Two days ago, I woke up with that terribly familiar, not feeling good feeling — foggy-headedness, sinus pressure, swollen lymph nodes on the neck, and general screw-this-I’m-staying-in-bed-all-day crumminess. I had caught a cold. On the day my husband was returning home from a week-long camping trip, no less. Nnnoooo!
But, no big deal, really. I knew just what to do. I’d kick this cold, before it ever knew what hit it. I groggily stumbled over to the fridge, reached in for a little bottle of fermented fish innards, and downed a big spoonful. Washed it down with a sip of water, and resigned myself to the couch, confident that I was on my way to feeling better.
And I’m so not kidding about the fermented fish innards. I’m talkin’ about the one, the only, fermented cod liver oil.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil?
As gross as that sounds, cod liver oil really isn’t all that weird. You may have heard of it before. If you’re familiar with the Weston A. Price Foundation, you almost certainly have. It’s a traditional food, used as a supplement for vitamins A and D, and as a support for overall health. Just as it sounds, it’s oil extracted from the livers of cod fish.
Dr. Weston A. Price discovered that cod liver oil was considered a “sacred food” by some of the traditional cultures he studied. (Also sacred to most cultures? Butter!) The cod liver oil helped to ensure abundant fertility and radiant health in the people who partook of it.
But around the time of the industrial food revolution, the production of cod liver oil became not so traditional. Instead of naturally fermenting the fish livers to get all the good nutrients out of them, supplement manufacturers started extracting the oil in a way that strips out key vitamins like A and D, which then required synthetic versions of these vitamins to be added back in. The result is something that isn’t nearly the superfood cod liver oil once was, and that’s the kind of cod liver oil you’ll find in stores today.
Luckily, the real deal — old-fashioned, naturally fermented cod liver oil — is still available (if you know where to look).
What does all this stuff about oily fish livers have to do with treating a cold, you wonder?
How Cod Liver Oil Cures a Cold
We all know that colds are caused by cold viruses, spread through contact with others infected with them.
But you don’t get a cold because you’re around snotty-nosed kids who have colds. You get them because your immune system is impaired and unable to fend off the attack of the virus. Exposure to the virus itself doesn’t mean that getting the cold is inevitable.
One of the most proven, surefire ways to support immune function is to ensure optimal levels of vitamin D in the body. People with significantly low levels of vitamin D have been shown to be far more susceptible to getting cold and flu viruses than those with acceptable levels of vitamin D. (source) It’s very clear, scientifically-speaking, that the higher your levels of vitamin D, the less likely you’ll be to suffer from the sickness of a cold.
And, if you already have a cold, vitamin D will even help get rid of it. That’s because vitamin D is a very potent antimicrobial agent against viruses, fungi, and bacteria — it produces hundreds of different types of antimicrobial peptides that kill those things off in your body.
Trouble is, the most effective form of vitamin D is synthesized by your own body through sun exposure — which is pretty hard to come by in most parts of the world during cold season!
Thankfully, this is where cod liver oil comes into play. Naturally fermented cod liver oil is loaded with vitamin D, as well as synergistically-beneficial vitamin A. Just a small amount of fermented cod liver oil can give you all the cold-kicking vitamin D you need.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
Government recommendations are at about 600 IU for the RDA of vitamin D for adults, and 400 for children. That’s pretty much just enough to prevent serious deficiency-related disease (rickets), not the amount that’s going to optimize the health of your immune system. This is pretty typical for FDA recommendations.
The Weston A Price Foundation recommends much higher amounts of vitamin D, with an appropriate ratio of vitamin A. Fermented cod liver oil is an ideal source of these critical vitamins in the proper ratio. The WAPF recommends the following allowances for vitamin D:
- For children: 500-1,000 IUs. 1/2 teaspoon of fermented cod liver oil provides this.
- For adults: 1,000-2,000 IUs. 1 teaspoon of FCLO provides this.
- For pregnant and nursing women: 2,000-4,000 IUs. 2 teaspoons FCLO provides this.
- For anyone needing higher amounts of vitamin D to combat stress and disease: Up to 9,000-18,000 IUs.
Okay, but… this stuff has to be totally disgusting, right?
I was convinced of the benefits of cod liver oil long before I was convinced I could actually swallow the stuff without gagging. I mean, come on! Fermented cod liver oil? How much more gross could it sound?!
Well, here’s the crazy part about my fermented cod liver oil of choice (and yes, that would be the nasty-looking goo pictured above) — it tastes delicious.
I was relieved to find out that they do make it in capsule form, which would be easy to take, but is more expensive than the bottled variety. Then I realized there’s a special kind of cod liver oil that sounded right up my alley — it’s mixed with butter oil!
Apparently, Dr. Price discovered that high-vitamin butter oil makes fermented cod liver oil much more effective. So, it’s available as a mix of the two superfoods, with a variety of flavor options to chose from. I love the cinnamon kind. When I was on GAPS and totally deprived of my normal sweet treats, my cinnamon FCLO/BO blend was like candy to me. There’s zero fishy taste. Just delicious, buttery cinnamonness.
Where to Find Fermented Cod Liver Oil
There’s actually only one company in the whole world that makes truly natural and fermented, high-vitamin cod liver oil (including the tasty cinnamon-flavored kind I love).
Oh, and if you were wondering, the threat of my impending cold lasted about a day and a half. The worst symptom I got was just general sluggishness. No congestion, no piles of kleenex, no cough syrup. All I needed was an extra dose of my cod liver oil cure!
Do you take fermented cod liver oil?
Does it help you to fend off those nasty colds? Tell us your story!
[photo credit: mcfarlandmo on Flickr]