One of the most common questions asked to any doctor specializing in integrated or functional medicine is like the one above or “How long will take to get the benefits?” Both are good questions.
Omega 3 fatty acids begin affecting the body almost immediately after taking them. Before I talk about those effects, I’ll review how your body digests fats in general and omega 3 fatty in specific.
Shortly after the supplement lands in your stomach, messages from the brain are already telling your digestive tract to prepare to digest some healthy fats. Lipases are released in the upper end of the small intestine to begin to break down the larger fat molecules.
Your gallbladder prepares to release bile into the upper part of your digestive tract in order to facilitate the process of converting the fats into micelles through a process called emulsification. In this form the fatty acids can be absorbed through the lymphatic system and then into the blood stream.
Once the fatty acids are in the bloodstream, they circulate throughout the body and are taken up by the tissues that need them. All this happens over the course of 30 minutes to several hours.
The first measurable effect can be found by sampling the blood, but it cannot necessarily be “felt” directly. Changes in blood levels of triglycerides and in levels of inflammation, as measured by highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein can be found within a few weeks.
Many people notice a rather immediate improvement in things like appetite and skin texture. We receive countless unsolicited testimonials stating just that… “my appetite has normalized” or “my skin feels softer” or “I’m sleeping better”.
Numerous large studies have concluded that you will receive substantial benefits from taking omega 3 fish oil supplements within a few weeks to several months.
For example, one study showed that within 3 months there was a dramatic reduction in death from heart attack, in another study death from all causes fell by 45 percent in those taking omega-3 fish oil supplements for 3.5 years.
It can take up to 18 months to change most of the fatty acids normally found in your cellular membranes throughout your body. We believe that many of the positive benefits of taking supplemental omega 3s are the result of this complete overhaul of your cellular membranes. We believe that this fact is especially pertinent to those suffering from arthritic conditions, long-term mood disorders, neurological conditions and immune system problems.
I have personally been prescribing my patients omega 3 fish oils as a daily supplement for the past 20 years. So when a patient asks how long they need to take these supplements I respond: “As long as you want to maximize your chance of being happy and healthy.”