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Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of essential fatty acid that belongs to the group of omega-3 essential fatty acids. The human body cannot synthesize DHA on its own. It naturally occurs in large amounts, in various cold water fish such as sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, tuna, and certain algae and plankton. Fish oil obtained from the tissues of cold water fish contains a large amount of DHA. It also contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that cannot be synthesized by the human body. So, for those who don't consume fish, taking DHA or fish oil supplements is a great option.

DHA Benefits

Scores of fish oil supplements are available in the market. These supplements contain about 12% of DHA, and are commonly used all over the world. DHA supplements are often recommended for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and infants. It is believed that DHA promotes the development of brain and eyes in unborn babies and infants.

It is believed that DHA can help prevent cardiovascular diseases, and also lowers triglycerides. This fatty acid is also good for heart health, as it helps in reducing blood pressure, improving blood flow, and decreasing inflammation. Studies suggest that DHA plays an important role in the development of brain, as well as overall mental health. It is believed that it might help prevent certain types of cancers and kidney disorders. Despite its various benefits, DHA is known to have certain adverse effects on our body.

Side Effects of DHA

Several DHA supplements that are available in the market are prepared from different sources such as flax seed oil, fish liver oil, cod liver oil, etc. There are no established DHA dosage recommendations. However, a daily dose of 300 mg through dietary sources or supplements is considered to be safe. Higher dose of DHA can cause certain side effects.

Some of the common side effects of DHA include:

Nausea
Bloating
Fishy burps
Bad breath
Abdominal gas
Constipation
Heartburn
Nosebleeds

The aforementioned side effects are not life-threatening, but these can be quite bothersome at times. Medical assistance must be sought, if one develops an allergic reaction after consuming the supplement. The symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

Skin rash
Hives
Itching
Swelling
Wheezing
Difficulty in breathing or swallowing

Some of these supplements are known to possess anticoagulant properties. Consuming these may cause thinning of the blood. It may also affect the wound healing ability of the body. The body will tend to bruise easier and bleed longer. Such a condition may need immediate medical attention.

Stomach problems are commonly associated with an overdose of fish oil supplements. Pain in the stomach, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea are some of the common side effects associated with the use of these supplements. Another issue of concern is the contamination of these supplements. If the fish from which the oil has been extracted are contaminated with toxins like mercury, lead, etc., it can cause certain adverse effects. The best way to avoid such contamination is to purchase good quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil or supplements.

On a concluding note, if taken as per the recommended dosage, DHA supplements are not likely to cause any untoward effects. Also, the side effects are mostly gastrointestinal in nature. However, if the side effects are severe, or one experiences an allergic reaction, it is advisable to consult one's healthcare provider immediately.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.