Using Fish Oils and Ulcerative Colitis: Does it Help?

fish oils and ulcerative colitis

The latest research on fish oils and ulcerative colitis show they may reduce some symptoms but there’s conflicting reports on just how effective they are.

Ulcerative colitis can be caused by an inflammation of the bowel that produces ulcers.

The disease can occur at any age, but usually appears in people between the ages of 15 to 30 years of age.

An abstract published in the 2013 Feb. issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences claims that 263 per 100,000 adults have ulcerative colitis.

There’s currently no cure for colitis. However, the majority of treatment focuses on preventing relapses of symptoms by using corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory medications.

This article will take a closer look at the current research on using fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids in treating ulcerative colitis.

Can Fish Oils Help Reduce Colitis Symptoms?

fish oil ulcerative colitis

Fish oil contains the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

EPA and DHA offer many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce your risk for heart disease.

There are claims that these anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the colon and lessen symptoms.

However, while some research on fish oils and ulcerative colitis showed encouraging results, other studies were inconclusive or showed no effect at all….

1. EPA and DHA Reduce Steroid Use by 50% in Colitis

A study in the April 1992 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine looked at how effective fish oils are in ulcerative colitis

Patients with active colitis took 18 Max-EPA capsules containing 3.24 grams of EPA and 2.16 grams of DHA for 4 months.

Researchers found that EPA and DHA lead to:

  • gaining body weight
  • a major decrease in inflammatory markers.
  • using less anti-inflammatory medications by 50%

2. Fish Oils Reduce Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms by 56%

A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology showed patients taking fish oils providing 4.2 grams of EPA and DHA experienced a 56% reduction in symptoms. 72% of the same patients were able to reduce the amount of corticosteroid medications and some were able to stop taking these drugs completely.

While the above research results are encouraging, the following study results were either inconclusive or concluded that fish oils had no effect on ulcerative colitis symptoms….

3. Multiple Studies Claim Fish Oils don’t Reduce Ulcerative Colitis Flare-ups

Investigators at the Division of Gastroenterology, Hospital for Sick Children found no evidence that fish oils reduce remission rates of ulcerative colitis.

Researchers looked at available data from a variety of different medical databases and concluded that the usually prescribed anti-inflammatory drug, Sulfasalazine, was better than EPA and DHA for reducing colitis flare-ups in mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.

Brazilian researchers also reached similar conclusions….A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at multiple studies using omega 3 fatty acids or fish oils on inflammatory bowel disease and stated that there wasn’t enough information to reach any conclusions.


Based on the current research, there appears to be conflicting results from using fish oil for treating ulcerative colitis symptoms.

If you choose to add fish oils to your diet, you should consult with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that will work for you.

fish oils and ulcerative colitisPeople with sensitive or compromised digestive systems may need to use products that’ll offer the lowest risk for irritating or exacerbating their condition.

Enteric-coated fish oils has been shown to be more easily absorbed than regular soft gels, and may even help reduce the risk for possible gastrointestinal side effects.

Consult with your health care provider before using any natural health products.


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