There appears to be something fishy about perimenopause and menopause; that is, if you want to take advantage of some of the benefits of taking fish oil supplements to help you with symptoms that can occur during these transitional years. After all, fish oil is a super source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been investigated extensively for their beneficial properties for human health. When it comes to perimenopause and menopause, it turns out there are quite a few advantages you may want to explore.
Fish oil 101
Fish oil is the oil or fat that is found in the tissue or liver of fish. For fish oil supplements, the oil is usually extracted from anchovies, herring, mackerel, tuna, and other oily fish. For cod liver oil supplements, the sources are cod and other fish.
The fats found in fish include omega-3 fatty acids, which make up about 30 percent of the total amount of fish oil. The primary omega-3s in fish oil include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which have been shown to have various beneficial health qualities. Vitamins A and D are often found in fish oil as well.
Numerous health-based organizations and institutions have made recommendations for fish consumption, and generally for adults they are to eat 2 to 3 servings (4 oz is one serving) per week. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, recommends that adults make two servings per week their goal. The American Heart Association has a similar recommendation (2 servings per week of 3 to 4 ounces per serving). As a reference, 4 to 5 ounces of Atlantic salmon provides 3 grams of omega-3s.
Before we look at the benefits of taking fish oil supplements, it’s important to mention the balance of omega-3 fatty acids with omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, but they have different structures, different functions, and different benefits. Omega-6s provide some health benefits, but their metabolites are pro-inflammatory, while the metabolites of omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects. Since inflammation plays a big part in menopausal symptoms and conditions common to menopause, achieving a healthy balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is important.
The Western diet tends to be high in omega-6s in relation to omega-3s; around 15:1 or greater for many people. A healthier ratio is closer to 1:1 or 4:1. Eating more fish and taking fish oil supplements can help you achieve that goal.
Benefits of taking fish oil supplements
Since the human body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids and these nutrients are an essential part of a healthy diet, individuals who do not or will not eat fish need to consider taking fish oil supplements. There are many excellent reasons to take these supplements, especially for women in perimenopause and menopause. You should consider taking fish oil supplements because they can:
Fight inflammation. We talk a lot about inflammation in menopause, and for good reason: it’s a key element in so many health concerns that affect perimenopausal and menopausal women. Among them are rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, asthma, diabetes, depression, brain fog, ulcerative colitis, and cardiovascular disease. Since this last condition is also the number one killer of women, reducing inflammation is especially critical.
Reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Fish oil can help reduce cardiovascular disease risk on several levels. For example, the omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help:
- Reduce levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good cholesterol, which in turn can lower the risk of clogged arteries and heart attack.
- Reduce levels of triglycerides, which contribute to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and thus the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Very high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatitis (acute inflammation of the pancreas).
- Lower blood pressure, which lowers risk of stroke and heart disease.
- Prevent plaque from forming in the arteries, which results in atherosclerosis.
Improve brain function. Are you experiencing brain fog or having some difficulty with your memory, focus, concentration, or attention span? These are common symptoms of menopause, but some healthy fats may come to your rescue.
Your brain is composed of nearly 60 percent fat, and the majority of that fat is omega-3. These fats are necessary for healthy brain function. Experts have noted that consuming omega-3 fatty acids can improve blood flow in the brain, learning, and memory. In addition, some research has indicated that taking fish oil supplements may lower the chances of psychotic disorders among individuals who are at risk. Use of supplements of omega-3s and DHA alone both have been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
A few small studies involving the use of fish oil have indicated that the supplement may improve memory in healthy older adults. In one of the studies, individuals ages 51 to 72 consumed 3 grams of fish oil daily for five weeks and then took a placebo for five weeks. When the participants were taking the omega-3s, they performed better on memory testing than when they were on placebo. Use of fish oil also was associated with an improvement in blood pressure and several other cardiometabolic factors, indicating that the supplement has the potential to delay cognitive decline and metabolic disorders.
Ease hot flashes. A firm conclusion about the effectiveness of fish oil for reducing and relieving hot flashes is yet to be reported. Several random controlled trials have found that use of fish oil supplements may improve frequency of hot flashes, although other studies have not had the same findings.
Protect eye health. Several vision issues are common among women in menopause, such as blind spots, dry eyes, and double vision, and among older people in general, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts. It’s been shown, for example, that age-related macular degeneration may respond positively to consuming several different supplements, including omega-3/fish oil. The authors of a 2023 study reported that use of omega-3 supplements can be effective in relieving symptoms of dry eye.
If glaucoma is a concern, fish oil may help. Glaucoma is a vision condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged and can cause blindness. A feature of glaucoma is elevated intraocular pressure, which is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the front part of the eye. Use of omega-3 supplements for three months significantly reduced intraocular pressure in adults in the first study to ever report this benefit of omega-3 fatty acids in people.
Enhance skin health. Your skin can undergo many changes in how it looks and feels during perimenopause and menopause, and these changes can be upsetting. Your skin contains a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, and according to board certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, “Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely hydrating.” This property means they can help dry skin, a common symptom of menopause. If applying it topically doesn’t appeal to you (and your nose), then fish oil supplements may reduce dry, itchy, and red skin as well. Is psoriasis stressing you out? Numerous studies have demonstrated a benefit in taking fish oil supplements for reducing signs and symptoms of psoriasis.
Ease vaginal dryness. One reason sexual desire can decline in menopause is the development of vaginal dryness, which can result in irritation, itching, and pain during intercourse. Some studies have suggested that taking omega-3 supplements can improve vaginal dryness. One study among postmenopausal women reported an improvement after six months of taking 3.5 grams of omega-3s. Research has also shown that these supplements may increase estrogen levels, which in turn may prevent or ease vaginal dryness.
Protect liver function. The liver is responsible for processing the majority of the fat in the body, therefore maintaining optimal liver function is essential, especially in perimenopause and menopause. Its role as a detoxifier for the body is critical because toxins that are allowed to linger in the blood and tissues can result in more severe symptoms, illness, and disease.
Processing fat efficiently is important for preventing obesity as well as the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This liver condition, which involves the accumulation of fat in the liver, is more common among postmenopausal women. Use of fish oil supplements can reduce inflammation in the liver, improve liver function and may decrease the amount of fat in the liver, which in turn may help ward off or reduce symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Help control asthma. Researchers have found that respiratory function “in asthmatic patients is more frequent, more severe, and less controlled after menopause,” and this has been associated with hormonal changes. To assist in relieving these issues in menopausal women, supplementing with fish oil may be effective although more research is needed.
Protect your bones. The risk of bone loss and development of osteoporosis is significant in perimenopause and menopause. When we talk about improving and strengthening bones, calcium and vitamin D often come to mind, and they are essential. However, some experts point to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids as well.
The actual role omega-3s play in bone health is still not clear, but research has pointed out several possibilities. One study found that individuals who have higher blood levels of omega-3s may have better bone mineral density, which suggests a relationship between the two. Another study found that use of fish oil supplements by healthy individuals reduced the amount of markers of bone breakdown. This suggests fish oil may be helpful in preventing bone disease and osteoporosis.
Taking fish oil/omega-3 fatty acid supplements
Morphus Omega-3-T provides 1,600 mg of EPA and DHA in a triglyceride form, which means it is easier on the digestive system than other fish oil supplements. It is sourced from wild Alaskan Pollock and has been distilled and filtered to optimize removal of PCBs, pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants found in the fish used to make supplements. Morphus Omega-3-T supplements do not have any fishy smell or aftertaste.
Fish oil (omega-3) supplements can provide a variety of benefits for women in perimenopause and menopause. The Morphus Omega-3-T supplement is easy to take and digest, and it provides an effective balance of EPA and DHA.