Many of my patients who are undergoing fertility acupuncture treatments ask me what they can do nutritionally to enhance their fertility. One food that is excellent for fertility according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is wild salmon. In Seattle where my practice is located we are blessed with ample supplies of wild salmon coming from Alaska such as Copper River salmon and Yukon River salmon. Specifically, salmon is good for nourishing the yin and the blood in TCM. Abundant yin in a woman is an essential factor in her ability to generate healthy follicles and ample amounts of cervical fluid, an indicator of good fertility. A woman’s production of red blood cells may be directly correlated with a thick and healthy endometrial lining which is necessary for a fertilized follicle to implant.
Yin is the moistening and cooling agent in the body: it can be a substance, such as cervical fluid or tears in the eyes, or it can be a type of energy. In its insubstantial form yin is the energy in your body that keeps you cool and also relaxed, so conditions such as hot flashes, night sweats, restless leg syndrome and insomnia all result from a deficiency in the body of yin. When a woman has poor follicle quality resulting in miscarriage or failure to conceive, low antral reserve, poor quality or quantities of cervical fluid or a shortened follicular phase she has deficiency of yin. The oils in wild salmon, specifically the omega 3 fatty acids are good for supplementing yin. During pregnancy both mother and baby can benefit from the oils in salmon, but it is better to eat salmon containing these oils than to take capsules of fish oil for reasons I will explain below.
The deep red color of wild salmon is an indicator of the ample amount of iron it contains, making it an excellent food to increase your red blood cell production. You can increase the thickness of your endometrial lining and increase your chances of conceiving by eating foods that are deep red in color so it is advisable to choose the deepest red colored salmon for maximum benefit. If your specific goal is to optimize yoru fertility the white fishes are not as beneficial for your uterine lining as salmon. In order to avoid mercury content which is found in the larger fish higher up on the food chain such as king salmon, you can eat smaller wild salmon such as Chinook salmon or Sockeye salmon. A smaller fish will be lower in the food chain and aquire a fraction of the amount of mercury during its life cycle than the large fish at the top of the food chain do.
The concept of energy or “chi” in our food is lost in Western culture and not something we hear about from Western-medicine nutritionists. In Asian culture and in indiginous cultures it is known that we are not only eating the “body” of a fish or animal or vegetable: we are eating the vital energy that is contained within that living thing. The fresher something is, meaning the more recently it has been harvested, whether we mean catching a fish or picking tomatoes, the more chi is still there within that organism. When we eat fresh food, the energy within that food as well as the nutrients found in the physical form of the food both serve to nourish us. As time passes after the death of an animal or fish, the vital energy disburses. When food is manually broken down by human intervention, such as when oil is extracted from fish and encapsulated, or when grains are highly processed into cereals and granola bars, all of the energy disburses more quickly and we are left with food devoid of any energy. This is one reason why processed food is not healthy: it is lacking any remaining enrgy or chi: it is more “dead” than any freshly harvested food. The longer the shelf-life, the less chi or vital energy your food contains.
Why wild salmon? A fish swimming in the sea is the ultimate free-range living thing, and swimming in an endless ocean helps the fish cultivate a lot of chi. It becomes strong and powerful: it has a lot of energy. The cultivation of chi in our food sources is one reason why free-range chickens, cattle, and in this case fish are healthier. They have more chi: they are stronger and healthier and they therefore make us stronger and healthier. In summary, you can optimize your health and your fertility by eating salmon that is fresh, wild, red, and sustainably caught so we can continue to have salmon around for future generations to enjoy too!
Please contact me if you have additional questions about fertility, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or nutrition for pregnancy.