Fermented cod liver oil — drinking it and living to tell about it

Fermented cod liver oil provides essential Omega-3s. © ronstik fotolia.com
Fermented cod liver oil provides essential Omega-3s. © ronstik fotolia.com

On a mission to clear out the cobwebs and heal my digestive system (leaky gut), already well on its way to ruin from years of processed foods and undiagnosed food allergies, I’ve been slowly introducing Dr. Catherine Shanahan’s “Four Pillars of Good Health,” the teachings of Weston A. Price, and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions recipes into my diet. The path of my master’s degree in holistic nutrition also requires us to use ourselves as our “first client” to practice recognizing bioindividual needs and creating optimal nutrition plans. I am a willing Guinea pig.

Inflammation, the root of all disease

Stopping dysbiosis, healing a leaky gut, and reversing autoimmune disease starts with reducing and eliminating inflammation. Inflammation leads to over 80 known autoimmune-related diseases like diabetes, celiac, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy and heart disease, Crohn’s, psoriasis, certain forms of arthritis, and can manifest from the foods we eat, medications we take or rub on our skin, pesticides, plastics, and myriad environmental influences.

Depending on your individual needs, reducing and eliminating inflammation can start with one change or several simultaneous changes, but always begins with identifying the main causes. For me, it was an easy ID process since I had already been tested for allergies and had followed several elimination diets over the years. My culprits are legumes/pistachio/walnut (allergy), gluten (sensitivity/intolerance), and an Omega imbalance.

The allergies and intolerances were an easy fix; the Omega fix, not so easy. I live just outside of the metro Orlando area, and while we have one or two reputable fish mongers somewhat near the downtown area, it’s difficult for me to make the trek out there for fresh fish. You could say I live in a “seafood desert,” so getting my Omega in balance by way of the sea isn’t that easy, and swallowing a few tablespoons of flax oil every day isn’t high on my list of favorites. Flax also falls a little short when compared to the Omega-3s from fish.

All signs point to liquid fish oil

Eh, I know, it sounds disgusting. Most of you can probably handle the thought of taking fish oil pills, but drinking fish oil outright, in liquid form, touching your bare tongue, exposed to taste buds? No thank you, right?

I spent almost five months researching peer reviewed studies, brands, capsules versus liquid, and customer reviews before mustering up enough courage to make a purchase. And for my bioinidividual needs, all evidence pointed to the most awful solution: the full Monte, going commando, drinking it straight up, no holds bar, naked (the oil, not me).

The research was clear, cod liver oil was going to provide the most beneficial bang for my buck, delivering missing Omega-3s and essential vitamins to reduce inflammation, help my gut heal,  and balance my system. But it couldn’t be just any cod liver oil, it had to be fermented cod liver oil, and it couldn’t be in capsule form, it had to be liquid for maximum absorption.

Down the hatch

I finally settled on this brand, which offered four flavor choices in the liquid form: plain, mint, cinnamon, or orange. Easy first decision: plain wasn’t an option. Minty fish? No. Orange can sometimes taste like Circus Peanuts, pediatric cough syrup, or baby aspirin, all of which are worse than fish oil in my opinion, so I went with cinnamon, which pretty much tastes like cinnamon no matter what.

I ordered online. The bottle arrived. I stared at it for two days before cracking it open. I put my nose right up to the bottle. It smelled like, well, cinnamon; there was nothing fishy about it, a good sign. The other pleasant surprise was that the recommended dose of 2000mg was the equivalent of a scant teaspoon. Heck, I can get that down. Easy. Even better, it came with a plastic syringe which would make getting this stuff past my taste buds a piece of cake since I could bypass the tongue and go straight to the back of the throat.

It wasn’t too terrible

With everything in place – syringe, giant glass of water – down it went, followed by a cold water chaser. When I came up for air, the after taste was cinnamon, with a hint of earth, almost soil-like. No fish, no ocean, just earth (and cinnamon). Relief.

Burns and burps

The after action report? The cinnamon burned my throat, which lasted about 30 minutes. I experienced the stereotypical fish burps, which lasted about four hours. It’s important to note however, neither of these things happened again after this first day.

Constant craving

Something strangely wonderful happened on day three. I had forgotten to take the fish oil that morning and suddenly craved it while sitting at my desk. I thought to myself, “If my body is craving this stuff, it must be doing its job.” The other remarkable and noticeable difference was how quickly my immune system was reacting. Inflammation was decreasing, and I could not only feel it, but see it on my skin, and see it around my eyes. And if the reduced inflammation was showing on the outside, it was most certainly happening on the inside.

What’s next on the four pillars list?

Now that I know I can tolerate the fish oil well, I’ll introduce a high vitamin butter oil, which works synergistically with the fermented cod liver oil. Although with much trepidation, I’ve already introduced raw milk into my diet, along with more fermented foods. I was already a huge fan of bone broths but recently added in grass-fed gelatin and kombu for additional minerals. The only thing I’m missing from the recommended “four pillars” is adding more organ meat to my diet. As a classically-trained chef, I appreciate the art of pates, terrines, and philosophy of “snout to tail,” however growing up with a typical American diet, I’m not quite there yet…but working on it.

Product links are actual brands that I have researched and personally use. I encourage everyone to also research, read labels, and decide what is best for you and your family.