Now, before you get all excited and start googling cod liver recipes, let me tell you that it’s not that tasty. In fact, to most American palettes it’s pretty repulsive.
But while you may not want it as the centerpiece of Sunday dinner, you absolutely do want it in your diet.
Real Food Supplementation
Luckily, you can include it in your diet by taking cod liver oil. Calling cod liver oil a supplement is really a misnomer. It is a real food, not a manufactured pill or synthetic vitamin blend. Real food is far superior to anything manufactured. Vitamins and minerals in food come with many cofactors, such as related vitamins, enzymes and minerals. These act with the vitamin to ensure that it is absorbed and properly used. Commercially produced vitamin supplements – whether crystalline (separated from natural sources by chemical means) or synthetic (produced from scratch in a lab) – act more like drugs than vitamins. They can actually disrupt the body chemistry, and cause imbalances.
Natural vitamins obtained from whole foods and food concentrates work in small quantities with amazing effectiveness, while crystalline or synthetic vitamins may not work at all.
Cod Liver Oil: A Superfood
Cod liver oil (CLO) is considered a superfood, meaning it naturally concentrates important nutrients. As stated above, CLO provides fat-soluble vitamins A and D, both of which the average American is greatly lacking. CLO is considered a must for women (and their husbands) prior to conception, and for women during pregnancy and lactation. Growing children greatly benefit from even small daily doses.
It is also rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is very important for proper function of the brain and nervous system, and for vision. (This is particularly important for those who are not able to produce high amounts of EPA within their own body, such as diabetics or people who have consumed large amounts of hydrogenated or other polyunsaturated oils.)
Sally Fallon writes:
During the first half of the century, cod liver oil was the focus of a worldwide health initiative. Parents were urged to give cod liver oil to their children by doctors, by government officials, by teachers and principals in schools, and even by their ministers in churches. A large portion of adults in America born before the Second World War received cod liver oil as children and this practice contributed to a high level of health, intelligence and physical development in those lucky enough to receive it. In Europe in many countries, children received a daily ration of cod liver oil, especially during the war years. In the UK, for example, the government issued cod liver oil to all growing children until the early 1950s. What has led to the demise of this obviously beneficial practice? Cod liver oil is a food; it can’t be patented, it can’t be created in a laboratory; it can’t create millions for the drug companies. So interest in this wonderful superfood has naturally waned. But if you are basing your dietary habits on the principles of healthy nutritional diets, don’t hesitate to include cod liver oil… as a healthy and natural food source of critical vitamins so lacking in modern diets.
Supercharging the Effects: The X Factor
CLO is most effective when taken within a diet rich in good-quality butter from grass-fed cows. The X factor in grass-fed butter – now considered to be vitamin K2 – was discovered by Dr. Weston Price. If you don’t consume adequate amounts of healthy butter or ghee, a high-vitamin butter oil supplement is recommended. (Blends of CLO and butter oil are also available.) In addition to grass-fed butter and/ or high-vitamin butter oil, your diet should include other sources of vitamin K, such as fat from grass-fed animals, cheeses from grass-fed animals and duck or goose liver, along with cod liver oil.
What to Look For
Some brands of cod liver oil are processed in such a way that it removes nearly all of the natural vitamins, leaving very low levels of vitamin A and virtually no vitamin D. Manufacturers will often add synthetic vitamins back into the purified cod liver oil. That is not what you want. The best CLO will be naturally produced, processed through fermentation instead of by heat, and filtered in a way that retains the natural vitamins.
The ratio of vitamin D to A is key also. It is important to avoid brands that contain low levels of vitamin D in relationship to vitamin A. The ratio of D to A should be at least 1 to 10. (Unfortunately, in some commercial brands of cod liver oil the ratio is as low as 1 to 100.)
In the US, there is only one brand that produces cod liver oil that fits the bill: Green Pastures. They produce high-vitamin fermented CLO (FCLO) in many flavors and varieties. (See below.)
Ways to Get it Down
OK, so the big question is: Isn’t it really gross? Well, yes it is. But luckily for you, I’ve tried almost every manner of getting it down and will share my hard-earned knowledge with you. You really can find a way to take it (and for your kids to take it!) that will be painless. Here’s how our journey to finding an easy-to-take FCLO variety went:
Stop 1: Flavor & Antioxidant Free.
As I mentioned yesterday, I tend to be a purist. So I thought, ‘Of course I don’t need a flavor! I’m a big girl! And besides, how bad could it be?’ As it turns out, it can be pretty freakin’ bad. So bad that you almost want to laugh at how awful it is. (Almost.) So bad that you dare your teenage son just to smell it. (I knew right away that making him take it would be cause for life-long therapy.) So bad that the glass containing whatever liquid you used as a chaser goes immediately into the dishwasher because it’s tainted by the stench that stubbornly attaches itself to whatever it contacts (including your hands). And then the dishwasher stinks all day.
Yet, we took quite a bit of this since I bought it in bulk to save money. So, should you decide to go this route (I’m practically daring you), here are a few tips: (1) Raw milk definitely makes the best chaser, and actually seems to neutralize some of the nastiness that clings to your taste buds. (Don’t pour a whole big glass, though, because of the glass-tainting issue.) (2) With a bit of practice, you’ll learn the sweet-spot in your mouth of where you’ll want to shoot it from the syringe. (The instructions say to use the syringe for dosing, but not for actually taking the medicine, although I still do because it is easier. I think they say this because you could shoot it back too far in your mouth and either choke or have it go into your sinuses. I believe I did this once because I had a terrible burning sensation in the back of my throat and my ears. I never did that again.) (3) Do not waste your time trying to hide this in yogurt, juice, smoothies, or whatever else you might hear people say they do. They are lying. It cannot be hidden. (4) DO NOT (and I cannot stress this enough) give a good-morning kiss to anyone who has just taken unflavored FCLO.
When I received my first bottle of fermented FCLO, I immediately measured out a nice big dose and… gave it to my daughter (then 4) to try. Can you believe I did that? She was so trusting, and I just shot the syringe into her mouth… I now feel very badly about this but I do wish I’d had video of it. Needless to say, she was not a fan and most of the FCLO ended up on her clothes, the floor, the counter… (Did I mention that it STINKS, and the stink doesn’t go away?) For her, the solution that worked for a while was FCLO gummy fish (although even they took some getting used to), but they are no longer made.
As I mentioned above, I knew getting my teenage son to take this kind of FCLO was not going to happen. Or, if it did, I might die in the battle. So Noah moved to…
Stop 2. FCLO capsules.
Noah would take the capsules, and we would all use these when we were traveling. We tried both the unflavored and the orange. And they are… also pretty freakin’ bad. But not as nasty as the flavor-free oil. It was still a bit of a struggle to make this a habit for Noah, and it was much more expensive, especially as I began to see the need to increase the dosage. So, we moved on to…
Stop 3. Cinnamon Tingle Royal Gel.
This definitely moved us up to a whole new level in FCLO consumption. Although I still got a little resistance from the boy, it was doable. For the grown-ups, this was a God-send. Compared to what we’d been through, it was a piece of cake! We kept it in the fridge, took it off the spoon and just swallowed the cold, solid gel like a pill. Easy-peasy.
This had the added benefit of being a butter oil/ FCLO blend. Although I’m fairly confident in our diet, I liked this as a safety net. However, I eventually began to feel that our money would be better spent concentrating on just the FCLO, and so we came to…
Stop 4. Arctic Mint FCLO.
When I had my first taste I thought, “Where have you been all my life?!” This is a breeze to take. In fact, it leaves your breath a little minty! It’s not so strong a mint that my five year-old can’t take it, and even the teen doesn’t have too many complaints. (I’m not saying I’d dab it behind my ears or anything, but it’s really not bad.)
It’s important to remember that since this is a real food and not a manufactured, cookie-cutter supplement, characteristics will change from batch to batch. Even with our beloved Artic Mint, we’ve had batches that were… ummmm… more intense than others. That is normal. Just roll with it.
(I also want to add that somewhere along the journey, my youngest tried the Chocolate Cream Gel. Not a fan. I will probably have her try it again in a week or two. Sometimes that’s all she needs to do a complete 360 on things (like the gummy fish). Otherwise I’ll have to finish up what nobody wants, as usual… )
How Much to Take
Since FCLO is sold as a food, it is not labeled as a supplement would be. And, as I mentioned above, potencies vary. However, after numerous tests, the approximate and average values of high-vitamin FCLO have been determined to be 1900 IU vitamin A and 390 IU vitamin D, per mL (a ratio of about 5:1). Based on these findings, the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends the following dosages:
- Children age 3 months to 12 years: 1/2 teaspoon or 2.5 mL, providing 4650 IU vitamin A and 975 IU vitamin D.
- Children over 12 years and adults: 1 teaspoon or 10 capsules, providing 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D.
- Pregnant and nursing women: 2 teaspoon or 20 capsules, providing 19,000 IU vitamin A and 3900 IU vitamin D.
Because of the cofactors that enhance the body’s usage of vitamins A and D, many achieve health benefits from less than these amounts (even as little as half). I am building to taking 1 tsp. per day; some days I take a little more, some days I take a little less. My son takes about 1/2 tsp., so I’m building his dosage up, too. My youngest is just about on target, although she divides it into two doses. (By the way, for little ones, taking FCLO is a wonderful thing to reward using a responsibility chart and the Mommy Store!)
I’ve tried not to be too wordy – no really! – and so there are some facets of FCLO I did not cover. For instance, you’ll notice that the recommended dosages are far above the FDA’s recommended daily allowances. For more information on why this is, questions about the interaction between vitamins A and D, or questions about vitamin toxicity, please visit these articles at the Weston A. Price Foundation website:
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