Opinions are always shifting on which health supplements are best but one perennial favourite is cod liver oil. So what’s the big deal?
It turns out that cod liver oil isn’t just Grandma’s favourite. It’s actually a vital supplement for healing our gut.
Essential Omega Fats
Why do we take any supplement? It’s because we believe it will give us a health boost of some kind.
That’s fine but we also need to think in terms of filling in the gaps in our diet.
Nutrients are like building blocks for the construction and maintenance of our bodies, and some building blocks are more fundamental than others.
Cod liver oil contains omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids. Ever wondered why they’re called ‘essential’?
Some of the building blocks that our body needs can be manufactured inside us by combining other ingredients that are available.
But omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids CANNOT be manufactured inside is. We can only get them from the stuff we eat.
So they’re not nice-to-haves, they’re musts, if we want our body to be upright and functioning every day, as opposed to lying down and feeling broken!
Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats, and fats are very important inside our body. For example, every cell membrane, many hormones, some neurotransmitters and 60% of our brain are made of fat.
Our body uses omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids to manufacture all other fatty acids that are needed to make these cell membranes, hormones and brain gunk.
From omega-3 the body makes two other particularly important fatty acids: EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA are vital for brain, nerve and visual functions in the body. A deficiency in these nutrients may be one reason people with broken gut often also suffer from mental health conditions like depression, autism or dementia.
And here’s the kicker: our body needs certain vitamins in order to perform the alchemy of turning omega-3 into DHA and EPA.
Most people with broken gut aren’t getting enough of those vitamins – because their digestion is impaired – so the alchemy can’t happen.
This is where cod liver oil comes in. It’s an excellent source of EPA and DHA. So when we take a cod liver supplement, we know we’re giving our body essential fatty acids in the form our body can actually use them.
Can’t I Just Eat Fish?
If you have broken gut, eating fish isn’t going to be enough. You’re not going to be absorbing enough of the nutrients.
Why? We absorb fewer building blocks from any given mouthful of food if our gut’s not working properly. Our gut lining is inflamed, leaky and hardly working at its best.
That means it’s particularly important to supplement with cod liver oil if our gut’s malfunctioning. For those lucky folks whose guts are in tip-top condition, they can get enough omega-3 and 6 from diet alone.
And there’s more good stuff going in cod liver oil. It contains sh*t-loads of vitamin A, one of the biggies for gut-healing! Vitamin A is particularly important for nerves and brain development. It’s also crucial for the health of our gut lining.
If we don’t have enough vitamin A, we can develop leaky gut. And if we already have leaky gut, it may be impossible for us to absorb enough vitamin A from the food we eat.
Yes, it can be a vicious cycle, where we don’t have the nutrients we need to heal our broken gut, and our broken gut can’t manufacture the nutrients our body needs to heal.
Cod liver oil contains a form of vitamin A that is particularly easy to digest for people with broken gut. Other forms of vitamin A that are used in supplements may not actually be absorbed at all.
Happily, cod liver oil also contains a good supply of vitamin D, another heavyweight of the vitamin world.
Check out my recommended products page and you’ll see one of my favourites is Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil. The fermentation process unlocks even more nutrients.
It’s also available in a version combined with grass-fed butter, as this mix has been found to be particularly beneficial.
For plant-based folks, I recommend a nut and seed oil, like Udo’s Oil.
The richest sources of omega-3 and 6 are in fact seed oils like flaxseed and hempseed oil. The only snag is that people with broken gut won’t be able to benefit fully from taking them (because they lack the vitamins needed to convert them to EPA and DHA, see above).
It’s interesting that gut-guru Dr Natasha Campbell McBride recommends that those of us struggling with chronic gut issues should supplement with BOTH cod liver oil AND a seed oil. Personally I follow that advice and take both every day.
By the way, seed oils are NOT FOR COOKING! They are very delicate and should be kept in the fridge, away from heat and bright light. They oxidise and become toxic when heated, even gently. Check out: Why Your Gut Is Broken
In case you’re wondering, coconut oil does not come in the category of seed oils and is excellent for cooking.
A Stupid-Simple Gut Remedy
Taking a cod liver oil supplement is a stupidly simple and effective way of helping our gut to heal.
It might be old-fashioned but many clinical studies show that taking omega-3 and 6 reduces inflammation and is effective in treating anything from infections and cancer to depression and diabetes.
Cod liver oil has also been shown in studies to boost our friendly bacteria, yay!
But remember, getting our diet right is even more important than the right supplements! Check out: Clean Eating: More Than Just An Elitist Fad