected dyspepsia to the fish oil dose but there may be a cause/effect in my case. Have taken note of your brand suggestions as well.

Ken439   January 28, 2015
The problem with this COMMENTS section is that we can't tell if the writer works for the supplement maker or not...

ConsumerLab.com   February 2, 2015
Hi Ken - We appreciate your concern about this. To help ensure the integrity of comments posted, we ask each person who refers to a particular brand of product (positively or negatively) to confirm they have no financial affiliation with the brand or competing brands. Our policy about this now appears at the top of the box when submitting a comment.

Barry437   January 28, 2015
The best I have found and taken for years is the Mega Red Krill Oil.

Tracy436   January 28, 2015
Store the capsules in the freezer not the refrigerator. The refrigerator slows the process of oxidation, but only the freezer will keep the capsules fresh for the weeks it takes to finish a bottle. (Think of where you would store fish you did not plan to cook for three weeks.)

The oil is from cold water fish. The gelatin will be hard but the oil does not freeze. We take them straight out of the freezer but you could run them under water if you want the capsule softer.

For a last option, my husband has insisted that every omega 3 product gives him fish burps freezer or not. He is my ultimate test and the only reasonably potent product he can take is Coromega lemon lime individual foil packets. (Not the other flavors and definitely not the multi-dose dispenser.)

Kathleen15436   August 23, 2017
It makes me think of the fish themselves - they live in freezing waters or cold waters and they don't freeze!!! Amazing animals, it figures the oil wouldn't freeze. It's keeping them alive.

ConsumerLab.com   January 28, 2015
Hi Tracey - We appreciate your suggestion of freezing the fish oil and agree that this should be fine.

Tracy435   January 28, 2015
I had the same problem until I found Barlean's omega swirl which is a fish oil supplement that is blended with different flavors (I like pina colada) and has NO fishy taste or aftertaste! I am very picky and this stuff really is delicious. My four year old even loves it.

craig445   January 28, 2015
i tried it and it tastes like candy, but it doesn't have much epa and dha so if that's what you want, it's not a great value. if someone has dyspepsia from taking fish oil, perhaps they should take some lipase enzymes for their digestion, in addition to keeping it in the freezer. great suggestion. craig.

This CL Answer initially posted on 1/27/2015. Last updated 8/4/2017.

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