My nuclear weapon against acne is cod liver oil.
For years I’ve been using a “Paleo” diet to fight acne and it works well. At times I would still get a small breakout here and there. Removing any source of vegetable oil made a difference but adding a sufficient amount of cod liver oil to my diet really sealed the deal. Acne no longer has a prayer. There is some supporting scientific evidence of it’s effectiveness against acne. This study even has some before and after pictures.
Cod liver oil is a supplement derived from the liver of cod fish. It can be taken in liquid or gel capsule form.
Traditionally it was given to children, especially to prevent rickets, a disease caused by insufficient vitamin D intake.
It is world renowned because of it’s large supply of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It also supplies a significant dose of Vitamins A, D, and E.
Fatty acids are called essential fatty acids because we cannot make them in our own bodies and so must obtain them from our diet. Cod liver oil is a good place to get them.
Unfortunately for modern, westernized people, our diet is full of omega 6 fatty acids and not enough omega 3 FAs. Anthropological studies have found that humans most likely evolved on a diet of omega 6:3 ratio’s of around 1:1. Today, the average Westerner eats something more like 16:1. (source) Vegetable oil is largely to blame for this shift. Today’s modern, Westernized, industrial diet is full of Omega 6 fatty acids.
The trouble with this is that omega 6 FA’s tend to be pro-inflammatory while the omega 3 FA’s tend to be anti-inflammatory. (source) Which would you like more of in your battle against acne?
Even out your omega 6:3 ratio. A primitive, remote human being would have a balanced, even intake. Cod liver oil can help.
Cod liver oil fills a crucial gap
Do you eat organs regularly? No? Then you should probably use cod liver oil.
Vitamins A and D can be hard to obtain without getting a lot of sun exposure and eating organ meats. Easy for the hunter-gatherer, possibly not so easy for you. Paleolithic humans would have eaten the organs of their prey as well as the fat and some flesh. Predatory animals always rip the organs out of their prey first thing. Yum!
I don’t know too many people today who eat organs very often. This leaves a very crucial gap in the diets of most modern, westernized people. We turn our noses up at organ meats. Most of us probably don’t get enough fat soluble vitamins. Cod liver oil does a good job of stepping up and replacing some of those missing organ nutrients. Cod liver oil contains vitamins A, D, and E because it is extracted from an organ.
People today also tend to live in sealed boxes at work and at home, hardly getting enough sun exposure to produce their own vitamin D. A diet lacking in Vitamin D is also linked to depression. Cod liver oil to the rescue.
Fears of overdosing
This is important.
Vitamins A, D, and E are fat soluble vitamins, unlike say Vitamin C, which is water soluble. This means you won’t eliminate excess A, D, or E through urination. It can accumulate in the body.
Some will say not to take cod liver oil in the summer months for fear of overdosing on vitamin D. I ignore this caution and do just fine. The vitamins A and D in cod liver oil occur naturally and are not synthetic, theoretically reducing the risk of accidental overdose. However, they are still fat soluble and may accumulate in the body. It is possible to overdose. Use at your own discretion.
If you get a lot of sun exposure or eat a lot of organs, take this into account and use cod liver oil accordingly.
If you want to avoid these fat soluble vitamins you can just take plain fish oil instead of the liver oil. Taken from the oily skin of the fish, it will still contain the omega-3 supplementation but will not contain the fat soluble vitamins you would find in the liver.
I actually want the Vitamins A, D, and E and believe they help in the fight against acne. I don’t spend a large part of my day in the sun and I don’t eat a lot of organ meats. Therefore, cod liver oil is the choice for me.
Once again, I am not responsible for your results and you must tailor my advice to your own life.
In general, these vitamins are to be sought after and not feared. Some think the idea of overdosing is blown out of proportion.
I need cod liver oil in my life.
If I stop taking cod liver oil I begin feeling depressed within a few days, even in the summer. My acne is harder to keep at bay and I develop hangnails. If I take it daily, year round, then I remain in great health and never feel down. My skin becomes almost impervious to acne. It is shocking at how fast the bad symptoms disappear when I start taking the oil.
I take 3 capsules of Carlson Super 1000mg Cod Liver Oil per day at mealtimes. I highly recommend this brand as it is screened for mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants. 1 capsule helped, 2 capsules even more but with 3 acne was crushed. I use the capsule form as opposed to the liquid form because I travel a lot and carrying around a leaky bottle of oil isn’t fun. Capsules are more convenient for me. It does not affect the supplement and you should pick the type that suits your lifestyle.
There are also many advocates for using fermented cod liver oil. The most popular one being made by a company called Green Pasture. It is reportedly more potent due to the fermentation process. I have used it in the past but did not refine my dosage to the extent I have with Carlson, so I cannot give advice on how much to take. You can buy it here.
At the end of my day, 3 capsules works out to:
- 3000 mg Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
- 6000 IU’s of Vitamin A
- 1200 IU’s of Vitamin D
- 30 IU’s of Vitamin E
- 240 mg of EPA
- 300 mg of DHA
Obviously, you must refine your own dosage. 1 or 2 capsules may be enough for you. I need 3. Carlson recommends on the bottle to take no more than 3. Do your own research and experiment.
July 9, 2015 update: I’ve noticed on the Carlson Super 1000mg gems bottles that it has Soybean Oil listed under “Other Ingredients”. I don’t believe eating soybean oil is good for the skin so I’m afraid I can’t heartily recommend this product any more. I would still recommend taking the maximum dosage of their liquid form, however. I will continue to use this bottle until it runs out as it doesn’t really seem to bother my skin right now. I will probably be writing Carlson about this and/or switching brands for gel caps.
Why does it work?
I can only theorize why cod liver oil works so well to defend against acne. Perhaps it is the fatty acid supply fighting inflammation. Maybe it is the balancing of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Perhaps it is the additional vitamins A, D, or E in my diet.
Regardless, the results are impressive. As long as you are not allergic to fish, use cod liver oil or fish oil and find a dose that helps you keep acne at bay. It is a godsend for me.