by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
When I think of cod liver oil, I think back to grade 4 when my friend Erin used to complain that her mother forced her to have a spoonful of cod liver oil every morning before school. I was grateful that my mother wasn’t that mean. I didn’t know what cod liver oil was but it sounded nasty — fish and liver? Yuck!
Fast forward 30 years. I have since updated my thinking. While in esthetics school, we learned how nutrition plays a huge supporting role in skin care and we talked about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil.
This is a story about cod liver oil and essential omega-3 fatty acids and how they contribute to our overall health and wellness. But first I want to talk about skin and how it works.
Our skin, weighing in at around 10 pounds and covering an area of about 16 square feet on an average-sized person, is the largest organ in the body. It works to regulate our internal temperature and to provide us with sensory information about the external world we live in. Our skin is also our first defense against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and other toxins that may want to infiltrate the system. Our skin is also an excretory organ and one of its jobs is to remove toxins from the body via perspiration.
Signs of aging (like wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, dark spots and a leathery appearance) show up in the skin after the skin cells have been damaged. Skin damage can be caused by exposure to strong sunlight, pollution, toxins, cigarette smoke, x-rays, and drugs. Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and other stressors can also contribute.
Once the skin is exposed to a hazardous agent in the environment, it produces inflammation in the form of swelling, pus or redness to defend and heal itself. As an example, you can see this whole process play out with a pimple on your face. First some dirt lands on your face and clogs a pore. Then the body creates inflammation to defend itself against the invader and voila, you’ve got an oozing red splotch where there wasn’t one before.
Inflammation can trigger the release of free radicals :< (I always picture free radicals as rebels wearing brown berets for some reason, but that’s just me) which are unstable and highly reactive oxygen molecules that cause cellular damage. It’s like the rust that forms on your bike after you leave it out in the rain. Are you with me so far?
Once these free radicals show up, they’ll do one of two things: they’ll either cause damage :< to surrounding tissue (which are a group of cells doing the same job) or they can be neutralized and stabilized :> by the body’s anti-oxidant system. I think there should also be an uncle-oxidant in the mix, but again, that’s just me.
The trick to keeping your skin healthy involves minimizing exposure to environmental offenders which cause the body to produce inflammation and free radicals and then maximizing the body’s protective forces like the anti-oxidant brigade (the army that helps fight the free radicals and keep them under control).
Another way to minimize the inflammatory response in the body is to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids — which brings me to — sound the trumpets please — cod liver oil. I never thought I’d write that in a million years. In any case, the omega 3 essential fatty acids in the fish oil help reduce inflammation. They also support anti-oxidants in their task of sweeping away the influx of free radicals before they do any damage.
You can also find omega-3 essential fatty acids in sources like:
- cold water fish: wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, shad, herring and trout;
- oils: flax seed oil, hempseed oil;
- nuts and seeds: hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds;
- certain dark green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, mustard greens and collard greens.
So while I was in school learning about all of this stuff, my mom (of all people) introduced me to Liquid Omega-3, Smooth and Creamy Lemon Meringue Flavour by Webber Naturals which she found at Uncle Costco’s. I was skeptical, but I tried it and was quite impressed. It was delicious. Tastes just like lemon meringue pie! It was so good, I thought I’d use it as a simple syrup in a cocktail some day. Does that defeat the purpose?
Later, while I was visiting Uncle Costco, I saw a woman holding one of the bottles of Omega-3 in her hand, trying to decide whether or not to buy it for herself and for her young son. I said, “it tastes pretty good but you have to make sure to shake the bottle really, really well each time because if you don’t, it might taste really fishy.” I think she ended up buying it and I hope she liked my recommendation.
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