Tuesday’s post on why multi-vitamins are not the insurance policy we think they are was kind of a downer. Today, though, is a good day! I’m going to share my three favorite supplements – those I consider to be essential. Duh duh duh DUH! Here they are!
Cod Liver Oil
“Why is thunder so BOOMey?”
“Why do dogs lick?”
“Why can little kids clog clog up the toilet so easily?”
The Book of Questions is just that: Our book. Of Questions. Specifically, questions that Katie asks me at the most inconvenient moments. Have you ever tried to do the macarena while unraveling the mysteries of the universe? I don’t recommend it. In fact, I have developed a three-part system to avoid doing any such thing.
- Get a book.
- Write it down.
- Consult Google.
Sometimes I joke that I took too much fish oil when I was pregnant with Katie – but actually, I’m thrilled by her capacity. What parent isn’t? Omega 3’s play a HUGE role in brain development and function, which is why they are the #1 supplement I recommend for children.
Unfortunately, with just a few exceptions fish oil supplements are “purified” using a chemical extraction process at very high temperatures. Most of the omegas and naturally occurring antioxidants are destroyed or stripped out, so manufacturers add back specific essential fatty acids/vitamins/antioxidants. What you end up with is something that looks like a whole food product but in reality is more like Humpty Dumpty – no matter how hard they try they just can’t the molecular structure back together right.
There ARE fish oils that have been purified using natural processes, but I think fermented cod liver oil (CLO) is superior because it is processed naturally with all it’s antioxidants intact AND it contains vitamins A&D. These two fat-soluble vitamins work synergistically with one another to create robust little people. You need them in certain ratios to maximize their benefits. This is why I recommend CLO over Vitamin D3 + Fish Oil. In that scenario you’re still missing a piece of the synergistic puzzle. And don’t believe the experts, carrots do not contain vitamin A!
But wait! Doesn’t Nina Plank say in her book Real Food for Mother & Baby that fermented cod liver oil is low in omega 3′s – or at least not a sufficient source – and that it was good to take fish oil as well? Yes, she does.
Do not depend on cod liver oil for omega-3 fats. Cod liver oil contains large amounts of vitamins A and D, but only few omega-3 fats. Fish oil, by contrast, contains large amounts of omega-3 fats, but scant vitamins.”
~Real Food For Mother & Baby, p.124
I respectfully disagree. Here’s why: Fish oil manufacturers do boast higher omega-3 and DHA/EPA contents than cod liver oil, but that’s because it’s all they have to talk about! Almost every fish oil that I know of is an industrial product – something you need a lab to create. Though they are able to increase omega 3/DHA/EPA concentrations, they do so using refining processes that destroy valuable micronutrients, fat soluble vitamins, enzymes, quinones and a bunch of other things we haven’t discovered yet. In my opinion it’s the equivalent of pasteurizing breastmilk, extracting a few “power nutrients” such as lauric acid and DHA, and then selling it as a superior product. What about all the stuff that didn’t get included?
Fermented cod liver oil, in contrast, is something fisherman used to make by storing cod livers in a barrel with seawater for a few months. It is not heated and has been revered since Viking times for its rich nutritional benefits. And according to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, it IS a good source of omega-3’s!
“Cod liver oil is a good source of DHA and EPA and one of the oldest ways of supplementing these essential fats”
~Gut & Psychology Syndrome, p. 269
Where To Buy Cod Liver Oil
Almost all brands of cod liver oil on the market go through a process that removes naturally occurring vitamins A&D. Green Pastures makes the only traditionally fermented cod liver oil, which is recommended because it preserves the naturally occurring vitamins and also contains co-factors that may increase the body’s ability to absorb the A&D.
You can order fermented cod liver oil here. For a list of If this brand is not an option, the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends cod liver oil that has the correct ratio’s of synthetic vitamin A&D here.
How To Get Your Child To ACTUALLY TAKE Cod Liver Oil
Katie shoots CLO straight without flinching. But the first time I gave it to Micah? He, uh, foamed at the mouth. Seriously. Fortunately, there ARE ways to get your kids to take CLO without a fuss! For younger babies Dave Wetzel, owner of the only company that makes traditionally fermented cod liver oil, gives this tip:
“Our family includes 6 children from the age of 2 to 18 . . . The two year old boy (Basil) is the picky one. He is too young to discipline so we either hide the FCLO and Butter Oil in food or when we change his diaper we lube his buns with fclo/bo. I have seen references from the 1800’s that doctors found applying to the skin was just as effective as taking through the digestive tract. My observations would concur with the doctors studies from this period.”
Note: Cod liver oil will stain clothing and burn eyes, so keep it out of baby’s reach! I have found that the best method is to apply it just before bedtime because it is the only time we use disposable diapers. Otherwise I have to strip oils from our cloth diapers way too often. Plus, the fishy smell is gone by morning!
For toddlers/preschoolers, I’ve found that mixing the CLO with butter oil and a little honey helps a lot – this is how Micah takes his. Note: Some flavors like Cinnamon Tingle come sweetened with stevia so no honey is needed, but we can’t have stevia on GAPS. Questions about toxicity and dosage amounts? Check out Cod Liver Oil Basics from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Other than cod liver oil, the only other supplement I consider essential are probiotics. Good bacteria actually manufactures vital nutrients (such as vitamin K2 and B vitamins) in our intestines . . . something we cannot do on our own. They also increase our capacity for mineral absorption and help with metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.
“A good probiotic on average increases absorption rate of nutrients from foods by 50% or more. On top of that probiotic bacteria are supposed to be the main source of vitamins B, K, biotin and many other substances within the body.”
Dr. Campbell-McBride ~ Gut & Psychology Syndrome, pages 296-297 (emphasis mine)
Probiotics are found in fermented foods, so if your child will eat LOADS of traditionally prepared sauerkraut feel free to skip this. I will say, thought, that even though we consume fermented foods every day I still supplement. Stress, toxins, illness, coffee, medications and a bazillion other thing assault our good bacteria everyday. They are our first line of defense and need to be supported and repopulated continually.
How To Choose A Good Probiotic
“Many brands of probiotics on the market do not have bacterial species listed on the label or do not have claimed bacterial strength…
First of all it always makes sense to work with a qualified practitioner with experience using probiotics, but if you are trying to chose a probiotic yourself, then there are some general guidelines to follow:
- A good probiotic should have as many different species of beneficial bacteria as possible. A human gut contains hundreds of known species of different bacteria. We should try to get as close to that as we can. Different species of probiotic bacteria have different strengths and weaknesses. If we have a mixture of them then we have a better chance of deriving maximum benefit.
- A mixture of strains from different groups of probiotic bacteria is more beneficial than just one group. For example, many probiotics on the market contain just Lactobacilli. A combination of representatives from the three main groups: Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria and soil bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) usually works best.
- A good probiotic should have a concentrated amount of bacteria: at least 8 billion of bacterial cells per gram. You need to provide probiotic bacteria in large enough doses to see an improvement.
- The manufacturer of the probiotic should test every batch for strength and bacterial composition and should be prepared to publish the results of testing.
Once you have found a good probiotic, you need to know how to use it. A good therapeutic strength probiotic will always produce a so-called “die-off reaction”. What is it? As you introduce probiotic bacteria into a digestive system, they start destroying pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. When these pathogens die they release toxins. These are toxins which make your patient autistic or schizophrenic or hyperactive. So, whatever characteristic symptoms the patient has may temporarily get worse. Your patient may also feel more tired than usual, generally “off-color” or develop a skin rash. It is a temporary reaction and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks in different individuals. To make this reaction as mild as possible, build the dose of your probiotic slowly.
Start with a very small amount. Observe the patient for any “die-off” symptoms. If there are none then increase the dose. When you see a reaction, let your patient settle on this dose until the “die-off” symptoms disappear. Then increase the dose again. Keep increasing the dose in this manner until a therapeutic level is reached. The period of building up the dose can take from a few weeks to a few months in different patients.
The therapeutic dose level of probiotics is individual. Here are some general guidelines:
- An adult should have around 15-20 billion bacterial cells per day.
- An infant up to 12 months of age can have 1-2 billion bacterial cells per day.
- A toddler from 1-2 years old can have 2-4 billion bacterial cells per day.
- A child from 2-4 years old can have 4-8 billion bacterial cells per day.
- A child from 4-10 years can have 8-12 billion bacterial cells per day.
- From the age of 12-16 we can increase the dose to 12-15 billion per day.”
Gut & Psychology Syndrome, p 170-171
Note: Because of their immature digestive systems infants/young babies cannot metabolize the D(-) isomer of lactic acid produced by many lactobacilli. Make sure to choose a formula that only contains L(+)-lactic acid producing lactobacili.
Where To Buy Probiotics
I’ve included a link here for where to buy the probiotics I recommend.
Update: Vitamin K2, Trace Minerals & Magnesium
Based on this article from The Healthy Home Economist, I have also begun supplementing with Vitamin K2. Also, after researching more on the lack of minerals available due to soil depletion I have incorporated trace minerals and magnesium oil into our supplement routine. Iodine is another nutrient worth checking into if you are not eating foods that are rich in it, such as seaweed and fish broth.
So There You Have It . . .
two three supplements that I consider most important for my children (and actually, for myself too!). Though actually if I was on a desert island I’d eat fish instead of take fish oil.:)
Eek! Out of time again and I haven’t covered how to bypass multi-vitamins and get MORE from your produce or how to choose supplements. Looks like this two-parter just became a series!