Benefits of cod liver oil; hot or cold for arthritis

Created date

January 22nd, 2019
Dr. Dunn has been with Erickson Living since 2017

Dr. Dunn has been with Erickson Living since 2017

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. Dr. Dunn received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., and his medical degree from Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa. He completed his residency at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kans., and previously practiced at Olathe Health System, Inc., in Olathe, Kans. Dunn is board-certified in internal medicine. He joined Tallgrass Creek in November 2017.

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor’s medical advice.

Q: Does cod liver oil actually have health benefits?

A: As its name implies, cod liver oil is a natural fish oil supplement obtained primarily from the liver of Atlantic cod. It contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, it contains high levels of vitamins A and D. Cod liver oil was used as early as the mid-1700s to treat rickets, a childhood illness in which the bones remain soft and become malformed during development due to vitamin D deficiency. Because of its natural anti-inflammatory properties, cod liver oil was also used as a natural therapy for certain rheumatologic conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown it to occasionally be beneficial in lowering triglyceride levels, and in some patients it may have mild beneficial effects on blood pressure (though often very high doses of the supplement are required to achieve these results). Traditionally, it has been used as a treatment for chronic conditions and not for acute conditions such as infections involving the respiratory or digestive tracts.

While modern medicines are now the preferred treatment for most diseases, supplements such as cod liver oil still may hold benefits, especially for patients preferring a nonpharmacologic approach to therapy. It’s also worth noting that a diet high in fish (three to four times weekly) offers similar benefits to fish oil supplements. And finally, just as you do with medication, don’t forget to discuss supplement use during appointments with your physician.


Q: Should I use ice packs or heating pads to reduce arthritis pain?

A: Both can be beneficial and both can be used for temporary relief of arthritis pain. Ice’s benefit is primarily as a pain reliever for acute joint and soft-tissue injury, such as acute sprain or strain injuries. Ice can also be helpful in reducing pain due to acute inflammatory arthritic conditions like gout or flares of rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is the body’s mechanism for responding to injury and infection, and it can be painful. Ice inhibits the inflammatory pathway while heat can sometimes exaggerate it.

In chronic osteoarthritis (such as chronic knee or hand pain), the joint pain is the result of chronic inflammation coupled with the painful contact of two worn joint surfaces rubbing against each other during normal activity (what we know as “bone-on-bone” pain). There is little acute inflammation to treat in this case, so either ice or heat can be helpful in providing temporary soothing relief. Which to choose simply depends on the preference of the individual.