Shellfish allergy—it’s probably likely a trouble for more than one person close to you. And that isn’t surprising, since shellfish allergy is the most common type of food-related allergy throughout the world. With the growing popularity of omega 3 in fish oil and its many, many health benefits, there’s one more reason to curse a shellfish allergy!

That said, shellfish allergy varies from person to person and shellfish allergy is not the same as seafood allergy. Furthermore, fish oil is also not the same as eating fish, and you can find other sources of omega 3 if you have to follow complete avoidance. If you have a sensitivity or allergy to shellfish, this guide is for you!

Reaping Omega 3 Goodness Without Fish 

If you’re not a fan of fish or seafood, no worries! There’s still a way for you to get omega 3 and its many health benefits—i.e. omega 3 fish oil supplements. The liquid or glistening capsules, whichever you opt for, pack all the goodness of omega 3 fatty acids—and you don’t have to consume fish. 

However, sensitivities and allergies to shellfish or seafood are a whole other story. Bound by nature’s troubling gift to you, it can be difficult to take fish oil.

Is shellfish allergy the same as seafood allergy?

If you’re allergic to shellfish and shellfish only, chances are you may be fine eating fish. Shellfish include crab, shrimp, oysters, and lobster—basically, the underwater creatures that have a shell. These are delicious but come with the downside of causing mild to severe health problems if you are sensitive. 

If you have a seafood allergy, then you’re likely to have a bad reaction to shellfish as well as finned fish. Halibut, salmon, and tuna are the usual suspects when it comes to fish allergies. Allergies to salmon, cod, and flounder are not as common. 

What’s the purpose of fish oil?

Why the trouble of finding out whether or not you can take fish oil when it is just another supplement, right? Truth is, fish oil is more than your average multivitamin. The nutrients you’re after here are the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. The American Heart Association suggests that you add these to your everyday meals. Fish oil is one of the most convenient ways to do that.

Coming back to fish oil, it remains uncertain whether people with shellfish allergies can safely consume fish oil-based omega 3 supplements. 

Research on fish oil and shellfish allergies is unclear…

A recent study involving on a small group of individuals with allergies to finned fish presented reassuring results. Test subjects took fish oil supplements…without experiencing any allergic reactions. This research shows that not all people with shellfish and seafood allergies are susceptible to allergic reactions when consuming fish oil supplements.

It’s also important to consider the opposite results. Another extensive study involved an individual with seafood allergy. They experienced serious allergic reactions, including difficulty breathing, swelling, and chest tightness after consuming prescribed fish oil capsules. The symptoms went away within five days of discontinuing the fish oil. However, the results were enough to incite concern among health experts!

Fish Oil or No Fish Oil with Shellfish Allergy?

While it’s unclear how likely it is to have an allergic reaction to fish oil supplements if you’re allergic to shellfish, experts recommend not using them to stay safe. Additionally, it’s best to follow the advice on most fish oil supplement labels—cautioning you against taking the capsules! 

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to fish oil?

Surprisingly, research shows that approximately 40% of people experience their first allergic reaction to fish as an adult. These reactions can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Experiencing a pounding headache
  • Dealing with a stuffy nose and congestion
  • Feeling itchy, and getting rash or hives 
  • Struggling to catch your breath while wheezing
  • Going through nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling up of your tongue, lips, face, and hands
  • Experiencing stomach pain or diarrhea

If you start experiencing typical shellfish allergy symptoms after taking fish oil supplements, stop using the supplement immediately and contact your physician. In case you take fish oil supplements for the first time (or try a new brand of fish oil supplements) and face severe allergy symptoms like respiratory discomfort, go for emergency care. 

Taking omega 3 with no shellfish allergy…

Know that even with no shellfish allergy, you may still encounter some strange reactions when taking fish oil supplements. The most common ones include stomach discomfort and nausea. 

However, these are avoidable and manageable. Start with a lower dosage of fish oil—a rule that applies to starting a new brand of fish oil. Also, make sure to always take the supplement with food, as fish oil on an empty stomach reacts with acid naturally there in the gut. Another way to tolerate fish oil well is by taking soft gel capsules that take time to break up in the digestive tract which makes easier the system.

Taking omega 3 with a shellfish allergy…

The good news is that there are other omega 3 supplements available if you have fish allergies. Keep in mind that plant-based sources may not be as effective since your body converts very little ALA (fatty acid in non-fish omega 3) to DHA and EPA. It’s important to explore a variety of non-fish options for optimal health benefits.

As for addressing your shellfish allergy, it’s best to address it using a medicinal approach that targets the issues linked to food intolerances. If you want to try your luck with fish oil when you have a shellfish allergy (but with no allergy to finned fish), consult an allergist.

Bottom Line: Always Be Diligent When Taking Fish Oil!

If you have a serious shellfish allergy, it’s best to avoid fish oil supplements. And if you still want to see if you can tolerate these, best do it after consulting your physician. Now what to do In case you have an allergic reaction, and take careful measures such as getting an epinephrine pen prescription. Omega 3 in fish oil undoubtedly offers a plethora of benefits—but safety first!

By Caitlyn

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