walnutsYou’ve heard that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your health. However, if you are a bariatric patient, you may wonder how these fats affect your changed body and the best sources for them that align with your new diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Reduced triglyceride (blood fat) levels

  • Reduced symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including stiffness and joint pain.

  • Lower levels of depression

  • Lessened asthma symptoms due to lowered inflammation, a key component in asthma.

  • Improved mental focus and reduced symptoms of ADHD

  • Protection against Alzheimer’s disease

These health benefits apply to bariatric and non-bariatric patients.

How Do I Get the Omega-3s I Need?

Bariatric patients will be on an all-liquid diet for Phase 1 of their diet, post-surgery. However, once solid foods are introduced, individuals will be able to incorporate most of the foods that provide omega-3 fats, including:

  • Fish: Anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, sturgeon, lake trout, and tuna.

  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.

Some fish have been reported to carry high levels of mercury and other toxins, including mackerel, wild swordfish, tilefish, and shark. You may wish to eat these less frequently than others, like wild salmon, which boasts high levels of omega-3s and low-to-no toxicity.

For patients who are in the early stages of their bariatric diet or for those who do not eat fish, supplements are an excellent option. There are many omega-3-providing capsules available on the market today. Patients who choose to consume their omega-3s in food must keep in mind that small portion sizes provide just enough. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty foods that must be limited on a bariatric diet.

Pros and Cons of Supplementation

Consult your doctor before beginning an omega-3 fatty acids regimen. He may advise you for or against certain supplements, depending on your current health condition and any medications you currently take. Individuals with heart disease, for example, may be advised to consume 1 gram of DHA and EPA from fish oil daily, while others may be asked to take even more, under the supervision of their physician.

The side effects of omega-3 supplements are few and far-between, but can include indigestion and gas pain. One way to avoid these side effects is to look for supplements with a coating on them, which soothes the stomach.   

Another concern that your physician may have is that omega-3 supplements tends to make bleeding more possible. Patients who have bleeding conditions or take medications that can increase bleeding should consult with their doctor before supplementing with omega-3s.

How Much Do I Need?

Eating a source of essential fatty acids two-to-three times a week will give you the nutrients your body craves. If you take supplements, consult the following requirements:

  • Males over the age of 14 need 1.6 grams per day.

  • Females ages 14 and over need 1.1 grams per day.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery in particular may affect the amount of omega-3s that can be absorbed into the patient’s body, due to surgical changes made to the stomach. Your doctor will be able to advise you on how much to take to compensate for any loss due to surgical changes.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal physical functioning. If you’ve undergone bariatric surgery and are looking for a way to incorporate them into your diet, consider the above options, and don’t forget to contact your surgeon to discuss your options!

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