The relationship between cod liver oil and constipation is one of natural treatment and ailment. In other words, cod liver oil has been used to provide natural relief from constipation for many years. Other fish oils provide the same benefit, without the risks that can be associated with excess consumption of cod liver oil. Both of these oils provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, necessary for optimal brain, heart, joint and digestive function.
Both my parents and my grandparents took regular doses of cod liver oil and constipation was not a problem for them. After complaining of a “tummy ache”, my mother gave me a spoonful of the nasty tasting, smelly stuff. After that, I kept my tummy aches to myself. Sure, it relieved the constipation, but “Yuck!” I could taste it for hours, every time I burped!
Today, the better fish oil supplements are molecularly distilled to remove the odor. In capsule form, they are tasteless. Storing the capsules in the freezer and/or taking them with food can prevent both the burping and any aftertaste, while still relieving occasional constipation.
Most people experience constipation occasionally. Too little fiber in the diet is one common cause, as is too little water. But, many other factors can contribute to occasional constipation. Prescription medications, dietary supplements containing iron, a sedentary lifestyle, traveling or other changes in routine and stress are some of the many things that can lead to constipation.
Excessive use of stimulant laxatives can cause the eventual dysfunction of the digestive muscles, leading to chronic constipation. Most people find that even occasional use of stimulant laxatives can cause cramping and discomfort. Fish oils improve digestive function, can be taken regularly and are “gentler” than most over-the-counter laxatives, like Ex-Lax. Many people relate cod liver oil and constipation prevention.
Just remember to choose wisely. All supplements are not the same. Cod liver oils contain vitamin A. Pregnant women should avoid supplements containing vitamin A, as it has been associated with a significant increase in birth defects. Too much vitamin A, in even healthy adults can be toxic. In general, it is safer to get your daily vitamin A requirements from food or beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A on an as-needed basis and is therefore non-toxic.
Other concerns over cod liver oil consumption are related to mercury contamination and contamination from other industrial pollutants. Mercury is stored in the livers of fish. Thus, there is a greater chance of mercury contamination in oils that come from fish livers. The source of most cod liver oils is the Atlantic Cod fish, which has been over harvested and swims in some of the most polluted waters in the world.
Fish oils derived from the “flesh” of the fish are generally safer alternatives. But, it is still necessary to choose carefully. Some oils are not molecularly distilled and contain mercury and other contaminants. And, if you are concerned about environmental issues, some fish are over harvested and their populations are not considered sustainable. Manufacturers should list the “source fish” (cod, shark, salmon, etc.), the distillation process used and the ocean from which the fish is harvested, but most do not.