Cod Liver Oil May Be the Answer for Two of the Most Difficult of All Childhood Conditions

Have you ever considered cod liver oil for your children? If ear infections are a recurrent issue, then cod liver oil may be exactly what you need.

Researchers at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Columbia University gave children aged 6 months to 5 years one teaspoon of lemon-flavored cod liver oil (containing both EPA and vitamin A) and a half-tablet of a selenium-containing children's chewable multivitamin-mineral tablet per day.

At the end of the study, children receiving the supplement were up to 25 percent less likely to be put on antibiotics for ear infections. If treating ear infections were the only reason to have a bottle of cod liver oil around the house, that would be enough, but there's more. Cod liver oil also helps treat childhood eczema.

Scientists have understood the basics of nutritional therapy for eczema since the early twentieth century. In the 1920’s, researchers noticed that scaly conditions of the skin could be linked to deficiencies of essential fatty acids. Limited by the research techniques of their time, these scientists began treating eczema with the sources of essential fatty acids known to them: lard, cod liver oil, corn oil, and linseed oil.

Nobody in the twenty-first century treats eczema with lard. The fact that the treatment worked in the 1920's had to do with generalized malnutrition, even of nutrients almost everyone gets in excess today. But cod liver oil still works.

Scientific Research on Fatty Acids Deficiency

Newer scientific research has confirmed that deficiencies of essential fatty acids cause scaliness, redness, weeping, and inflammation. Fatty acid deficiency increases the rate at which skin cells multiply, makes them more permeable to water, induces the formation of abnormal keratinocytes, and accelerates the production of natural steroid hormones in the skin.

Corn oil and lard, of course, would still be effective in the treatment of eczema in children with extreme malnutrtion, but research has determined that the fatty acids that have the greatest influence on the health of the skin are n-3 fatty acids.

Deficiency of n-3 fatty acids leads to a deficiency of the hormonal “brake” on the process of inflammation, prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), and a shortage of the control chemical for the immune system, cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).

In the deficiency of these two chemicals in the skin, the immune system runs amok, destroying healthy skin cells and stimulating their rapid replacement.

Fish oils are rich sources of polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acids, which the body does not produce in sufficient quantities in eczema.

Taking fish oil supplements causes these desirable fatty acids to be incorporated into the linings of skin cells, protecting from attack by neutrophils, tissue-destructive cells of the immune system.

Cod liver oil is not exactly at the top of most people’s shopping lists, but it is among the first new foods you should try to reduce symptoms. What else helps?

Burdock is a rich source of inulin. This complex carbohydrate activates the alternate complement pathway (ACP), part of the immune system’s defense against bacterial infection. The ACP is especially important to people who have eczema, since constant scratching leaves the skin at risk to infection with Staphylococcus aureus.

Over 90 percent of people with eczema develop staph infections at some time during the course of their disease. Most health food stores and many supermarkets stock burdock cereals.

Dandelion is also a useful source of inulin. Many markets stock dandelion greens in the produce section. If burdock cereal or dandelion greens are not available in your market, take 2 to 8 grams of dried root, 1 to 2 teaspoons of fluidextract, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh juice of either herb daily.

Cod liver oil supplements and cold-water fish, burdock cereals, and dandelion greens cause the most noticeable improvement in eczema.

Other foods improve symptoms more slowly. Foods containing high amounts of beta-carotene (apricots, carrots, mangoes, peaches, pumpkin, and winter squash) and vitamin E (sunflower seeds, peanut butter, nuts, and eggs, if you are not allergic to them, also broccoli raab, chard, chickory, cilantro, collards, mustard greens, radicchio, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress) may reduce dryness and itchiness of the skin.

Foods that are good sources of vitamin C (citrus, acerola, chives, fruit juices, grapes, guavas, litchees, peaches, all kinds of peppers, pokeweed, and most kinds of greens) also may be beneficial for eczema sufferers who also have allergies, due to vitamin C's ability to fight histamine, which can cause inflammation and itching.

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