Take Your Medicine

As you all know, our recent move to Colorado was precipitated by my son’s therapeutic needs following his diagnosis on the autism spectrum. He did better than we could possibly have hoped in his new preschool, which has closed for summer vacation, and next week, he will be entering the Extended School Year program in hopes of maintaining that forward motion. He will soon be playing with an occupational therapist not once, but twice a week, and we are in the process of getting speech therapy on our weekly calendar as well. We have purchased shares to have ready access to raw, organic milk from grassfed cows, and we had an initial appointment with a DAN!-trained naturopath this week to address Nolan’s specific nutritional needs.

Even though all the gears of Nolan’s therapeutic machine have fallen in place even more quickly here in Littleton than I could have hoped, it still feels like we have a lot of downtime and a lot of uncertainty about how best to help him between appointments and tests. I decided to take at least one dietary step on my own and purchase a bottle of naturally fermented cod liver oil from Green Pasture to stir into Nolan’s daily smoothie. As it turns out, CLO is the first supplement our naturopath would have recommended, so we are on the right track.

Nolan isn’t big on eating anything off a spoon or from a little medicine cup, but he doesn’t even seem to notice the difference in his smoothie. We, however, have definitely noticed a difference in him! Within just a few days, we were seeing an improvement in eye contact and social behaviors like noticing that people beside Mama exist; he actually looks around sometimes when we call his name and has given his grammie a few hugs and kisses! He holds our hands in public and climbs into his car seat without any help. He has also had a better appetite and has started sleeping through the night again—for a while there, he was only sleeping 8 hours or less at a time and getting out of bed to play at all hours. We don’t know for sure if the FCLO is the sole cause of all these improvements, and I am inclined to attribute at least some of it to his excellent preschool teachers, but there is no denying that this developmental spurt really took off in the last week. Today he heard me say the word “piggy” and immediately put my hand on his big toe because of “This Little Piggy”!

In case you were wondering, I have also been taking the cod liver oil as a supplement along with Nolan. I haven’t really noticed any changes in my own health yet, in part because the whole family appears to be allergic to buckeye pollen, but I will be sticking it out. I am actually finding the whole experience to be a fascinating case study of my physical and mental reactions to a non-preferred food (pardon the OT-speak!).

Everyone has heard horror stories about the flavor of cod liver oil. I had never tasted it before, and I believe my parents escaped from it as children also; but like the humble rutabaga, whose infamy as an unpleasant “famine food” during World War II has persisted for generations, cod liver oil’s negative reputation precedes it. The variety we purchased is both mint-flavored and emulsified with ingredients like vegetable glycerin and apple pectin, intended to give it a less oily texture and disguised flavor.

For the first two or three days, I shook up the bottle and stirred it briefly, but I now realize that it was still essentially separated, so I wasn’t getting the emulsified effect: the texture was just like swallowing a spoonful of oil, discomfiting but soon washed away with a big gulp of smoothie. The mint flavoring was not fully able to cover up the fishy taste, but once it was out of my mouth, I didn’t notice any lingering aftertaste. I tried stirring it into my smoothie as I did for Nolan, but found that this delivery method just dragged out the flavor, and I had to drink a bunch of water after finishing the smoothie to clear the taste from my mouth. In addition, I discovered that I had to trick myself by adding an additional drop of mint extract to my smoothie, because otherwise, every time I tasted mint, it reminded me that I was drinking cod liver oil and caused me to pick up on the fish flavor.

After a few days, I realized that I needed to stir the jar more thoroughly, sort of like natural peanut butter, because the oil was sitting on top of a solid layer of something that like jam or jello. No matter how vigorously I stirred, however, I was not able to achieve a smooth consistency. My spoonful that day very nearly activated my gag reflex, being simultaneously fishy, oily and chunky. As I continued to stir up the contents over several mornings, the situation improved slightly, and it is now closer to a homogeneous texture, but I still have to give myself a serious mental pep talk to put that spoon in my mouth, and I have to have a drink instantly to hand.

When I inquired about my texture concern on the Green Pasture website, the only response I got was a cursory one: “yes, it can be like this. each lot is different. we do not industrialize the product to take these natural variations out of the product”. So I have no idea if some batches of their FCLO are more cooperative when it comes to texture, or not. Or if we should try a different one of their products, or perhaps go with a different company. If any of you have prior experience with this product, would you be willing to share your thoughts?

This post is linked up with Simple Lives Thursday.

Update 6/15/11: Thanks to everyone for your helpful comments and suggestions! I am still considering options for our next jar. I have had a sinus infection for the past three weeks (my first one in probably 15 years or more), so right now I can’t taste my foods fully and the FCLO has consequently been less of an issue to take. 🙂 I have also noticed a marked improvement in the texture of my skin in the past week or so—I have always suffered from sensitive, acne-prone skin and whether it is the CLO or the raw milk (or both!), this is the best my skin has looked and felt since my pregnancy.

Update 6/26/11: Nolan and I have just about used up our first jar of FCLO, and I placed an order earlier this week for more. Thanks to some of your suggestions, I opted for the chocolate cream FCLO/butter oil combination this time around, and just sampled it this morning. It is definitely more smooth than the emulsified stuff; actually, it looks like chocolate fudge, which helps on a psychological level. The taste isn’t too bad either, and it seems to disappear more completely in our smoothies than the emulsified stuff did (the latter often left little pectin chunks at the bottom of the glass). I have been trying to get my mom to sample them with us, but she is firmly anti-fishy and would only agree to the capsules; hopefully that will get going after a brief vacation over the 4th of July.

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