How to Use Cod Liver Oil to Fight Upper Respiratory Inflammation

When I get a cold, and that is only every two or three years, I usually take a big dose of vitamin C. Then I suck on zinc lozenges for an hour or two. And the last few colds I've had, I also take cod liver oil capsules. Here are the reasons why.

    1. Fish oil relaxes tight air passages.

    One of the first things you notice when you get a cold is a tingly sensation in your nostrils, and maybe in the back of your throat. This is quickly followed by irritation and a sensation of tightness. Exercise physiologists at Indiana University have found that taking fish oil relieves tight, constricted breathing passages just as effectively as a nose spray or, in some cases, as an inhaler.

    These scientists also found that using both fish oil and a medication has no cumulative benefit in relieving upper respiratory airway constriction, and, of course, you need to be taking fish oil before you come down with the infection. That is, be sure to add fish oil to your supplement routine at the beginning of your colds, flu, or allergy season.

    2. Fish oil relieves allergic inflammation.

    While many of us ask ourselves the question of whether what we have is a cold or an allergy, the simple fact is, a lot of the time it's both. Fish oil contains omega-3 essential fatty acids that relieve inflammation caused by allergies.

    3. Cod liver oil corrects vitamin D deficiency.

    One of the reasons we get colds when the weather gets cooler is that many kinds of rhinoviruses are activated by lower temperatures. Another of the reasons we get colds when the weather gets cooler is that we spend more time in confined spaces with other people who may be infected. And a third reason we get colds when the weather turns cooler is that the days are shorter and our bodies don't make as much vitamin D.

But that doesn't mean we need supplemental vitamin D all the time. And I'll explain what this has to do with fish oil in a moment.

Researchers Dr. John Aloia and Dr. Melissa Li-Ng at the Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York tracked patients who took no supplemental vitamin D, 800 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily, and 2000 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily throughout an entire year. They found that the participants in their study who took no supplemental vitamin D at all reported 25 days during the winter when they felt symptoms of colds or flu.

The researchers found that study participants who took 800 IU of vitamin D a day reported just 3 days during the winter when they felt colds or flu, and that those who took 2000 IU of vitamin D a day didn't have any colds or flu days at all during winter months. Aloia and Li-Ng, however, did not just study the effects of vitamin D during the winter. They also tracked their patients during the spring, summer, and fall.

People who didn't take any vitamin D at all tended to have a few "cold and flu days" during every season of the year. People who took 800 IU of vitamin D a day had just 1 or 2 days with symptoms during every 3-month period. People who took 2000 IU of vitamin D a day didn't have any colds or flu during the winter, spring, or fall, but tended to have 1 or 2 days with symptoms in the summer.

This study suggests that vitamin D protects against colds and flu, but it may be possible to get too much as well as too little. I don't recommend anyone take vitamin D for colds and flu prevention during the summer. Taking vitamin D during cool-weather seasons is enough.

But what does that have to do with fish oil?

Cod liver oil is a great source of both omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamin D. It is an easy way to get both the omega-3's that fight inflammation and the vitamin D that fights infection.

Fish oil typically does not contain vitamin D, and shark liver oil contains a lot of substances you just don't want to take into your body. Cod liver oil, in capsules, is the easiest way to get both omega-3's and vitamin D in a single dose, nine months of the year.

Cod liver oil used to be, well, nasty stuff. Trawlers did not have a way to refrigerate the cod during the trip back to port, and all cod liver oil was "naturally fermented," whether the manufacturer intended it to be or not.

Nowadays, cod liver oil doesn't taste bad. You can still buy a big bottle of liquid cod liver oil, and some companies, like Green Pasture, offer excellent prices for cod liver oil in bulk. Chances are, however, that you and your family would prefer cod liver oil capsules like those made by Nordic Naturals for use by the entire family throughout autumn, winter, and spring.

You'll catch fewer colds outside the home, and there will be less sharing of colds and flu through the family, due to the generous provision of vitamin D. Just be sure to take enough cod liver oil to get 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day for adults, or 1,000 IU per day for children.

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