Is It OK to Take Omega-3 With Probiotics?


Omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics are two of the most popular supplements people take for better health.

Omega-3s like EPA and DHA promote heart health, boost brain function, reduce inflammation and provide many other benefits.

Probiotics replenish healthy gut bacteria, enhance immunity and aid digestion.

Is It OK to Take Omega-3 With Probiotics?

With all their overlapping benefits, many are interested in taking omega-3 and probiotic supplements together. But is this safe and effective? Or are there any concerns about interactions or side effects?

This comprehensive article examines the evidence on combining omega-3 fish oil or krill oil with probiotic supplements. We’ll explore:

  • The benefits of omega-3s and probiotics
  • Ways omega-3s may enhance the gut microbiome
  • Possible interactions between omega-3s and probiotics
  • Safety considerations and who may need to exercise caution
  • Tips for taking omega-3s and probiotics together

By the end, you’ll understand how to safely use omega-3 and probiotic supplements together for optimal health.

The Many Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid found primarily in seafood and fish oil supplements. The main omega-3s linked to health benefits are:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Here are some of the evidence-based ways EPA and DHA promote wellness:

1. Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation drives the progression of most diseases. Omega-3s help counter inflammation in every cell and organ system in the body.

Supplementing reduces inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6 and TNF-alpha.

2. Support Heart Health

The potent anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s translate into significant cardioprotective benefits.

Omega-3 intake is linked to lower risk of heart attack, arrhythmias, atherosclerosis and death from heart disease. EPA and DHA also reduce triglycerides and blood pressure.

3. Boost Brain Function

DHA makes up over 30% of the fatty acids in the brain. Omega-3s support optimal cognitive development and help prevent mood disorders.

They may also slow age-related mental decline and reduce dementia risk.

4. Enhance Eye Health

DHA is highly concentrated in the retina. Adequate intake promotes healthy vision development in infants and reduces age-related eye disease like macular degeneration.

5. Ease Joint Pain

Omega-3s diminish stiffness, swelling and pain in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis by lowering inflammation. They may also benefit osteoarthritis.

6. Improve Skin and Hair

Omega-3s keep hair shiny and skin glowing by regulating oil (sebum) production. They also protect against sun damage and dryness that leads to premature aging.

7. Support Healthy Pregnancy

Omega-3s are vital for proper fetal growth and neurological development. They are especially important for brain and eye formation.

Omega-3 intake during pregnancy and lactation benefits infants’ cognitive function, visual acuity and motor skills.

8. Boost Immunity

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s enhance activity of immune cells like neutrophils, B cells and T cells.

Omega-3s may also benefit gut immunity and integrity of the intestinal barrier.

In summary, omega-3 EPA and DHA offer widespread benefits for the brain, heart, skin, joints, eyes, immunity and more. Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are key to their health effects.

The Benefits of Probiotics for Gut and Whole Body Health

Probiotics are beneficial strains of live bacteria and yeasts that reside in your digestive system. Some of the most researched probiotic species include:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Saccharomyces

Here are some of the top evidence-based benefits of probiotics:

1. Improve Digestive Health

Probiotics ease multiple digestive complaints like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and stomach pain. They help regulate bowel movements and restore healthy gut function.

Certain strains like Lactobacillus GG are particularly effective for reducing diarrhea caused by infections, antibiotics or inflammatory bowel diseases like IBS.

2. Enhance Immune Function

Around 80% of your immune system resides in your gut. Probiotics influence immunity in multiple ways:

  • Increasing secretory IgA production
  • Enhancing activity of phagocytes, T cells and NK cells
  • Modulating inflammatory signaling molecules like cytokines

This combination of effects strengthens defenses against pathogens and infections.

3. Support Heart Health

Probiotics reduce blood cholesterol, lipoprotein levels and blood pressure – all major risk factors for heart disease.

The fermentation byproducts of probiotics may also lower cardiovascular disease risk by inhibiting LDL oxidation.

4. Improve Mental Health

Your gut and brain are closely linked through the gut-brain axis. Probiotics influence anxiety, depression, stress response, OCD and autism spectrum disorders by altering brain signals and neurochemical production.

5. Aid Weight Loss

Probiotics assist weight loss through multiple mechanisms. They help reduce calorie absorption, regulate appetite signals like ghrelin, and modify expression of genes involved in fat storage.

6. Prevent Diarrhea From Antibiotics

Antibiotics kill off substantial amounts of healthy gut bacteria, which commonly leads to antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Taking probiotics helps prevent this by populating the gut with beneficial microbes that keep pathogens in check.

7. Reduce Eczema and Allergies

Probiotics taken during pregnancy and given to infants may reduce risk of eczema, asthma and food allergies. They modulate immune responses and intestinal permeability to favour tolerance.

8. Support Urogenital Health

Taking probiotic supplements can prevent and treat bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Lactobacillus strains acidify the vagina to inhibit pathogens. They may also reduce recurrence of UTIs by 60-80%.

In summary, probiotics provide diverse benefits for digestion, immunity, heart disease, mental health, allergies, weight management and more. They help cultivate a healthy intestinal microbiome.

Do Omega-3s Impact the Gut Microbiome?

Emerging research indicates omega-3 fatty acids may positively influence the gut microbiota composition. Animal and human studies demonstrate EPA and DHA:

Increase Beneficial Bacteria

Omega-3s promote growth of healthy commensal bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains in the colon.

They also increase short-chain fatty acid production from fermentation, which benefits gut health.

Decrease Harmful Bacteria

EPA and DHA reduce colonization of pathogens like Clostridium and E. coli species.

Omega-3s help balance gut microbiota by suppressing harmful bacteria while stimulating beneficial microbes.

Improve Gut Barrier Function

Omega-3s enhance intestinal integrity by upregulating expression of tight junction proteins. This prevents leaks across the intestinal barrier.

Reduce Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

By lowering inflammatory cytokines and markers of oxidative stress, omega-3s create an intestinal environment that favors growth of healthy microbiota.

Alter Metabolic Products

Omega-3s change microbial metabolites in the colon, which may contribute to lower disease risk.

For example, they increase production of health-promoting compounds like conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs).

Through these broad effects on gut microbes and their metabolic products, omega-3s promote a healthy intestinal ecosystem.

Do Omega-3s Interact With Probiotics?

There are no known negative interactions between taking omega-3 fish oil supplements and probiotics together. In fact, recent studies suggest omega-3s may enhance probiotic growth and efficacy.

Enhanced Probiotic Viability

Omega-3s help probiotics survive stomach acid and thrive in the intestinal environment. Microencapsulation of probiotics with fish oil increased survival of Lactobacillus strains compared to other oils.

Increased Probiotic Growth

When probiotic species like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are cultured in a medium containing omega-3s, they exhibit enhanced growth, activity and cell membrane function.

Improved Probiotic Effects

Combining omega-3s with probiotics ramps up their anti-inflammatory effects in cells and animal colitis models. The combination also greatly improves probiotic colonization.

Protection From Oxidation

Because they are prone to oxidation, probiotics produce their own antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Omega-3s provide additional antioxidant coverage to enhance probiotic viability.

In summary, available research indicates omega-3s safely complement probiotic supplements. Omega-3s may even act as a prebiotic by fostering more optimal growth and activity of probiotic strains.

Are There Any Side Effects or Safety Concerns?

Omega-3 fish oil and probiotic supplements have excellent safety profiles with minimal risk of side effects in most people. However, there are a few potential issues to consider:

1. GI Symptoms

  • Omega-3s: Fish oil can sometimes cause nausea, heartburn, diarrhea or stomach pain, especially at high doses. Taking with food or slowing ramping up dosage helps minimize GI side effects.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics may initially cause temporary gas, bloating or constipation as gut microbiota change. Starting with lower CFU counts and gradually increasing over 2-3 weeks prevents most discomfort.

2. Allergies

  • Omega-3s: Fish, shellfish, or components of fish oil may trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Plant-based oils like algal DHA/EPA provide an alternative.
  • Probiotics: Some probiotic strains are produced on dairy, egg or soy substrates. Check labels to ensure probiotic products don’t contain your allergen triggers.

3. Infections

  • Probiotics: In very rare cases, probiotic strains like Lactobacillus may overgrow and cause infections in immunocompromised people. Risk is extremely low in healthy individuals.

4. Bleeding Risk

  • Omega-3s: Very high intakes over 3 grams per day may prolong bleeding time, especially when paired with other blood thinners. Discuss dose with your doctor if taking anticoagulants.

When taken as recommended, omega-3 and probiotic supplements are well-tolerated and safe for most people. However, special precautions may apply to those with certain medical conditions.

Who Needs to Exercise Caution?

Here are some instances where caution should be used when taking omega-3 fish oil with probiotic supplements:

1. Immunocompromised Individuals

Those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk of infection from probiotic strains. Seek medical guidance to ensure probiotics are safe for your condition.

2. People With GI Disorders

If you have short bowel syndrome, HIV, pancreatitis or other severe intestinal disorders, probiotics could further disrupt gut function. Work with your doctor to introduce them safely.

3. People Taking Anticoagulants

Very high omega-3 intake may heighten bleeding risk if you take blood thinners. Moderate fish oil doses are likely safe, but discuss with your physician.

4. Those With Seafood Allergy

Check that your fish oil is free of allergens. Alternatives like algae EPA/DHA, flax oil or hemp seed oil can provide omega-3s if you have seafood allergy.

5. Individuals Who Are Immunosuppressed

If you take immunosuppressants after an organ transplant, have an autoimmune disorder, or undergo chemotherapy, probiotics may not be advisable due to infection risks.

Unless you have a specific medical condition, anxiety or digestive issues, omega-3 supplements and probiotics are generally very safe to use together. But it’s still smart to check with your doctor first if you have any concerns.

Tips for Taking Omega-3 and Probiotics Together

Follow these simple tips to maximize the benefits and safety when combining your omega-3 and probiotic supplements:

  • Introduce them slowly starting at low doses, then gradually increase over 2-4 weeks. This prevents GI symptoms.
  • Take probiotics on an empty stomach 30 minutes before a meal for optimal delivery to the intestines.
  • Take fish oil with food or just before meals for enhanced absorption and less stomach upset.
  • Choose high-quality supplements from reputable brands that follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
  • Look for multi-strain probiotic blends with at least 10 billion CFUs from well-studied strains like Lactobacillus.
  • Select fish oils with added antioxidants like vitamin E to maintain freshness and prevent rancidity.
  • Store opened probiotic and fish oil bottles in the fridge to support shelf life and potency.
  • Take a break from probiotics periodically, like every few months, to prevent imbalance or overcrowding in the gut microbiome.

Pairing omega-3s with probiotics is safe, effective and convenient for enhancing your overall wellness. But always read labels for potential allergens, start low and slow, and check with your doctor about any safety concerns.

Should You Take Omega-3 With Probiotics? Conclusion

Research shows omega-3 fish oil supplements and probiotics do not interact negatively. Rather, they appear to have synergistic effects on gut health when used together.

Studies demonstrate omega-3s actually enhance the growth, colonization and efficacy of many probiotic strains. They help create the ideal environment in the gut for probiotics to thrive.

In turn, probiotics likely boost the absorption and anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s. Their combination provides complementary support for heart health, brain function, immunity, digestion, mental health and more.

Omega-3 fish oil and probiotic supplements have excellent safety records and are tolerated well together by most people. By starting slowly, choosing quality brands, taking as recommended, and exercising caution with existing medical conditions, both can be used together long-term.

While a healthy diet is always the foundation, combining the anti-inflammatory power of omega-3s with gut-balancing probiotics can take your health and wellbeing to the next level. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements to ensure they are right for your needs.

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