Omega-3: What Happens When You Stop?

Tucker Max wrote again, with new data:

I started taking two tablespoons of flax seed oil about a month after reading this post by you [about Tyler Cowen's dental experience] (sometime around the beginning of August, I think). I decided to try it because I have had bleeding gums for about as long as I can remember. This has always confused me, because I don’t have any cavities and have otherwise good dental health. I would always ask my dentists about this, and they would always tell me I didn’t floss enough, but even when I would floss regularly, the bleeding wouldn’t totally stop. After about a week or so of two tablespoons of flax seed oil a day, I had virtually no gum bleeding. I didn’t change anything else.

Then, about two weeks ago, my girlfriend pointed something out to me: I was not taking pain relievers anymore. I train in amateur mixed martial arts (MMA), which is a very intense, full contact combat sport that combines boxing, muay thai, brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling. For as long as I’ve been training in it, I have had to deal with muscle soreness and pain in my joints, and to deal with it, I would take 4-6 ibuprofen before training. But, for about the past three months, I wasn’t in enough pain to need it. I didn’t really think about it at first, just chalking it up to getting tougher. But that doesn’t make sense–I’ve been training in MMA for well over a year, and the only thing I have done differently in the past three months is start taking flax seed oil. I wasn’t 100% sure that the flax seed oil was making the difference, but considering the effect it has on inflammation–which is what ibuprofen is for–it made sense.

That was when I sent you the emails you posted. One of your commenters accused me of falling victim to the placebo effect, so I decided to test it. I stopped taking flaxseed oil on November 5th. At the time, my gums were not bleeding, I had no joint pain or soreness of any significance, and I felt great overall.

As I write this it’s November 15th. My gums have bled heavily when I brushed this week, especially the past few days, and I have intense pain in both shoulders, soreness in my left elbow, and my knees are throbbing. I had intended to go two weeks without taking any flaxseed oil, but I am stopping the experiment now because this is all the proof I need.

One more interesting fact: I took four tablespoons a few hours ago, instead of the regular two, thinking that maybe I could load up and it might help me get back to normal quickly. The pain is pretty much the same, and I just brushed and my gums bled, so obviously the flaxseed oil takes more than a few hours to affect those problems. But–and I haven’t measured this with reaction tests like you do–I feel considerably more mentally alert right now. I don’t know if I felt like this before, and maybe I didn’t notice it because it came on slowly, or maybe I need four tablespoons at once to see a difference, but I really do feel the difference.

9 Responses to “Omega-3: What Happens When You Stop?”

  1. August Says:

    When I take flax seed oil, I get something similar to a sinus headache- like something in the oil is causing a histimine reaction. The longest I’ve been able to take it was two weeks. I noticed an improvement in my gums, but that strange headache feeling masked any other improvements.

    I’m hoping I can avoid the adverse reaction by finding a different source of Omega-3s.

  2. Timothy Beneke Says:

    I’ve been taking the flax seed oil for several months, now; I was at 2 tablespoons and have gone to 4 in the last 3 weeks. I’ve had bad gums for years. 2 months ago I had gum surgery. My orthodontist warned me that it would take a long time to heal and there might be problems with one area. When I returned after 2 weeks she said, “I’m surprised! It’s healing very well!”

    Then when I returned after 2 months, she said, “You’re doing very well! You must be working very hard to keep your gums in shape!”

    The truth is I have not been working that hard, not been doing everything she recommended, at best doing what’s adequate. It seems to be the flax seed oil.

  3. David Says:

    August, I have been using Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil for about three weeks with good success. It has virtually no fish flavor, only the faintest hint sometimes. My understanding is that the Omega 3s in flax and fish oils are different, though.

  4. NE1 Says:

    I have been taking fish oil 3x a day for the past month and a half. A week ago, I just sprained my ankle worse than ever before. It’s still purple and swollen, tender to the touch. Clearly omega-3 delays the healing of more internal wounds and soft-tissue growth.

  5. anonymous Says:

    Every time I drink flax seed oil, I have some shortness of breath. It goes away pretty fast but it happens.

  6. sj Says:

    NE1, you sprained your ankle worse than ever before. Your words. CLEARLY, nothing is clear about Omega-3. Take some of your popeye vitamins, you’ll feel better soon.

  7. john Says:

    you people are funny.
    suspecting flax seed oil is causing or fixing all your problems.
    crackpots are too many.

    I wouls strongly look into the daily amounts that you consume. everybody is different.
    I read several sources claiming 2-3 grams is best, exceeding does not add any more benifits, possibly triggering reactions or side effects at higher doses.

    for me I take a small teasppon of flax seed oil daily, or around 2 grams..
    reason being..
    duh!
    eat fish soy, tofu tempeh and you get mor eomega three on top..
    getting different omega three from fish is a nice way to add more.

    oh oh..i have an elbow pain…could be I am not drinking enough flax see oil?

  8. Renea Johnson Says:

    I have been looking for information on what has happened to me since I began to take omega 3,6,9, I have had surgery for a Chiari malfoamation in my brain, and have ruptured all of the disc in my neck. Needless to say I have lived in pain for the last 7 years. my normal routine for taking pain meds is lyrica (antiimflamitory),ultram (pain) and a muscle relaxiant 2x daily and inbetween I would lay on icepac and take ibprofen. The pain was bareable but never gone. I had been taking omega 3 and seen some relief but I still hurt. I went to sams and found the omega 3,6,9, on sale so I decided to get some the first night I took it and when I got up I was pain free, so I took it again in the morning making me take 2x the sudjested dose daily. I have seen my pain get better and this last weekend when I held my sick grandson for the whole weekend I hurt but after a day of rest I was back to having relief and it usually would have taken a week for me to get back to my normal pain level. I have quit taking my morning meds and am planning on weening off of my night pain meds. Praise be to God for creating a body that would respond to foods so well. I look forward to being my drugfree self again soon for the first time in over 7 years.

  9. Blog-watch: Omega 3 Says:

    [...] improves mental ability (it certainly appeared to). This summer Seth Roberts noticed that, just as Tucker Max had observed with flaxseed oil (a source of omega 3) back in 2007, a larger than usual dose of flaxseed oil [...]