This second in the Top 10 Immunity Boosters has a personal story attached to it.
Once upon a time our family of six took a year off, and traveled in an Airstream around the western half of the country. One of our adventures was doing a work-stay at a very special farm in northern California.
We had just taken the plunge into the GAPS protocol as a family. (Note to self, taking the plunge changes your life…sometimes in changing one thing, everything ends up changing)
I had read about Chaffin Family Orchards and it sounded like an adventuring-foodie-family dream: one hundred year old olive trees, heirloom citrus orchards, polyculture farming, traditional foods, etc. I contacted (okay maybe I begged) them about a farm stay, and we had the privilege of being invited to visit for a few weeks and help out.
Not only did Chaffin practice diverse polyculture farming (think: goats as olive tree pruners, and chickens as debuggers) but they were also doing some good healing in their own family, using the GAPS Protocol. That was a bonus for our family, who was just starting to navigate a healing diet…in public.
We feasted on grass-fed beef, dark-orange-yolk eggs, grapefruits and oranges that we picked off the trees, and the best olive oil.
Camping amongst olive tree orchards was a completely new and fun experience. Their olive oil was amazing…and we couldn’t get much closer to the source.
Knowing your source counts, because unfortunately there has been scandal and trickery involving the export of olive oil … many have poorer quality oils mixed in for instance . It is important to know where your olive oil is coming from and how it is processed. (1)
The remainder of this article is devoted to describing the second simple way to have robust health for your family – consumption of cold pressed oils like olive oil.
Top 7 Cold Pressed Oils for Boosting the Immune System
Cold pressed oils give us immune benefiting components, antioxidants, and have substances that trigger the inflame/anti-inflame healing process and more.There are two fatty acids that are absolutely essential to the body, meaning the body cannot make them on its own:
- Linoleic Acid (LA) — Omega 6
- Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) — Omega 3
There are four other fatty acids that are conditionally essential, meaning it is POSSIBLE to derive them from the other two, with the right cofactors:
- Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)
- Arachidonic Acid (AA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
All fats and oils are some combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
With that, let’s identify the most beneficial of the cold pressed oils.
Olive oil – Olive oil is introduced in Stage 4 of the GAPS Introduction Diet and is applied as an important part of every GAPS meal…with good reason. Olive oil is an oil that humans have used for centuries with healthful results.
It is full of natural antioxidants, like Vitamin E, which defend your cells and tissues from free radical damage. It has healing and anti-inflammatory effects, stimulates bile flow (important for the digestion of fats and for avoiding constipation), stimulates liver and pancreatic enzymes, has anticancer effects, as well antibacterial and antiviral properties. It’s been shown to improve brain cell maturing and function.
It doesn’t have much in the way of the two essential fatty acids…which shows there are other components that are important besides Omega-3 and Omega-6…such as beta carotene, chlorophyll, squalene, phytosterols, triterpenic substances, etc.
It’s also a good source of oleic acid (Omega-9) which can help strengthen the TH1 arm of the immune system (allergies and autoimmune are a sign of TH2 dominance). These important substances are easily destroyed by refining and heat.
I recommend olive oil be bought, and served, unrefined, cold pressed and raw as it is sensitive to heat damage.
Look for organic, unrefined extra virgin olive oil from a company you can trust as most of the olive oil on the market has been blended with cheaper vegetable oils like canola (2). Extra virgin usually means that the olive oil has been processed at low temperatures, without chemicals. Unfiltered is best.
Among the many uses for olive oil is eliminating excess earwax. If your kiddos have wax in their ears, a couple of drops of olive oil, 2x a day for 1 – 2 weeks, will do wonders. Olive oil, infused with garlic, and/or mullein oil, can help treat ear infection as well. Formulations like this are usually available in health food stores.
Coconut oil – Oh, Coconut oil! Coconut oil is an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-parasitic. It contains lauric acid which is a precursor to monolaurin…an anti-microbial active fat. Lauric acid is also present in breast milk. It is protective against infection and is good for the healthy bacteria in your colon (where most of your immune system is housed). Watch out for liquid coconut oil or MCT oil though. Both are coconut oil imposters!
Monolaurin is effective against pathogens such as candida albicans, helicobacter pylori, HIV virus, measles virus, herpes virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, influenza and more. Coconut oil also contains the fatty acids, caprylic acid and myristic acid, which are also antiviral, antibacterial, and anti fungal.
It’s great for cooking, athletic energy, moisturizing, oil pulling, just to name a few of its hundreds of uses. Best of all, coconut oil provides long lasting energy without the weight gain.
It is good to have coconut oil on a regular basis. If you are using it therapeutically, an adult will need to consume from 3 to 8 tablespoons a day. As with any oil, it is super important that you know how it is processed. Virgin coconut oil is best, and is suitable to be cooked with as it has a high heat tolerance.
Other Important Cold Pressed Oils (to be used in moderation)
These are not as exciting because they are more medicinal than culinary and fun. However, healthy fatty acid deficiency is an epidemic and it is often necessary to supplement for a time.
Dr. Natasha recommends supplementing with a nut and seed oil blend to provide the parent essential oils Omega-3 and Omega-6, and supplementing with a high quality fish liver oil to provide the derivative fatty acids as well. Ideally your nut and seed oil should be in a ratio close to 2:1, Omega-3:Omega-6. For example, a mixture of flax oil and evening primrose oil. There are even some formulations on the market that combine the nut and seed oils with fish oil.
Flax oil – This oil has become well known for its high Omega-3 content, almost 60% of its fatty acid profile (quality brands). Use caution when supplementing with an oil that is excessively heavy towards one fatty acid or another. It is best to have a mixture in your diet. If you suffer from fibrocystic breasts or other hormonal issues, walnut oil is a better choice than flax.
Evening Primrose oil – Evening primrose is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose flowering plant (quality brands). It is typical for it to contain around 72% linoleic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid.
Black Currant Oil – From the seeds of the black currant berry, this is a source of GLA, an important Omega-6 fatty acid (quality brands). It is both wild and cultivated and most of the commercial production happens in Europe.
GLA is a precursor to prostaglandins, which are hormone like substances that regulate inflammation, among other body functions.
Inflammation blocks cellular communication.
Cellular communication is important for a healthy immune system.
Borage oil – Is also a source of GLA (good Omega-6) fatty acids (quality brands). It comes from the seeds of the edible borage flowering plant.
Walnut oil – Walnut oil has a high amount of Omega-6, but also a decent amount of Omega-3.
There are numerous other nuts and seeds to derive oil from, some studied, some not yet, some rare, or not available commercially. We won’t spend time on all of them today.
The important take-home is they contain substances that help regulate our immune system, fight infection, and make us smart.
Cofactors. What if I need helpers to make these cold pressed oils most effective?
Cofactors are helpers needed for a proper biochemical process to happen. Being able to absorb fatty acids for example. If you are having difficulty digesting fats you may want to try one or more of the following:
- Beet juice (or beet kvass)
- Taurine (an amino acid)
- Whole foods based vitamin C
- Pancrelipase and other pancreatic enzymes
- Bile salts
How to consume?
It is important to purchase and store nut/seed oils refrigerated and in dark glass bottles if possible.
For supplementation purposes these are Dr. Natasha’s recommendations. Olive oil and coconut oil can of course be eaten daily with meals.
- When supplementing with a nut:seed oil blend start slowly. If fatty acid deficiency is severe it is possible to have reactions, so it is important to work up to a proper dose
- Under 18 months, work up to 1 – 2 teaspoons nut:seed blend a day
- Children over 18 months, work up to 1 – 3 tablespoons nut:seed blend a day
- Adults, work up to 4 – 5 tablespoons a day
Cold Pressed Oils to Avoid
Don’t be fooled by marketing. Some cold pressed oils are best avoided due to fatty acid ratios that favor inflammation rather than healing. These oils include the following.
To repeat, even if these oils are cold pressed, organic and unrefined, do not buy them!
How we incorporate oils in our family rhythms
- We like to drizzle olive oil on our veggies, as well as into our soups. I also make the easiest homemade mayonnaise with an immersion blender (no drip-by-drip process!)
- Salad dressings are a great way to mix in small amounts of specialty oils with your extra virgin olive oil.
- And nuts and seeds (soaked and dehydrated) also make up some of our snacks.
I will close with this. Incorporate olive oil, coconut oil and carefully processed nut:seed oils…and those mama nurse moments will come less often!
And in the comments below, I would love to hear how you incorporate olive oil, coconut oil, and some of the more medicinal oils.
Melanie Christner is a NTP, Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Mom of 4 who lives in Vermont. She is the creator of Honest Body and hosts an online GAPS class several times a year. Melanie delights in helping people apply healing protocols to everyday life and becoming friends with their bodies again.