“I hope you know how to fix my knee without knee replacement surgery, because I really don’t want to do that, since I’m only 42.” Patty was a new patient who had come in for a physical. Like so many people in their 40s and 50s, she was experiencing joint pain. As a tennis instructor, her livelihood was at stake, so she was very motivated to do something about it. I was confident we could improve her situation. In fact, this scenario is so common that barely a day goes by without a patient mentioning aching joints. I recommend the same thing to all of them, including Patty.
“Try fish oil,” I said. “That’s a good place to start, because most joint pain is really a lubrication problem.”
Patty looked dubious. “I took fish oil once,” she explained. “That was the nastiest stuff ever. Isn’t there something else?” I was not surprised by Patty’s reaction. Many people have tried fish oil and have had a bad experience, whether it was from the fishy taste, the digestive upsets (usually in the form of unpleasant burping), or the oversized pills that are difficult to swallow. As Patty went on, it was clear that all three problems were issues for her.
“Fish oil supplements have improved dramatically in the last few years,” I told her. “The newer, flavored ones taste much better and are easier to digest. And if you don’t want pills, there are plenty of liquids to choose from now.” I don’t think Patty was completely convinced, but she agreed to try fish oil. I suggested she give the supplements a few weeks to work because nutritional remedies usually take a little time to become fully effective.
Not long after her appointment, Patty’s blood work came back. She was in excellent health – except for her cholesterol. When I called to explain the results, she asked if she would have to take statins. “My husband took them for a few months, but they didn’t agree with him.”
I assured that her husband’s experience was fairly common, but if she was able to stick with the fish oil, she might not need them. “Sure, I’ve been taking the fish oil every day and I wanted to tell you – my knee is much, much better. And it’s only been what, a week or so? I can’t believe it! I’m not even taking painkillers anymore.”
When Patty came in for a re-check six months later, her total cholesterol was 204, a big improvement over the original 235. “My husband has been taking fish oil, too, but his results aren’t as good.”
When I asked how much her husband was taking, the problem became apparent—the dosage was too low. Like any remedy, the dosage is key to effectivness, and he was getting only about one-third of the 2 grams I normally suggest.
When Patty came in again a few months later, she provided an update. Not only was her knee like new, but she was thrilled that her hair and skin had improved, too. “Being outside so much, my hair and skin really take a beating, but since I started taking fish oil, the dry patches of skin on my arms and legs are gone, and my hair doesn’t look like I’ve been electrocuted. And my husband’s cholesterol is way down, too. Even his doctor is impressed – and he’s a very conservative physician.”
During the next year or so, Patty referred several more patients to me, all with either joint pain or cholesterol problems. They all ended up taking fish oil, and a few reported back to tell me how much better they were doing. Only one of them had to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Yes, there are some things fish oil can’t fix, but it’s still a great place to start a joint-pain treatment program and to make major improvements in your overall health.
Last Updated: August 21, 2018
Originally Published: April 26, 2012