Fish Oil for Brain Zaps
Brain zaps, also known as head shocks, brain shocks, or brain shivers, have been described to be one of the most common withdrawal symptoms when eliminating certain depression medications such as SSRIs. They are often hard to describe, difficult to ignore, and very poorly understood.
As per New York Times report, the fear of dealing with withdrawal symptoms like brain zaps is supposed to keep millions of people on anxiety or depression medications every year, even when they realize they can do well without any medications.
Although, there’s currently no peer-reviewed medication or therapeutic intervention that can be used reliably to manage brain zaps, natural supplements particularly fish oil have significantly helped many people reduce brain zaps along with other anti-depressant withdrawal symptoms.
In this article, we’ll explore the basics of brain zaps and also the potential benefits of fish oil in brain zaps. So, let’s get started.
Table of contents
- What are brain zaps?
- Symptoms of brain zaps
- Causes of brain zaps
- What is fish oil?
- How fish oil can help with brain zaps
- How to use fish oil
- Precautions and side effects
- Final words
What are brain zaps?
Brain zaps are complex sensations that people occasionally or frequently feel when they discontinue certain psychiatric medications especially anti-depressants. For this reason, brain zaps are usually considered as a withdrawal effect and have been associated with “antidepressant withdrawal syndrome”.
Symptoms of brain zaps
Most people who have experienced brain zaps say they feel some sudden sensations like electric shock jolts that last only a few momentary moments and then disappear. There don’t seem to be specific warnings or triggers. Some people claim that they bother brain zaps when falling asleep or soon after waking up from sleep. Brain zaps can also be triggered by anxiety, stress, or alcohol use.
Symptoms and sensations of brain zaps may include –
- Sudden jolts, shivers, or buzzes in the brain. Some people feel that their whole head is involved, while others feel like a small part of their brain is affected. Sometimes brain zaps may show sensations like blood rushing to the brain.
- Seeing bursts of light
- Sudden movements of the head or eyes
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
- Sudden extreme dizziness or vertigo
- Tension in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite and nausea
Causes of brain zaps
It’s not clearly known yet what causes brain zaps. But these issues are found to be linked with withdrawal from certain types of psychiatric drugs, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, the most commonly used prescription drugs for anxiety and depression.
The sensations of brain zaps might occur following the reduction, interruption, or discontinuation of antidepressant drugs. Examples of SSRIs that may cause brain zaps may include - Citalopram (Celexa), Sertraline (Zoloft), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), and Escitalopram (Lexapro).
Apart from SSRIs, brain zaps have also been reported when discontinuing other drugs too, including:
- Selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SSNRIs
- ADHD medications including amphetamine salts
- Benzodiazepines used for anxiety and improving relaxation
- MDMA or ecstasy used for recreational purposes
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is a highly beneficial dietary supplement derived from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines.
Fish oil contains two major types of omega-3 fatty acids – DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), that are popular for their brain, heart, and skin benefits.
DHA and EPA are polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs responsible for most of the mental and brain health benefits of fish oil. These two fatty acids are constituents of human cell membranes and have tremendous anti-inflammatory effects on the brain and other parts of the body. They play a vital role in maintaining normal brain functions and promoting new brain cell generation.
How fish oil can help with brain zaps
EPA and DHA are found critical for brain development and normal brain functions throughout all stages of life. Studies suggest that fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) can help improve brain processes by increasing grey matter and brain volume.
Many people have reported noticeable reductions in the frequency of brain zaps during their antidepressant withdrawals resulting from fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) supplementations.
A recent review of clinical trials concluded that supplementing with fish oil improved depressive symptoms in people who have depression, with effects compared to those of antidepressant medications.
While many researchers have suggested that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in brain zaps are linked to their impacts on serotonin receptors in the brain, others have concluded that EPA and DHA from fish oil might improve antidepressant withdrawal syndrome through their anti-inflammatory actions.
How to use fish oil
The US Food and Drug Administration has allowed a maximum limit of 3000 mg per day for the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. The European Food Safety Authority has provided some more relaxation up to 5000 mg per day.
Since each brain zaps condition is different from others, the personalized doses for fish oil supplements may vary from person to person depending on the severity and other associated health conditions. For example, people with chronic depression may require higher doses of fish oil supplements as they need higher amounts of EPA.
In general, 1000 mg to 2000 mg of fish oil supplement daily is safe and might be a good option to start. Always ask your healthcare provider before taking any fish oil supplement.
Precautions and side effects
Though fish oil is considered generally safe under the recommended upper limit, breastfeeding and pregnant women should consult with their healthcare providers before taking fish oil supplements.
Besides, fish oil may interact with medications such as blood-thinning medications, it’s highly recommended to ask your doctor prior to using fish oil supplements especially if you’re taking any medication.
Side effects of fish oil are mild and they may include headache, bad-smelling sweat, and some gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn and diarrhea.
DHA and EPA (polyunsaturated fats) in fish oil are found to be crucial for normal brain functions in adults and effective in reducing brain zap symptoms. Hence, fish oil supplement is considered a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of brain zaps.
Check out Vorst’s Fish Oil Softgels here.
Disclaimer – This information is intended to create awareness only, thus, cannot be used as a medical guideline.