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Why We Stopped Taking Fermented Cod Liver Oil

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

January 2013

We used to take cod liver oil every day. We would never miss a day.  Now we haven't taken cod liver oil in over 6 months... Why?

My Family Started Taking Cod Liver Oil in 2006

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My husband and I started taking cod liver oil back in 2006 when we learned about the benefits of a nutrient-dense, traditional diet. At that time, the cod liver oil we took was called Blue Ice, and we chose that brand because it was one of the only cod liver oils produced in a traditional way. Most other cod liver oils on the market had their vitamins removed in processing and some even had synthetic vitamins added back in. We wanted our cod liver oil to be as natural as possible to get the most benefit from it.

The Blue Ice cod liver oil was very light in color; clear with a hint of yellow. It didn't have a very strong odor or flavor, but it did smell and taste like fish. We had amazing results when we started taking the cod liver oil, and noticed that it particularly benefited our immune systems. My husband and I took a daily dose of cod liver oil each morning before breakfast, and then made sure to eat plenty of grassfed butter with breakfast (since cod liver oil works synergistically with the Vitamin K found in grassfed butter). In 2007, we had our first child and as she started eating foods in addition to breastmilk, she also started having a daily dose of cod liver oil. She loved it and would ask for her cod liver oil every day.

A New Cod Liver Oil on the Market?

Fast forward a few years to 2009, when I was beginning my second pregnancy. I heard that the Blue Ice cod liver oil was no longer being produced, so we stockpiled about a dozen bottles. I started hearing about a new Blue Ice cod liver oil that would be even better because it was fermented. We regularly eat fermented foods, so fermented cod liver sounded fine. I ordered a bottle, thinking that I wanted to get the best nutrition for the baby growing inside me. When the new fermented cod liver oil arrived, I was surprised to see that it was very thick, very dark, and had a very foul odor. I went ahead and tried one dose; it was absolutely disgusting! It burned my throat, and it didn't help that I was already nauseous from pregnancy. After that one dose, even the smell of the fermented cod liver oil would turn my stomach. I was glad we had stockpiled lots of the non-fermented cod liver oil to last through my pregnancy.

Fast forward another year, and we ran out of our stockpile of the original Blue Ice cod liver oil. We now had two children, and by this time, I was hearing that the fermented cod liver oil was superior nutritionally, and that the initial strong taste and smell was no longer quite so bad. We went ahead and ordered some and made ourselves start taking it. My daughter hated the cod liver oil, but we finally found that she would take the combination butter oil/fermented cod liver oil in cinnamon flavor. She didn't like taking it, so I came up with all sorts of ways to get her to take her daily dose. My infant son, after one taste, refused to eat any food at all for a few days (so he just nursed more); I tried again every few months and he eventually started to take the orange flavored liquid fermented cod liver oil.

Digestive Problems from Taking Fermented CLO

Meanwhile, my husband often complained that the fermented cod liver oil made him nauseous. He had to try to find ways to take it to minimize the nauseousness. I found that it could also make me nauseous, especially if I took it on an empty stomach. Yet, through it all, we persisted in taking it. So many trusted people were saying it was good for us, and I wanted my family to have the best nutrition. And we still found that, particularly during flu season, the fermented cod liver oil really helped our immune systems. I even coordinated large group purchases of cod liver oil for others we knew who were taking cod liver oil.

Different Methods for Making Cod Liver Oil

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About 8 months ago, while collaborating with Archie Welch on another project, I learned that he was doing research into cod liver oil, after having problems getting his son to take the fermented cod liver oil. And what Archie learned was that there were traditionally several different ways to make cod liver oil. One ancient method used no heat, chemicals, or pressure to extract the oil, resulting in an oil with almost no flavor or odor. Another method used by Nordic fishermen, the livers were steamed, resulting in a pale cod liver oil with a light smell. In another later method, the livers were fermented in a barrel, resulting in a dark brown, strong smelling oil. This dark brown cod liver oil was likely to contain bits of rancid and putrefying livers, which contributed to its strong odor and flavor. 

As cod liver oil became more popular for medicinal use in the 1800's, there were practitioners who used the pale oil and also those who used the dark brown oil. Great health benefits were observed form both types of oil, but some people did have digestive problems from the dark brown oil. (Archie has put together a great article detailing all of this history here.)

Once I read Archie's article, I really understood better why we had such problems with the fermented cod liver oil. Because of the way it is produced, it is likely to contain some bits of rotting livers, and this is why the oil could be so offensive to us. (To be fair, some bottles of fermented cod liver oil were not as bad as other bottles. But some were downright horrendous.) But with no other good alternatives on the market, what were we to do?

The Last Straw

Upon taking a dose of particularly dark cod liver oil last summer, I had severe stomach cramping and diarrhea. Afterwards, I couldn't bring myself to take another dose. Over about a month, we all stopped taking the fermented cod liver oil. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop; wouldn't we start getting sick more often now?

Over the same time period, every member of my family has started undergoing constitutional homeopathic treatment. Constitutional treatment is a long process, sometimes taking a year or more, but rather than focusing on a single illness, constitutional treatment focuses on every aspect of a person's personality and health. This means that, over time, constitutional treatment actually helps the body cure itself of the tendency to even get sick in the first place. I have also been using my new knowledge of homeopathy at the first signs of any illness in my family (this is acute homeopathic treatment) So, even though we haven't been taking our cod liver oil, this has been the best year for our family in terms of contracting illnesses. Each of us has had one cold in the last four months. The previous winter, we all had multiple stomach flus and colds.

So as of now, no one in our family has taken cod liver oil in over 6 months. And thanks to homeopathy, we haven't been sick either!

Will we ever take cod liver oil again?

We don't plan to take fermented cod liver oil ever again. However, I would like to have some light-colored cod liver oil on hand just in case (since it has worked so wonderfully for us in the past in helping us quickly get over illnesses).

There hasn't been a traditionally prepared light cod liver oil on the market in the United States since production of the original Blue Ice cod liver oil was stopped years ago. But, after doing all of his research into cod liver oil, Archie Welch was able to find small company in Norway who was using the ancient extraction method with no heat, chemicals, or pressure to make ratfish liver oil. 

As a result of Archie's prompting, this small company is now using the same method to make raw cod liver oil. Archie is finishing up the process of making that cod liver oil available here in the United States. We will definitely be buying some of the raw cod liver oil, and will be happy to once again have the lightly flavored, lightly colored oil to take just as we did years ago.

Does this information make you think twice about taking fermented cod liver oil?  Have you or your family had any bad reactions to it?

Affiliate Disclosure: As of May 2015, my family likes the extra virgin cod liver oil so much that I have signed up as an affiliate for EVCLO. The link to EVCLO above is an affiliate link.

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