Fish Oil

Exhibit A: The Oil of the Fish.

Earlier this month, Sam and I were sitting in the Hobo Jungle in Cincinnati, waiting for the train. Life was idle time, hours stitched together, an endless quilt. The best kind of quilt, I thought, laying back on the leafy forest floor, watching the sun move through the empty sky. I can keep myself occupied this way, zoning out, staring at the sky/leaves/naked branches, pretty much indefinitely. Hours and hours. Staring off at nothing, dreaming up fantastical stories, my favorite folk songs playing on an endless loop. I have always been this way. As a child I would spend whole afternoons in the dirt with nothing but two sticks, creating whole dramas with my imagination. It’s a useful skill to have, when you ride freight trains. Much of riding freight trains is just that- spacing out for days on end, waiting. I crave this sort of aimless thinking, it feeds me, it charges some sort of battery deep inside. And so I wait in the bushes for days, and I am content.

It was morning in the jungle, and Sam was anxious.

“I get anxious when I travel,” he said. “Especially when I’m alone. I can’t just sit, and wait, and relax. I start to feel really wound up.”

I nodded, thoughtfully, and rummaged in my dusty pack for that familiar bottle of rattling gelcaps. My fish oil. I tapped out a few and handed them to Sam, who held them in his hand, skeptical.

“They’re for your nervous system,” I said. “I pretty much swear by them. I call them my ‘anti-anxiety’ medication. I travel with them, take them every day.”

Sam swallowed them with a drink of water from his battered plastic bottle, shrugging.

“You want to eat a snack with it,” I said. “You want your stomach to be digesting something when you take them, to make sure it breaks through the gelcap.”

The next morning we’re still in the trees, talking about travel again, talking about how it can be so good, how it can be so bad. Sam was out on the west coast earlier this summer, and had a hellish time getting east. It took him nine days to ride a train to Minnesota, which is pretty much obscene.

“It was horrible,” said Sam. “I was so anxious. So sick of being in my head.” I nod, and give Sam another dose of fish oil. We take a walk, we fill up our water, we listen to mr. groundhog rustling around in the leaf litter.

“I don’t feel anxious right now,” says Sam, later in the day. “I feel fine. Heck, I haven’t felt anxious all day!”

And that, people, is the good word of the Fish Oil. Can you tell, yet, that I’m a bit evangelical about this stuff?

I wanted to write for you all that I know about this wonderful oil, but then I realized that my actual technical knowledge on how it works is a bit garbled. So I stumbled around on the interwebs and borrowed things from other people, like this page on Wikipedia, which contains these mind-blowing paragraphs-

[5][6] were conducted on prisoners in England where the inmates were fed seafood which contains Omega-3 Fatty acids. The higher consumption of these fatty acids corresponded with a drop in the assault rates. Another Finnish study found that prisoners who were convicted of violence had lower levels of omega–3 fatty acids than prisoners convicted of nonviolent offenses. It was suggested that these kinds of fatty acids are responsible for the neuronal growth of the frontal cortex of the brain which, it is further alleged, is the seat of personal behavior.

Recent studies have suggested that fish oil may affect depression, and importantly, suicide risk. One such study,
[7] took blood samples of 100 suicide-attempt patients and compared the blood samples to those of controls and found that levels of Eicosapentaenoic acid were significantly lower in the washed red blood cells of the suicide-attempt patients.

A study
[8] examining whether omega-3 exerts neuroprotective action in Parkinson’s disease found that it did, using an experimental model, exhibit a protective effect (much like it did for Alzheimer’s disease as well). The scientists exposed mice to either a control or a high omega-3 diet from two to twelve months of age and then treated them with a neurotoxin commonly used as an experimental model for Parkinson’s. The scientists found that high doses of omega-3 given to the experimental group completely prevented the neurotoxin-induced decrease of dopamine that ordinarily occurs. Since Parkinson’s is a disease caused by disruption of the dopamine system, this protective effect exhibited could show promise for future research in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease.

According to a study from
Louisiana State University in September 2005, fish oil may help protect the brain from cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease.[9] A study from the Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne suggests that omega-3 fatty acids could also help delay or prevent the onset of schizophrenia. The researchers enlisted 81 ‘high risk’ young people aged 13 to 24 who had previously suffered brief hallucinations or delusions and gave half of them capsules of fish oil while the other half received fish-tasting dummy substitute. One year on, only three percent of those on fish oil had developed schizophrenia compared to 28 percent from those on the substitute – a very impressive result, but not yet published in a peer reviewed journal. [1]

Can you believe it? Fish oil is also incredibly anti-inflammatory, which makes it helpful for joint pain and allergies. But wait– you ask- hasn’t the ocean become the world’s trash heap? How can fish oil not be contaminated with every possible pollutant, including heavy metals and PCBs?

That’s a good question. And recently, in Ohio, at Kroger, I discovered a rather disturbing fact- there are actually ultra cheap, “budget” brands of fish oil (Bumble bee fish oil? Sick!), that do not filter any of the pollutants out of their oil, making it a veritable multi-toxin supplement. You’re better off not taking fish oil at all, than taking that cheap, gross crap. And good fish oil is not, after all, expensive. I buy the gigantic 250 softgel bottle of
this brand, which filters all the metal and PCBs out of their oil. 250 softgels will give me daily fish oil for about four months, averaging out to a cost of about five dollars a month. That’s a bargain, for something that actually, observably keeps the rustling tinsel of my anxiety at bay.

Here in North Carolina, I’ve been pushing it on everyone I know, per usual. Panic attacks? Take some fish oil every day. Can’t sleep? Take some fish oil every day. I’m excited to see how folks take to it, if it helps to visibly diminish the symptoms of living in an over-toxed,
hyper-inflammatory world. And how else are we going to test these things, if drug studies are only funded by big pharmaceutical companies, who turn up their noses at plant-based supplements and things like fish oil, which cannot be patented and regulated, (since anyone can grow a bunch of chamomile or, um, squeeze oil from a fish?) and are therefore not worth the investment.

6 thoughts on “Fish Oil

  1. I agree wholeheartedly Carrot..

    I’ve been taking the same Spectrum brand as yourself for the last year. I never used to sleep well, and was actually on antidepressants for a brief period. ( which actually made things worse, rather than better ) A really good friend of mine suggested the fish oil, so I started taking it.

    After a week I was already feeling better. And it wasn’t poisoning my body with chemicals. In a month I was doing great.

    One thing I added to the fish oil every day was Holy Basil. Man, that really curbed the anxiety, and I sleep like a baby now. Who knows, maybe it work in conjunction with the fish oil.

    Be well Quinn,


  2. I was reading in a little booklet a local woman wrote about herbs the other day. She was all like, “Yarrow has a lot of B vitamins, which is good for whooping cough. You can also get B vitamins from fish oil, and by the way fish oil prevents suicide and sugar is toxic.” It was great.

  3. Misplaced Musings-

    Yes, try fish oil! Also, take your kid to a natropath and have them tested for food allergies. Have their blood sugar tested. Down with western medicine!


    another great FO story.


    Maybe in AK you can press your own fish? Filter is through a brita? 😉

  4. Hey, great post. I never saw that piece about the inmates who consumed Omega 3 and had less assults. This is really mind blowing. I simply take fish oil supplements for my general health, but it seems there are many more benefits.

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