Fish Oil Supplements and Fishy Burps

enteric coated fish oil supplement
Sometimes even so-called ‘Burp-free’ fish oil pills cause burping. This is usually caused by low stomach acid.


‘Your product said BURP-FREE! Yet I keep burping fish! You’re a bunch of liars!’

Fishy burps.

It’s the #1 reason why people stop taking fish oil supplements.

According to GOED,

  • 1 in 5 adults get fishy burps
  • 11% won’t take it because of fishy burps
  • 32 million adults will not believe a ‘No Fishy Burps’ label claim

Two people could take the same fish oil supplement. But one might burp in disgust while the other smells like a rose.

Burping does not necessarily mean the oil is bad. Nor is burping harmful in anyway.

Let’s assume you’re a burper. What can you do to prevent it?

There are lots of tricks – freezing the pills before taking it, taking it just before falling asleep, taking it with a meal etc. None of these tricks work well.

What works better is taking an enteric coated pill.

Enteric coating works. Most of the time anyway.

20% of you will burp if you take a regular (non-enteric) fish oil. With enteric coated pills, the number is under 5%. Shouldn’t it be zero? It should…but it isn’t.

How Enteric Coating Works
(and why it sometimes fails)

Enteric coating is sprayed onto the outside of the pill. The coating will stay intact and prevent the pill from dissolving in the acidic environment of your stomach.

Once the pill has moved past the stomach and into the small intestine, the surrounding environment is no longer acidic. It is neutral. In non-acidic environments, the enteric coating dissolves and the fish oil is released into the intestine for absorption.

Since the pill dissolves in the intestines and not the stomach, you will not experience fishy burps. Well, you shouldn’t. The reason that enteric coating works is due to the highly acidic nature of the stomach.

There are two reasons why enteric coating of fish oil supplements fail:

  1. The coating is chipped or cracked
  2. Your stomach is not as acidic as it should be

Since enteric coating is sprayed onto the surface of the capsule, it is technically possible that the coating could chip or crack, like the paint on a wall. But this is so rare that it virtually never happens.

More often than not, it’s the stomach acidity that’s at the root of the problem.

Let me explain: acidity or pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. Zero is extremely acidic and 14 is extremely alkaline. 7 is neutral.

  • Hydrochloric acid is near 0
  • Battery acid is near 1
  • Coca Cola is about 2
  • Vinegar and Lemon juice is about 3
  • Wine is about 4
  • Coffee is about 5
  • Rain water is about 6
  • Pure water has a pH of 7
  • Seawater is about 8
  • Baking soda is about 9
  • Antacids are about 10
  • Milk of magnesia is about 11
  • Bleach and oven cleaners are about 13
  • Sodium Hydroxide (household lye) is about 14

A healthy stomach is at about 1 or 2…in the same ballpark as battery acid. This is normal and healthy.

Your stomach produces hydrochloric acid in small quantities to kill germs and to prepare proteins, some vitamins and minerals for digestion.

 

Enteric coated fish oil
The pH scale. Enteric coated fish oil pills are tested twice. The first test shows whether pills holds up to stomach acid and the second test shows that it dissolves quickly at neutral pH of the intestine.

Here’s the surprise – many people don’t produce enough stomach acid.

There are several reasons for this:

  • age
  • stress
  • poor thyroid function
  • nutritional imbalances
  • H. pylori infection due to gut microbiota imbalance
  • Pernicious anemia
  • long-term use of heartburn medications, etc.

This condition is called hypochlorhydria. Instead of pH being at 1.2, their stomach pH drifts up to 4 or 5 or even above 7.

Most people ironically consider this ‘too much acid,’ and begin taking antacids like Tums, Rolaids or stronger heartburn meds like Omeprazole. The problem is not always too much acid and these products don’t address the root cause of the issues. But that’s a rant for another day.

How does low stomach acid affect enteric coated fish oil pills?

Enteric coated fish oil pills will work perfectly well at pH of 1, 2 or 3. But at pH of 5 or 6, it won’t work. pH of 6 is getting close to being neutral and the enteric coating starts to dissolve.

Natural enteric coating made from algae (like the kind on OmegaVia) has a pH trigger of 3.5. In other words, the pill starts to dissolve when the surrounding acidity rises to 3.5. Synthetic enteric coatings made from methacrylic acid copolymers have a pH trigger of around 5.5, which will work better for people with hypochlorhydria.

If you have a low-acid stomach, the enteric coated pill ‘thinks’ it’s in the intestine and promptly dissolves.

If you burp up fish oil after taking an enteric coated product, your stomach acid production is compromised. The burping window is 2-3 hours.

This is a very simple test for hypochlorhydria.

Doctors should be using enteric coated fish oil pills to test their patients’ stomach acid production. It is a simple, cheap and safe test. The only downside is that if your stomach isn’t acidic enough, you may burp for about 3 hours.

People with this condition may not know that they have low stomach acid. We know. We hear from customers who have this issue.

Our customer service folks are not doctors. They are neither qualified nor authorized to diagnose you with hypochlorhydria. But we keep detailed notes of angry calls from burpers. We’ve noticed trends and have learned a thing or two about stomach acid.

Temporary cures

If you take OmegaVia and experienced burping, you may want to do a small, self-experiment: take your OmegaVia with something acidic.

Your choices are:

  1. Orange juice (pH of 3.5) but you will have to drink 6 to 8 oz every hour for 3 hours. If you burp when you take the pills with water and don’t burp with orange juice, you may have stomach acid issues. Coca-Cola will work better. But both beverages are harmful if consumed regularly.
  2. Powdered ascorbic acid. This is Vitamin C. Mix half a teaspoon into 8 oz of water and sip a few ounces every hour for three hours. Too much Vit C can cause stomach distress.
  3. Apple cider vinegar. Same process as Ascorbic acid, but skip this if you’re sensitive to yeast.
  4. Betaine hydrochloride – this may require assistance from a doctor or a professional. Take 1 Betaine pill a few minutes before your enteric coated fish oil pill. Take one every hour for three hours. This may be your best bet in the long run.

With all of these acidifying agents, you will be able to keep the enteric coating intact in the stomach, so you don’t burp up fish oil. But don’t do this on a daily basis. That’s overlooking the real problem.

The Elephant in the Stomach

Removing the inconvenience and nuisance of a fishy burp is minor compared to addressing the key issue: decreased stomach acid.

I strongly suggest you go to a functional medicine doctor to get to the root of this problem because fishy burps are the least of your problems. There are several health issues associated with low stomach acidity. Find the root cause and fix it.

Low stomach acid can cause several nutrient deficiencies. Another issue is that a healthy stomach is a very hostile place for most bacteria. With a low-acid stomach, bacteria from the mouth, intestines and elsewhere can easily colonize the stomach. A low-acid stomach is also unable to reliably kill pathogens like Salmonella.

If you go to a general practitioner, he or she may simply send you home with an antacid, which fixes nothing. Go to a functional medicine MD.

Once the problem is truly addressed, you will not only not burp up ‘burp-free’ fish oil pills, but you’ll feel a lot better a lot healthier.

 Your turn…

  • Do you get fishy burps without enteric coating?
  • More importantly, do you get fishy burps even with enteric coating?

Disclaimer

This website is for your education and general health information only. The ideas, opinions and suggestions contained on this website are not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from your doctor for any health condition or problem. Users of this website should not rely on information provided on this website for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician. Please do not start or stop any medications without consulting with your doctor. We neither encourage you to do so, nor can we be held responsible for the fall out of failing to seek the counsel of a medical health practitioner.

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Vin Kutty
Vin Kutty, MS, is co-founder of Innovix Pharma. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with 20 years of experience.

Comments

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  1. Hi I love your blogs they are very informative and non biased. I need a some advice on which type of omega oil I should take and how much dha and epa I need per day to improve brain health. The only reason I wish to take omega is to improve my brain health so taking that into consideration is krill oil or fish oil better for brain health? Also how much dha and epa do I need per day for it to reach my brain and improve my brain health? Plus if I was to buy from your company which fish oils would I buy purely for brain health? Finally does fish oil/krill oil really improve brain health in any noticeable way? Thank you!!

    • Hi Jon – krill oil is really a phospholipid supplement, not an Omega-3 supplement. There is hardly any Omega-3 in krill. Since you want to focus on brains, krill may be worth taking for the phospholipid. But for the Omegas, go with fish oil. Aim for 1000 mg per day of both EPA and DHA. Dont worry too much about EPA or DHA ratios at this point since it looks like you’re just starting out with Omegas. I have no idea if you will notice any benefits – your brain may already be in perfect form, in which case, there may not be much to improve on. Each person is different.

  2. Hi thank you for your quick reply! I’m a bit confused does that mean phospholipid is better for brain health than omega 3? Also you say to take both dha and epa however in previous posts you mention that dha doesn’t need to be taken if you dont have brain damage or stroke damage etc. So In your opinion would it be best just to take an epa only fish oil if my brain health isn’t damaged? Thank you.

    • Hi Jon – no, your brain needs BOTH Omega-3 and phospholipids, among many other things to thrive. Ideally, you should get your phospholipids from egg yolks, liver etc., but since people don’t like eating those foods, you need to think about supplementation. Of course, Omega-3 from eating wild fish.

      Let me be VERY CLEAR: every single human being needs small quantities of DHA every single day. Pregnant/nursing women, those concerned about brain health/damage should take a lot more. If you don’t fall into those groups, you should be able to get most of your DHA from eating egg yolks and seafood regularly.

      I suspect you may be falling into the trap of over-thinking this – just take Omega-3. Any Omega-3. I don’t get the sense that you need to take either EPA or DHA. I suggest both.

    • http://omegaquant.com/

      Get you levels checked to see where you are at.

      PS I’ll keep posting this so you might as well stop not posting it. What you don’t want customers to know their levels so you can SELL MORE PRODUCT? Is that it?

  3. Was researching the best fish oil to purchase. Have been taking NordicNaturals EPA Xtra for several issues hoping it would help. Now. I see high EPA is best for some of my issues ( joint pain,mood,etc) But,now see that DHA is best for brain function, Namely,I had mini strokes this past April due to atrialfib. I have had headaches and dizziness ever since the mini strokes and they say it is normal( others have reported the same after effects). Anyway I now see I need DHA for the brain. What is the best fish oil to take overall?

  4. Hi I love your brilliant blogs it’s a great source of information for omega 3! Ive been taking fish oils for a long time but I just wanted to ask why does omegavia sell an EPA only fish oil if you suggest it’s important to take both EPA and DHA? Also the ratios of EPA and DHA are confusing I know you say it’s not too important however in your opinion for someone who wants to improve cognitive function and improve mood which should I get more of EPA or DHA and by what ratio? I’m worried because of the confusing amount of research which suggests that DHA actually blocks EPA and also some research suggests that we don’t need that much DHA.

    For example what confuses me is if EPA is mainly for heart and circulation why has “EPA only” fish oil shown improvement in people with brain disorders but not help with cognitive function? Why would it help with one part of the brain and not the other? Surely it means EPA is better for the brain than DHA?

    Sorry for the long post I wish there was one big study conducted on fish oils which answered these questions.

    • Hi Peter – the number one reason why OmegaVia sells an EPA-only product is for people seeking, well, just EPA. And those are people who’re likely to have depression and/or inflammation. EPA helps with depression. It does not mean that those people do not need DHA. They do! But they need EPA in excess to curb inflammation, among other things. For most other people, it is important to take both EPA and DHA. For people who are trying to focus on eye health, cognitive health and for pregnant women, DHA is very critical. And we will have a product for them too – a DHA only product. If you want to address both mood and cognition, then, I think, the answer is pretty simple: take a product that provides EPA in higher quantities than DHA. A 3:1 ratio like OmegaVia or something similar should fit the bill.

      EPA only fish oil likely showed improvements in people with brain disorders because of its direct impact on inflammation and the AA/EPA ratio.

  5. Hi Vin
    If I may add to your reply to Peter above …why EPA only.
    Peter
    There is extensive evidence accumulating ..some of it presented recently at the American Heart assoc conference by Dr Christie Ballantyne …that high blood serum levels of EPA reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

    This is especially important if you are a diabetic , have a lipid disorder or have had a previous heart attack , confirmed angina or evidence of stenosis in your coronary arteries.

    The FDA approved EPA only drug is called Vascepa …currently only approved for lowering very high triglycerides. However a cardio vascular outcome trial , called Reduce It is currently underway to determine the benefit of a 96% pure EPA drug ( Vascepa ) in reducing heart attacks and strikes.

    Currently insurance coverage is limited for this drug , so many of us in the “at risk ” population are using Omegia Via EPA 500 as an alternative.
    We appreciate Vin’s efforts to make high quality EPA available and affordable for those denied insurance coverage .
    Gary

  6. My triglyceride levels are 734. I just Omegavia from Amazon and I should get it tomorrow. I’m used to taking fish oil and I plan on taking 4 pills per day.

    How soon should I see a difference in triglycerides count?

    • Hi Bill – it should be a gradual decline for 6-8 weeks. After 8 weeks, it will stabilize at a lower level, assuming you don’t increase grain or fruit consumption. With a TG level of 700+, in addition to following your doctor’s advice, you need to drastically and dramatically cut back on sugar, juices, sodas, fruits, wheat, flour, all grains, pasta, baked goods, and starchy root vegetables. I normally tell people to eat more tubers and some fruit, but in your case, you’ll want to cut it back.

  7. Bill , with all due respect to Vin
    With a TG level of 734 you need to follow the advice of an MD and if possible a Cardiologist ….especially if you have any family history of heart disease.
    You also need a full Lipid Panel ( blood test ) to see how high your LDL cholesterol is and if possible a reading of your hsCrp ( a measure of inflammation )

    You should first try and get a prescription for Vascepa , and take that at 4 gm daily dose .
    4 pills of OmegiaVia EPA is only 2 gms of EPA ( actually slightly less then 2 gms )
    4 gms of Vascepa will usually lower your TG’s by 1/3 in about 6 wks. Reducing or eliminating alcohol will also help. If you can’t get or afford Vascepa I would suggest 3 gms of OmegiaVia EPA ( 6 pills ) …..I have a history of heart disease and am prescribed Vascepa and the Statin Crestor , but also use OmegiaVia EPA as a substitute for Vascepa . Good luck. Gary

    • Hi Bill – Gary makes a good point, one worth repeating. If your TG is 734, you (obviously – to me at least) should be under the care of one or more physicians. Diet changes should be in addition to any Rx you’ve been given. At times, these responses can sound like standard disclaimers – they are not. That’s why there is a paragraph of disclaimers at the bottom of each article, so I don’t have to re-type it every time I respond to someone. It is important to read it.

    • Gary, thank you for your advice. I have had all tests. My problem is I wear dentures and dry mouth. I tried Biotene and other products which haven’t worked. I started using soft peppermint puffs, which left a coating in my mouth and left a coating in my mouth that cleared the dry mouth.

      Thus, the doctor knew the culprit, told me to cut the peppermints and referred me to a nutritionist. He also told me to take fish oil and I started my research and stumbled across Omegivia. This may sound crazy but I believe in God and prayer and when stumbled on Omegiavia, I got a strange feeling that said “this is one” – again, I know it may sound strange but I actually got that feeling. And when I read everything I quickly ordered it.

      I feel your response is not a coincidence and I will start taking 3 pills at breakfast and 3 pills at dinner of Omegvia.

      Now, to add humor to my response, if you have a solution for dry mouth, it would be greatly appreciated and I thank you for your in put.

      Bill

  8. I get Omegavia here in China from your Hong Kong distributor and I am noticing that the capsules or its contents are a lighter in color than before. Am I right on this and if so, what has accounted for the change?

    • Hi David – you are right, there is usually small variations in color from batch to batch. Also, fresher products are lighter, but not always. Either way, no need for alarm, as it’s typical and natural.

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