Duck, Immunity, Thyroid and Unexplained Infertility
Research shows that zinc and selenium (two well-known minerals) are essential for the healthy function of your immune system (1). A healthy immune system is vital whilst trying to get pregnant, and also during and after pregnancy.
White blood cells, which are a big part of your immune system, need good levels of selenium to function efficiently (1).
Both zinc and selenium help to support the foundation of your immunity, but selenium also has significant immune stimulatory effects to more actively increase defense when it’s needed (2).
Some types of Unexplained Infertility may actually be related to a diminished immune system with poor activity of specific immune cells (3)
Zinc has a similar effect to selenium in regulating multiple aspects of the immune system, which helps your body to reduce and remove infection and inflammation (4).
Duck meat is a great source of natural zinc and selenium.
A single duck breast contains around 29% of your daily requirement of selenium, making it an easy and safe way to naturally increase this vital nutrient!
Selenium is most usable by your body when consumed in food form, as is the case with most nutrients. I therefore recommend consuming selenium rich foods, rather than supplementing with a factory made product.
Selenium is also known to support a healthy thyroid, and may help to reduce Antithyroid Antibodies in people suffering with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (5) (6).
Duck, although classed as poultry, is best regarded as a red meat with a high heme-iron content.
Heme iron, found in high quantities in animal products, is more easily absorbed compared to non-heme iron found in plants (7) (8) (9).
Duck also contains a high percentage of fat (under the skin), that provides a good nutritional source of fat in the winter months when duck is in season (typically from October to March in the Northern Hemisphere and March to October in the Southern Hemisphere).
Chinese medicine has used duck meat as a medicinal food for over 2000 years. It was first popularised in Peking in around 420–589 CE.
- Treat Qi Deficiency
- Treat Dampness and removes excess water accumulation
- Treat Blood Deficiency
- Treat Yin Deficiency
Qi is the word used in Chinese Fertility Medicine to describe energy, life force, or vitality inside and outside the body.
Qi is the non-physical aspect of your body that makes all of your organs and systems work.
This means that it’s vital for the function of all aspects of your fertility, and pregnancy health too. When your Qi is deficient your body struggles to function efficiently, and this can lead to a variety of fertility issues.
When Qi becomes more severely deficient you will likely present with hormone imbalance, typically with reduced Progesterone, Testosterone and/or FSH levels. In some cases the FSH can rise and present itself as being elevated, due to the ovaries or testes being underactive and sluggish (tired).
Dampness is the word used in Chinese Fertility Medicine to describe an overabundance of negative types of fluids that have accumulated in the body.
This includes: mucus, phlegm, or water accumulation (edema) that build up over time in different areas of the body.
A variety of fertility issues can arise from having too much Dampness including: immune disorders, fluid retention, circulatory issues, bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and other inflammatory diseases.
Reducing dampness can take some time, but the physical effects you receive will be worth it!
Blood deficiency is a Chinese Fertility Medicine term used to describe an imbalance in the quality of the blood.
The blood is responsible for circulating nutrients throughout the body to all of your cells, including egg and sperm cells.
When it is deficient the blood can’t properly nourish the body and certain aspects of health get out of balance.
This can impact egg and sperm health as the deficient blood is unable to transport necessary nutrients to the eggs and sperm – causing a depletion in their quality, quantity, and activity.
If the Blood deficiency reaches a deeper level of imbalance you will see physiological changes in the blood, such as reduced iron, hemoglobin, ferritin, B-vitamins and other nutrients. You may also see changes in the volume and quantity of the blood cells and it’s clotting ability or nature.
Yin Deficiency is a pattern of imbalance in Chinese Fertility Medicine that describes depleted fluid levels of the body.
This is not dehydration as such, but a deep and longer term type of fluid deficiency or dryness of the tissues and cells.
Reduced fluid levels in the body interfere with temperature regulation, blood and fluid circulation, and delivery of nutrients and vital substances to your cells (including egg and sperm cells), tissues, and organs.
Vitamin A: Is necessary for the growth and repair of many body cells including bones, teeth, collagen and cartilage. It’s also involved in cell differentiation where cells become specific types of cells such as a liver cell or a blood cell. This is vital for the development of your healthy baby. Supplementation does not offer balanced forms of Vitamin A.
Vitamin B1: Thiamin is involved in the production of energy through the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates. This is important for cellular health, which may also influence the health and energy of sperm and egg cells. It’s also important for energy support during pregnancy.
Vitamin B2: Research shows that Riboflavin can act as an antioxidant, which helps to combat against harmful free radicals. Free radicals are known to negatively impact sperm and egg health, and so antioxidants are a vital part of the human diet.
Vitamin B3: Niacin as with most other B vitamins is involved in energy production within the mitochondria of your cells (the powerhouse of the cell). Pregnancy requires good levels of niacin, as does breast feeding.
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic acid is involved in the production of hormones, along with cholesterol, and so is vital for maintaining fertility health.
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine is involved in breaking many types of chemical bonds and is a component of many enzymes – which are involved in breaking down foods and substances, and also regulating steroid hormones.
Vitamin B9: Folate is an important nutrient for general and fertility health. It’s involved in the creation of DNA as well as the building of proteins, and many other important functions including the healthy development of your baby’s’ spinal cord. During pregnancy folate also supports the growth of the placenta and helps to prevent several types of birth defects, especially those of the brain and spine.
Vitamin B12: Aiding in the production of DNA, RNA, and neurotransmitters, Cobalamin is a really important nutrient for developing healthy eggs and sperm – and also for your babies’ future health development.
Vitamin C: For fertility health Vitamin C is important in the process of absorption and also in its ability to support the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. This nutrient is really helpful in protecting sperm and egg cells from free radical damage, which can damage the DNA of the cell and may lead to morphology issues – in sperm and eggs.
Vitamin F: This is a group of nutrients called Essential Fatty Acids, which are important for all round health as well as your fertility as they are also involved in hormonal function and health.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is an essential nutrient necessary for responding to injuries as it regulates normal blood clotting. Vitamin K can be particularly useful if you suffer from heavy and/or painful periods as it can help slow down the blood flow and reduce cramping.
Sodium: helps with the regulation of blood pressure and volume, and fluid maintenance, to ensure you have enough fluid around your cells. This is important for the health of all cells including egg and sperm cells.
Potassium: Is an electrolyte which counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to maintain consistent blood pressure levels – another important element for pregnancy.
Phosphorus: Is an element that plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats. It is also needed for the body to make protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. It is essential in our diet and particularly in children when growth and development occurs.
Magnesium: Supports a healthy immune system as well as keeps bones strong. It is also great for stress, and combined with vitamin B6 can help induce sleep and alleviate symptoms of bloating and weight gain associated with PMS.
Manganese: is a naturally occurring mineral which aids in the formation of connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones.
Iron: Is a mineral that the body uses to carry oxygen in the blood and plays a key role in strengthening the immune system and helps regulate body temperature.
Calcium: Calcium is needed to build and maintain strong bones, support heart health, and for optimal function of the muscles and nerves. It is also required alongside Vitamin D to aid in its use throughout the body.
Copper: Copper is essential for overall health and is involved in many processes in the body. It cannot be produced by the body and must, therefore, be consumed through food. Copper helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption.
Zinc: Zinc is essential for the repair and function of DNA, which affects sperm and egg quality. It’s also essential for the rapid growth of cells and the building of major parts of cells during a pregnancy. The development and enzyme activity that takes place during pregnancy is supported by zinc, which means that this is one of the most important nutrients for babies and mothers.
Season available: Autumn, Winter and Early Spring.
How it’s typically cooked: typically fried or roasted. Unlike chicken or other white meats that are cooked through, duck meat is often served medium-rare. The bones can also be used to make a high-quality bone broth.
(1). Ferencík M, Ebringer L (2003) Modulatory effects of selenium and zinc on the immune system. Folia Microbiologica, 48: 417-426
(2). Carlson B. A., Yoo M. H., Shrimali R. K., et al. Role of selenium-containing proteins in T-cell and macrophage function. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2010;69(3):300–310. doi: 10.1017/S002966511000176X. [PubMed]
(3). Primary unexplained infertility is associated with reduced expression of the T-regulatory cell transcription factor Foxp3 in endometrial tissue.
Jasper MJ, Tremellen KP, Robertson SA Mol Hum Reprod. 2006 May; 12(5):301-8. [PubMed]
(4). Hojyo S, Fukada T (2016) Roles of Zinc Signaling in the immune system. Journal of Immunology Research, doi:10.1155/2016/6762343.
(5). Gartner R., Gasnier B. C. Selenium in the treatment of autoimmune thyroiditis. BioFactors. 2003;19(3-4):165–170. [PubMed]
(6). Nacamulli D., Mian C., Petricca D., et al. Influence of physiological dietary selenium supplementation on the natural course of autoimmune thyroiditis. Clinical Endocrinology. 2010;73(4):535–539. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2009.03758.x. [PubMed]
(7). Anderson G.J., McLaren G.D. Iron Physiology and Pathophysiology in Humans. Humana Press/Springer; New York, NY, USA: 2012.
(8). Mann J., Truswell S. Essentials of Human Nutrition. 4th ed. Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK: 2012.
(9). Hallberg L. Nutritional Adequacy, Nutrient Availability and Needs. Springer; New York, NY, USA: 1983. Iron requirements and bioavailability of dietary iron; pp. 223–244.
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