The crustacean world has many types of species under its fold. Krill are shrimp-look-alike species known for their oil and a few unique therapeutic properties. This oil – popularly called as krill oil – is known to have a marked presence of omega 3 fatty acids in it. Among the essential fats, EPA – eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA – docosahexaenoic acid are of added significance. These fatty acids are known for their easy absorption potential – as compared to other such fatty acids, especially those present in oils sourced from fishes. Krill oil has been gaining in popularity due to the benefits it accords to boost cardiac wellbeing. As an extended benefit, this oil is also known to arrest internal swelling or inflammation. You are however advised to check about this oil’s side effects thoroughly before stating to take it.

Krill is a very small type of crustacean. It resembles a lot with shrimp. It is mainly eaten by whales and sharks; true to its Norwegian-name, wherein its name means “food for the whales”. Though clinical evidences are few and far between, this oil is widely used to treat many medical conditions. Key among its several medical benefits is its ability to bring down the levels of blood cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Krill oil is believed to work by reducing oxidative stress, which leads to decrease in inflammation.

Krill oil also scores over conventional fish oil on another front: astaxanthin is found in higher quantities in krill oil when compared with other fish oils. You need to know that astaxanthin is a pigment of the carotenoid genre. The unique property of this pigment is its ability to breach the brain-and-blood barricade. Its ability to “transgress” such barriers yields several unique properties to krill oil. The key benefit of the presence of this pigment is the oil’s ability to protect your nervous system, brain function, etc. On the whole, your brain function stays more protected from any likely attacks of free radicals, and the damage they may cause to your nerve health.

This oil is also considered to make platelets less viscous; which means blood flows with ease, with reduced risks of clotting or conditions like thrombosis. The anti-inflammatory properties of krill oil are known to treat dryness of the eye. A few medical studies assert that intake of this oil for 75 days to 90 days can reduce optical problems such as instability of the protective layer of eye or discoloration and reddening of eyes. There are however contradictive findings which indicate krill oil’s inability to decrease lipid levels in blood. Similarly, additional evidences are needed to prove its use in reducing the levels of triglycerides, increasing resistance against autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, cancers, etc.

Side effects of krill oil

In general, intake of krill oil is considered as safe when taken in smaller quantities for a minimal span of time, of say, less than 85 days. Even when you take it in smaller doses, this oil is known to trigger a few common side effects. Such adverse side effects include drop in appetite, abdominal problems like nausea, indigestion, gas formation or flatulence, etc. In some people, krill oil has also led to adverse reactions such as heartburns, excessive burping and a few other abdominal discomforts.

Dosage level of krill oil plays a critical role in the extent or severity of side effects one may experience. In case of dryness of eyes, the typical dose form is less than 920 milligrams (mg) of EPA – i.e., eicosapentaenoic acid and not more than 500 mg of DPA – i.e., docosahexaenoic acid. Such doses are administered for a period of 2 to 3 months (upto a maximum of 85 days) on a daily basis. It is commonly taken as an oral supplement.

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding an infant

Scientific evidences are yet to be established for the use of krill oil on women who are pregnant. It is a hence a good practice to tell your treating physician if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant. In general, it is strongly recommended to avoid administering krill oil onto women who are already pregnant.

Similarly, research done on krill oil does not draw conclusive evidences on the safety of this oil on women who are breastfeeding their baby. It is hence not clear if the oil can harm the mother as well as her feeding-infant. Owing to these reasons, your doctor may advise you not to take this oil while breastfeeding an infant. In some cases, doctors have advised mothers to stop using the oil for at least 15 days before they start feeding their infant.

Likely interactions between krill oil and other drugs

Krill oil is observed to trigger a few adverse reactions if co-administered with other drugs. It is a good practice to make a comprehensive list of all the drugs you are currently taking. As you make this list, ensure that you have added all possible forms of drugs that you are currently consuming – i.e., over the counter meds, prescription drugs, dietary supplements, herbal aids, vitamins, etc. After sharing the list with your medical team, you must not change or stop taking any of the drugs present in this list. This is a dangerous practice to make such changes as your doctor will determine a safe dosage of krill oil based on the list of drugs already taken. For this reason, you must also not start taking a new drug soon after sharing the drug-list to your doctor.

In particular, krill oil is capable of interacting adversely with anti-obesity meds or drugs that boost loss of body weight, i.e., drugs like alli or xenical (made of the generic drug – orlistat). The main action of orlistat or other anti-obesity drugs is to prevent your body from absorbing lipids or fats. Owing to this, your system may not absorb the fats in krill oil – if taken along with orlistat. In order to avoid poor efficacy of krill oil, your treating doctor or pharmacist will recommend a time interval of at least 120 minutes between the consumption of these two medicines.

Due to krill oil’s property to slow down the clotting of blood, intake of this oil with blood thinners can lead to serious side effects. As blood thinning meds also try to slow the clotting rate, you may experience adverse reactions like bruising and bleeding. Stay cautious of meds which can change the blood clotting time – a few examples of such drugs are warfarin, heparin – made of the generic drug called coumadin, a few non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen as well as drugs like diclofenac, aspirin, etc.

Allergies, hypersensitivity and blood related disorders

A few people may have prior allergies or hypersensitivity to fish, in particular or sea foods, in general. If you have such allergies, you may turn hypersensitive to krill oil. Also, those who have problems with clotting of blood may develop adverse reactions such as internal bleeding or bruising. So, if you have any blood related disorders – especially, bleeding or clotting, you need to talk to a qualified medical practitioner before starting to take krill oil.

For the same reason, those who are planning to have a surgical procedure need to avoid taking krill oil. Your surgeon may inform you to discontinue the intake of krill oil at least 15 days prior to the date of the surgical procedure. This precaution also holds good for those who plan to undergo a dental procedure. Your dentist will recommend you to stop using krill oil for 2 to 3 weeks prior to the date of a dental intervention that involves an incision, extraction of a tooth, etc.

Krill oil is also administered for the treatment of inflammation or internal swelling; often observed in autoimmune conditions like arthritis. A consistently taken daily dose – of 250 milligrams (mg) of krill oil – helped reduce the signs associated with arthritis. Such usage also resulted in using less of pain management medications. Krill oil is widely used for the benefits it accords to reduce the total blood cholesterol level. Like an efficient anti-cholesterol crusader, krill oil reduces the levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol), decrease the quantum of lipids like triglycerides as well as increase the presence of high density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) in blood. Krill oil is found to be more capable than conventional fish oils on this front. Those who take beta blockers such as metoprolol, carvedilol or atenolol need to inform the treating doctor about the intake of such medications.

You need to remember to buy krill oil only from authentic and certified manufacturers. As many species such as whales, penguins, etc. are dependent on krill for their livelihood, excessive harvesting of krill has led to an ecological imbalance. In order to sustain krill life, commissions are being set up conserve krill population. Once such agency is the commission on the conservation of Antarctic marine living resource; this agency protects krill in partnership with more than 20 countries as well as the EU. So, when you buy a pack of krill oil, look out for sustainable-fishery label or friends of the sea label.

You also need to know that side effects of krill oil – listed above – do not represent the entire set of such adverse effects. Hence, it is possible to experience newer symptoms or adverse reactions. In case of serious side effects like rapid heartbeats, swelling of facial parts or passing out, it is strongly recommended to call 911 immediately. You can also reach out to a local poison control center on an urgent basis. Those living in any of the Canadian provinces are advised to call Health Canada or get in touch with a poison control unit located in the province where you live.

In sum, krill oil is found to be superior to fish oil due to astaxanthin – a pigment of the carotenoid genre. This pigment can breach brain-blood-barricade to protect your nervous system, brain function, etc. Your brain function stays safeguarded from any likely threats of free radicals. However, krill oil may also trigger some side effects. A few such adverse side effects are gas formation or flatulence, drop in appetite, abdominal problems like nausea, indigestion, etc. In some people, krill oil has also resulted in excessive burping, heartburns and other abdominal discomforts. If these discomforts last for long, you are advised to talk to a qualified medical practitioner as quickly as possible.

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