You've decided to take fermented cod liver oil. You've learned about the health benefits of this beloved traditional superfood, from its ever-popular omega fat content to the mysterious synergy of the fat soluble vitamins it delivers. You've learned all about the nutrient-enhancing fermentation process that makes this cod liver oil superior to the refined fish oil impostors available in most stores today. You've even prepared yourself to brave the peculiar taste and distinct fishy smell of this quirky ancient elixir. But, as you gear up to swoop a spoonful of the dark liquid to your lips, there is just one problem: you're not sure how much to take. Never fear! We've pulled together expert opinions, ancestral wisdom and the latest research studies into a comprehensive guide to help you figure out the fermented cod liver oil dosage that is right for you.
Food Not Medicine
If you have ever gone on a search to find clear recommendations for fermented cod liver oil dosage, you likely came back with nothing but a confused clutter of mismatched information. The internet is full of boastful tales about people swallowing the stinky stuff down by the swig (not too appealing if you ask me) or to the contrary, healing miracles that seemed to be catalyzed by using just one neat little cod liver oil capsule. Needless to say, amidst all the lore and hearsay, it can be hard to get a straight answer about how much fermented cod liver is actually useful.
The reason behind this perplexing array of dosage recommendations is that fermented cod liver oil (or FCLO for short) is overall more like a food than a clinical supplement. Unlike the isolated lab-made vitamins and minerals found packed onto pharmacy shelves, the nutrients in cod liver oil occur together in a whole food form alongside the enzymes and co-factors required for their absorption. Experts hypothesize that this undisturbed natural balance actually makes the nutrients work better.
The natural interactions between compounds in fermented cod oil seem to amplify the bioavailability and overall effectiveness of the nutrients in ways that are not yet even completely understood. The Weston A. Price Foundation describes this powerful phenomenon by explaining “fermented cod liver oil contains many co-factors that may enhance the body’s uptake and usage of vitamins A and D; in fact, many have reported results equivalent to those obtained from high-vitamin cod liver oil with half the recommended dose.” The unique healing capacity of fermented cod liver oil reaches far beyond any neat percentiles and statistics typed onto a label.
In fact, FCLO expert and Green Pasture founder Dave Wetzel recently removed specific nutrient analysis and dose recommendations from his cod liver oil labels altogether, stating "our products are more like natural foods than drugs. People take all sorts of different amounts and combinations for a variety of reasons."
A Rough Nutrient Profile
When it comes to fermented cod liver oil, people respond to differing amounts based on infinite factors such as age, lifestyle, health condition, digestive function etc. What's more, like anything else found in nature, qualities of taste, smell and nutrient values vary significantly batch by batch. These traits make exact dosage suggestions nearly impossible to compute with any legitimacy.
Yet, with all of these nuances in mind, there are some rough generalizations that can be made regarding the nutrient content of fermented cod liver oil and how this applies to general daily intake. According to the producers of Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, there are thousands of beneficial molecules in properly prepared fish oil, but many people focus on just two important groups: omega-3 fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These coveted inflammation fighting compounds have been shown to be incredibly effective at augmenting treatment to troublesome conditions ranging from depression to cardiovascular disease. They cannot be produced in the body and must be taken in through the diet. You can learn all about the two different types of omega-3s here, but as they relate to FCLO doses:
FCLO is about 10% DHA and 15% EPA for a total of 30-40% omega-3 fatty acid content.
1 tsp is equal to about 5,000 mg FCLO. So using these calculations:
1 tsp FCLO contains about 500 mg DHA and 750 mg EPA for a total of approximately 1250 mg omega-3 fatty acids.*
Fat Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins A & D make up an important fat-soluble vitamin pairing that is largely missing from the modern diet. Together these superstar nutrients are responsible for healthy skin, good eye sight, proper hormone production, strong bones and stable mood. Needless to say, these are some very important nutrients!
FCLO contains a natural 10:1 ratio of vitamin A to vitamin D, which is optimal for absorption.
1 tsp FCLO contains roughly 10,000 IUs vitamin A and 1,000-2,000 IUs vitamin D.*
*Rough estimations only. As stated above, these values are guidelines only and can vary significantly by batch.
Other Factors to Consider
1. The amount you need may change over time.
Health conditions, lifestyle factors and stressors can shift metabolism in a way that makes the body require more or less nutrients at any given time. Practicing skills of body awareness will help you refine personal knowledge, so that eventually you can use your intuition to guide dosage decisions.
2. More is not necessarily better.
Your body can only absorb so many nutrients at one time. As Chris Masterjohn gracefully explains:
“An excess of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA from fish and cod liver oil can cause a deficiency in arachidonic acid. For this reason, cod liver oil should be used in moderation and in combination with a diet rich in egg yolks and organ meats.”
In other words, fermented cod liver oil is best (and most effectively) enjoyed in the context of a nutrient-dense, whole-foods based diet. With the support of a rich diet, a standard serving size of fermented cod liver oil should be adequate to produce significant health benefits.
3. Find a way of taking it that works well for you.
It's true: taking cod liver oil is not the most glamorous activity. But it is certainly possible to make the process tolerable and even (gasp) fun! We have compiled a list of our favorite ways to take cod liver oil. See if you can come up with any creative ideas to add.
Discovering What Is Right For You
The guidelines below offer fermented cod liver oil serving suggestions based on delivering appropriate ranges of fatty acids and vitamin levels to healthy individuals in the specified age groups. Remember, these are simply estimations and can vary greatly based on many factors. If you have specific questions or concerns about health conditions, I recommend following up with a functional medicine practitioner or naturopathic doctor in your area.
The classic liquids are the most potent and economical. Try plain or blended with an intriguing organic flavor like cinnamon tingle, arctic mint or oslo orange.
For dosing purposes, 1/2 tsp is equal to about 2.5 ml.
Children (3months-12yrs): 1/8 - 1/2 tsp (0.625-2.5ml)
Adults and Children 12+yrs: 1/2 - 1 tsp (2.5-5ml)
Pregnant/Nursing Women: 1 - 2 tsp (5-10ml)
Convenient and largely tasteless, capsules make for the best option for those who are leery about fishy flavors. They are a bit more pricey, but there is no nose-holding required!
8-10 capsules equals about 1 tsp of FCLO.
Children (3months-12yrs): 1- 4 caps
Adults and Children 12+yrs: 5 - 10 caps
Pregnant/Nursing Women: 10 - 20 caps
The blends offer the complete fat-soluble vitamin spectrum by adding in the valuable vitamin K2 from High Vitamin Butter Oil (HVBO) as Dr. Weston A Price recommended in his original research. Together these two superfoods offer a host of unique health benefits that they do not posses alone.
Blends are about 2/3 FCLO and 1/3 HVBO.
Children (3mths-12yrs): 1/6 to 3/4 tsp or 2 - 8 caps
Adults and Children 12+yrs: 3/4 to 1 1/2 tsp or 8 - 15 caps
Pregnant/Nursing Women: 1 1/2 to 2 tsp or 15 - 30 caps
The mild tasting, nutritional powerhouse infusions use virgin coconut oil as a carrier for the fish and butter oils. You must take more to get your FCLO serving, but infusions are an easy way to include a wider variety of healthy fats (including healthy medium chain fatty acids) in the diet.
Each 1 1/2 serving contains at least 65% Organic Coconut Oil, and 1/2 tsp+ of infused oils (75% FCLO and 25% HVBO and/or Fermented Skate Liver Oil)
Children (3mths-12yrs): 1/2 - 1 1/2 tsp
Adults and Children 12+yrs: 1 1/2 - 3 tsp
Pregnant/Nursing Women: 3+ tsp