Food First, Supplements Made out of Food Second {cod liver oil}

Happy New Year, Friends!

I had a great New Year’s Eve with Joe and some of his friends (they’re really our friends, but they started out as his). We went to Ithaca and drank, ate, and danced. Joe and I weren’t out the latest, and we didn’t drink the most, but we had a ton of fun.

And now, onto my new life plan.

I’m thrilled to be teaching online, and doing a tiny bit (~10 hours a week) of wellness coaching. It leaves me time and freedom to work on projects that I’m really excited to get started on.

One great thing I’ve cemented about my good nutrition knowledge is regarding the benefit of consuming food first, before supplements. Often supplements aren’t absorbed very effectively, and foods have this uncanny way of (usually) giving you what you need in appropriate amounts–toxicity is less of a concern when you’re eating food sources of nutrients.

My current favorite food/nutrient source?

Cod liver oil.

It sounds awful, and honestly, it’s not. Certain brands are horrible tasting, but you can buy lemon flavored and you can get it in pill form (I chew the pills—it sounds weird, but somehow they’ve become like an extra chewy gummy bear to me).

In many traditional cultures, people consumed a teaspoon of cod liver oil a day, and no one knew specifically why, but they knew it was good for health.

Cod liver oil provides omega-3 fats, a high quality supply of vitamins A and D, and it has DHA and EPA.

The benefits:

  • brain and nervous system development and function
  • improved memory
  • better immunity, fewer allergies, improved asthma
  • decreased behavioral issues and learning disorders
  • helps build strong bones
  • reduces inflammation (i.e. cancer prevention)
  • improves heart function (reduces risk for heart disease and helps recovery after heart attack)
  • decrease hypertension
  • less bone, muscle, and joint pain
  • treats arthritis
  • in pregnant women and nursing mothers: nutrient supplier to baby, lower Type I diabetes in baby, maximize brain development
  • helps treat (sometimes completely curing) colitis
  • promotes soft skin and fewer wrinkles
  • on the skin: aids healing, and when mixed with zinc oxide it’s great for diaper rash
I’ve been taking cod liver oil pills, 5-10 a day, for about a month and a half. I’ve noticed my skin is not dry at all (it always is in the winter–and I haven’t even used lotion once!). My hair doesn’t get greasy anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but there have been a couple times when I went 2+ days without washing my hair. It still gets messy, but not greasy. My skin is better—hard to decipher what percentage of this result is from the cod liver oil, but I’m pretty sure some of it is (fewer wrinkles, smoother skin, no dryness). I think it affects my brain/mental health too—I’m really not feeling the winter blues at all, and I have energy (also hard to say how much is attributable to cod liver oil since I’ve also cut out grains, but I’m sure some of it is since I’ve noticed a difference recently and I cut grains in August).

Do you take fish oil or cod liver oil? I love this stuff!

I also read Wheat Belly last week, and it reinforced my decision to remove wheat from my diet. Did you know that whole wheat has more of an impact on your blood sugar than table sugar?! It’s all very scientific (and boring), so you have to be really interested in it to read the book! I skimmed some parts—but I really like understanding why there’s such an increase in gluten intolerance over the last few decades, and how the genetic modification of wheat is on par (negatively) with high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

My conundrum is in regards to how to get the information to people, and (1) not sound crazy since it’s so different from status quo, and (2) make it a realistic thing to address for the average person.

Maybe it’s just not. Realistic, that is.

And maybe I am crazy! (Totally fine with that by the way).

I think this is related to my current struggle—whether or not I should keep blogging (which is why I’ve been so scarce—I’m waiting for answers to fall out of the sky effortlessly into my lap). I’m always going to be interested in this kind of wellness/food information, and I can’t shake the habit of reading about it for fun every night. But, really, why do I feel the need to tell people about it? Just something I’m contemplating…and I think it’s a function of transitioning my career. It’s healthy to question the path you’re on once in a while, right?

I think I’ll stick with it for a bit while I figure it out. I have some requests for info about food choices and anxiety (and a case study to share!), and I am going to tell you about the wheat issue whether it makes me sound crazy or not 🙂

Also, whey….I’m currently doing a non-randomized, semi-controlled, personal anecdote-based quasi-scientific narrative inquiry study about the effects of high quality whey. I used to not be a fan of whey, based on the process used to isolate the protein (in most brands of protein powder). However, now that I’ve been making yogurt, I have a whole new worldly view of whey (liquid form) and found a great brand of protein powder that I trust.

41 thoughts on “Food First, Supplements Made out of Food Second {cod liver oil}”

  1. Wheat Belly sounds like a book I could totally get into, particularly as I still go through phases where I’m angry about my intolerance and “challenge” my body with it, only to feel crappy all over again.  I need a gluten-intolerance support group.  Personally I find your blog INCREDIBLY interesting, fascinating, and chock-full of amazing knowledge and would miss you tremendously if you left the blog world!  🙂  As far as cod liver oil, I haven’t ever supplemented with it and I’m totally intrigued by you chewing the tablets!!  

  2. My friend Jen did a call with the author of Wheat Belly a few months ago. I’ve been wanting to read it ever since!

    5-10 a day! I applaud you. I can NOT down pills at all..they make me gag. It was a miracle I got down my prenatals! Eek!

    Thanks again for the informative post!!

  3. I sure hope you don’t stop blogging! I truly enjoy all of your posts and learn so much from you Lisa!! 🙂

    I also, like Laury cannot swallow pills, unless they are smaller. Like tylenol or advil.
    I never have taken fish or cod liver oil pills before, but now you’ve intrigued me. Like always!..

  4. I think it is good to question what you are doing and why you are doing it!  Good luck!  I find your posts so interesting and informative, and would love to hear about the wheat issue, and food anxiety!  Happy New Year!

  5. lauren@spicedplate

    I’m there with you, reading about nutrition and health (or food and recipes!) almost every day — I want to soak it all up.  I hope you keep writing here, but do what feels best for you!  I’ve been quiet due to carpal tunnel — everyone needs a blogging break now and then, I think.
    Happy New Year!

  6. I’ve wanted to read wheat belly for quite some time- I’m daunted to hear that its a “dense” read… that will make me less likely to do it haha.

  7. wow, thanks for the info on wheat! i gave up wheat some time ago and feel a big difference in my blood sugar as well as digestion ever since. wheat belly sounds like an interesting book ! will have to read it! glad to see u bloggind this year, happy 2012!

  8. happy new year, lisa! glad you had a fun time celebrating the arrival of 2012.
    i always am interested to see what findings you have discovered. cod liver oil – oh yea, i think everyone has been taught to say “ew!” upon hearing of it…even if they’ve never tried it. that’s cool you can get a flavoured, chewable pill! and glad to hear you have not been feeling the seasonal blahs…i can relate! (although i am ok so far this year, too).
    re the blogging – just go with your heart. i’m glad you’re now into your new teaching schedule. and yes, i do believe ideas fall out of the sky to show us what path to take! but it was great to “visit” with you via this blog post!

  9. This is my favorite, based on having the most effective ratio of vitamin D to vitamin A (there’s a lot more info about this topic on the Weston A. Price website): [1]
    Another option that is considered “the best” (but also most
    expensive) is: [2] (scroll down on the page to find the pill option).
    On Thu 05/01/12 09:31 , “Disqus”

  10. Hi Lisa! I DO hope you’ll continue blogging. Maybe cut back on your frequency if it’s draining you? You will still have us fans!

    I don’t take cod liver oil, but I do take Carlson’s fish oil capsules, which are a potent source of EPA and DHA. A few years ago, Dr. Mercola revised his recommendations on cod liver oil. You can read about it at: I don’t know if all brands of cod liver oil have poor ratios of vitamins D to A.

    I do eat wheat, but not a lot. There have been periods I’ve totally done without grains. Eventually, I cave in to the desire for the crunch of a piece of sprouted grain toast or a half of a hemp seed bagel. My fasting glucose is OK, 86 mg/mL. I find it helpful to look at your blood values on some things to get at least that indicator as to how you’re reacting. I also recommend Life Extension as a good source for optimal values. While 86 mg/ml fasting glucose is usually thought to be just fine, LE recommends below 86 mg/dL. See this:

    So maybe I’ll need to cut down on the wine or chocolate. 🙁

  11. love hearing your thoughts in certain health issues, we have very similar views 😉 and I have heard great things about Cod liver oil. I have been taking Udo Oil which is similar yet different and so far been enjoying it, though I might add in some Cod liver oil to see if I notice even more benefit 🙂

  12. Thanks for the links and info!
    I saw that Mercola info, and then found the “response” to it from Weston A Price here: [1]
    (lots of tension going on there!). Based on WAP/Sally Fallon’s recommendations, I chose the Carlson cod liver oil—and I’m considering ordering a fermented version as well. I like the Carlson brand for quality for sure!
    I have been taking Mercola’s krill oil for a while (paused that when
    I began the cod liver oil), and I’m planning to keep researching so I can learn what will be best for my needs, and clients’ needs (and evolving my habits accordingly).
    I should come up with some disclaimer that states that whatever I
    say today is subject to change at any moment! hehe.
    I have a lot more to research on the wheat too—the Wheat Belly
    book gave me some new threads to follow…
    On the wine and chocolate….well, I think the qualitative aspect of food choices influencing health and quality of life must be considered too! 🙂
    On Thu 05/01/12 10:09 , “Disqus”

  13. Please keep blogging!  I think if you’re going to be teaching and coaching, it’s actually really important to build a blog following, too.  🙂  (selfish, me.)

    As for wheat … ugh, so hard to eliminate.  So much for my soup recipe, eh?  My husband is a bread making fiend, too.

  14. I can tell you right now, I’m all over both of these subjects! I’ve been seriously focused on Omega fats these days since I’ve been studying. As for gluten, I am afraid of it. With Tony having celiac and my grandmother having it, I feel like it’s not a good thing for our family anyway. I’ve stopped eating it since I was having some digestive issues and I feel so much better. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it!

  15. We’ve been supplementing with the lemon flavored cod liver oil.  This is how I described it the first time I took it: It tastes like what you might imagine Lemon Pledge dust spray mist might taste like if you were able to gooey solidify it.  I know that doesn’t really make sense and makes it sound awful…but in a weird way it’s pretty darn good.

  16. Hi! Thanks for your reply! I took the krill oil, too. I honestly don’t know what’s best at this point. I get swayed by different people I read. All I know for sure is that I probably haven’t been taking enough of either!

    So hard to think that a lovely slice of freshly baked, homemade bread is bad for you! I certainly hope not!

    And, agreed! QOL is very important, so chocolate and wine will continue on the rotation. 🙂 (My rosacea comes out the more chocolate I eat, though. Ugh. So that keeps me in check!)

  17. Oh, please, please, please keep blogging!  I love visiting your site and I always learn so much.  Speaking of which, I had no idea that wheat impacts blood sugar more than table sugar — crazy!  And definitely food for  thought.

    Happy Friday, my friend! 

  18. Wow it sounds like you have a lot going on. I’d be interested to see what you find when you coach people to remove wheat from their diet. I’ve found that many people aren’t to interested in doing so (please don’t take that as discouraging, it’s just what I have seen). I’ve never had cod liver oil but it appears something I need to add to my supplement cocktail!

  19. Even when your blogging is scarce, I always, always look forward to a new post! I find them so informative and I really enjoy hearing about your experiments. The wheat issue is something I find so fascinating, not having a problem with wheat or gluten myself… it makes me question why I would eat it when it’s so bad for so many others! I say blog about it to your heart’s content 🙂

  20. It is absolutely healthy to question your path. I say it’s just looking
    at your thoughts/believes from a more objective unbiased perspective.
    And then once you realize your still think the same way, you stop
    questioning it.

    P.S. If you are getting all of those benefits (mainly, the
    hair/skin/brain things) from cod liver oil, then I’m thinking about
    trying it. It certainly can’t hurt, right? 🙂

  21. Wow I did not know about all of the benefits of Cod Liver Oil! That is so interesting. I’m going to try it out! You don’t sound crazy at all to me. I have only been gluten free for a few weeks and already feel very different. I was so unsure about the decision that I have barely even told anyone, but now that I have seen such positive results I want to shout it from the roof tops! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

  22. Happy New Year to you too! I’m in the midst of reading more about food, anxiety, and also the wheat issue…so I’ll be discussing them all soon!

  23. Sometimes I think my life’s purpose is to get more people to try taking things like wheat out of their diets just to see what happens….so I’m always overly excited when I hear about a no-wheat-success story 🙂 Happy 2012 to you!

  24. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂
    Wheat is probably the hardest thing to eliminate! I have been grain-free since Aug, but I still have grains all around me and my mom makes bread often—I modify everything to be grain and wheat-less, but the smell of bread is still amazing!

  25. I’ve learned so much about wheat and gluten recently, and the parts of gluten intolerance that I didn’t really understand before (like, how can this be SO much more prevalent nowadays?) are really starting to make sense…so I’m looking forward to sharing the information!

  26. My experience so far has been the same as yours—people go a little crazy when I suggest removing wheat from their diets as a trial (“I can’t live without bread!”)… Interestingly, the Wheat Belly book describes the addictive quality of wheat and why this happens. That doesn’t help with trying to get people off their wheat/drug though! I’ll keep working on it 🙂

  27. Hi Kelly. The cod liver oil is not vegetarian, it actually comes from the livers of cod! This is why it’s so high in vitamins A and D. The other benefits (EPA, DHA, and Omega-3) can be found in vegetarian supplements though. The one I hear about most is Ovega.

  28. I think the cod liver oil is a great supplement, especially for women (on top of the hair, skin, brain benefits) because of the usable forms of vitamins A and D. It’s great for bone health! The brand I’ve been using is Carlsons (lightly lemon flavored). The Weston A Price Foundation has lots of good info about cod liver oil, and recommends not Nordic Naturals (the low D to A ratio is not good). Fermented would be the best, but I haven’t tried that yet!

  29. Yay for gluten free! I don’t tell a lot of people (well, I mean, face-to-face people) because it is pretty highly misunderstood. I have several clients who I know would benefit from removing gluten, but they won’t consider it…I’m not giving up though!
    I hope you’ll shout about your positive results virtually at least—I love hearing about this stuff!

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