How Wild Alaskan Salmon Rocked My Locks (and Changed My Life)
A Harvard-trained Alaskan gynecologist’s discovery of wild salmon’s beauty benefits
A Harvard-trained Alaskan gynecologist’s discovery of wild salmon’s beauty benefits
We're excited to present the first in a series of engaging, enlightening essays from Sara Gottfried, M.D. … the Harvard-trained holistic gynecologist behind The Hormone Cure.
(The book can be pre-ordered now and releases on Tuesday, March 12.)
As Dr. Gottfried says, “I wrote The Hormone Cure because I believe that proactively managing and optimizing health is a path to personal power.”
“I believe there's a reason women have lost their mojo, and that reason is probably hormonal. I believe we can – and should – do something about it because I believe in women living life fully!”
For more about her and the book, see About Sara Gottfried, M.D., below her essay.
"How Wild Alaskan Salmon Rocked My Locks (and Changed My Life)"
It's August, 1989. Something weird and wonderful is happening en route to Harvard Medical School.
My hair is astonishingly full, thick and shiny even though I haven't used “product” on it for the entire summer. My nails are curiously strong.
My skin? Radiant, and it's not just from the young love I feel for my latest boyfriend, whom I met in the Alaskan “bush.”
(As you probably know, “the bush” is how Alaskans describe the vast regions unconnected to the U.S. road network or ferry system ... which happens to be the majority of land).
I spent the previous summer in Bethel, Alaska, working on a research project for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
That summer, I counted salmon for a living, as a way to regulate with SONAR technology the salmon hatcheries upstream from Bethel in the Kuskokwim River.
We counted salmon twice per day by sweeping the river with a net, and compared that to data collected with SONAR. I was saving my money for medical school, because I didn't come from a family of means.
And because I was frugal and we had fresh, wild Alaskan salmon that we caught twice a day, I ate large quantities for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Poor me, right?
From salmon to Harvard
On the West Coast, the Seattle grunge scene was wildly popular, particularly the bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and the music made its way to the far reaches of Alaska.
Even out in the Bush, we listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” while running boats and dragging nets, waving to Native Alaskans as they subsistence fished the same waters.
I was 22-years-old and, let's be honest—a total geek. Flying from Anchorage to Boston, I glanced at Mount Rainier at the pilot's suggestion.
It was a rare clear day in Seattle and the view of the mountain took my breath away. Granted, I may also have been breathless because I was en route to Harvard, and embarking on my career towards being a doctor, a mother, a yoga teacher, and so much more.
As I arrived at Logan Airport and took a deep breath, my mind replayed the familiar phrase coined by Alaskans about Tony Knowles, mayor of Anchorage from 1981 to 1987: “He went to Harvard, but he overcame it.” Turns out that Tony went to Yale, but you get my point.
I wanted that top-notch education, but I also wanted to stay the girl who could drag nets and sing along with a grunge song.
She's overboard and self-assured
Oh, no, I know a dirty word
- Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit
My mom and I drove up in a taxi to Harvard Medical School in Boston and parked outside the famous Med School dorm, called “Vanderbilt.”
In and around Vanderbilt Hall was a frenzy of activity: 175 earnest-looking twenty-somethings rushed around unpacking boxes, grabbing suitcases, throwing out quick introductions, and displaying a clear but unspoken sense of fear and anxiety that asked: “What have I gotten myself into?”
But I didn't feel their anxiety or nerves; rather, I felt remarkably calm and collected. As I stated before: weird. Could it be that the massive intake of wild Alaskan salmon had changed my biology?
Nothin' really bothers her
She just wants to love herself
- Nirvana, You Know You're Right
“We did Omega 3s before they were cool.”
Native Alaskans have known the health benefits of salmon for centuries. In the summer, they live off salmon and blueberries, and in the winter, dried salmon and moose meat.
After just a few months following this food plan, I could see the amazing benefits of omega-3s for my mental and physical health.
It took us centuries to realize what Natives knew all along: wild Alaskan salmon and its magical amounts of healthy omega-3s up-levels your biology, especially your neuro-hormonal dashboard.
This became the basis of how I approach health: give your body the fuel and nutrients needed to function at the highest possible level.
Your health isn't just determined by your DNA – it's also how you manage that DNA, which is the realm of epigenetics.
Body, heal thyself
Fast forward to 2013, and Kurt Cobain has been gone for almost 20 years. Courtney Love, his widow, is still getting into trouble.
Meanwhile, I am still raving about the lessons I learned that summer in the Alaskan Bush.
Not surprisingly, we now know that fish oil or omega-3s do many lovely things to the body, whether you're a man or woman.
In one study, men and women who took 4,000 mg (4 grams) of fish oil a day for six weeks lowered morning cortisol levels to healthier levels and increased lean body mass.
This study confirmed previous findings in men showing that fish oil lowered cortisol levels that were increased by mental stress.
Here is a recap of other benefits that omega-3s offer:
- Lower levels of cortisol, which I call the “bad boyfriend” hormone – also known as the main stress hormone (Noreen, 2010)
- Raise lean body mass, a key marker of longevity (Noreen, 2010)
- Link to longer telomeres, the best marker of biological versus chronological aging
- Reverse Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), the most common endocrine problem facing U.S. women
- Raise testosterone levels in men (Meldrum, 2011).
- Lower stress response in men (Delarue, 2003)
A pill-free approach to optimal health
If something as simple as a plate of wild Alaskan salmon or a daily fish oil supplement can have all these positive effects, can you imagine how positively vital you'll feel once all your hormones are balanced?
The good news is that I've got more (oh, so many more) wonderful pieces of advice for men and women on how to balance their hormones.
It's possible to become that person you want to be. You know, the one who… looks younger than they really are appears to be, bounces out of bed in the morning, eager to take on the day after a restorative night of sleep, enjoys a satisfying sex life, and fits into their skinny jeans .
I'll be sharing more natural remedies, together with Vital Choice, and easy lifestyle tweaks that give you energy, reverse the aging process, and turn your body into a balanced, beautiful machine over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, rock your locks with your fork and get wild Alaskan salmon on your team.
The Hormone Cure – which releases on Tuesday, March 12 – describes this Harvard physician's scientifically sound plan to improve women's physical and mental health by optimizing their hormones in their 30s, 40s, and beyond.
Dr. Gottfried says that feeling cranky, asexual, tapped out, and sleep-deprived is not a normal part of aging, and that prescription medication will not fix all problems.
In The Hormone Cure, she combines natural therapies with rigorous scientific testing to help women feel fully alive, especially in the years prior to menopause … a novel plan that tailors advice to a woman's personal profile.
Dr. Gottfried's three-step strategy for individual readers is based in part on their answers to an in-depth questionnaire and – depending on a woman's answers – employs combinations of herbs, supplements, lifestyle changes, and bio-identical hormones.
Engaging, easy to grasp, and wonderfully illuminating, The Hormone Cure shows how balancing hormones can cure underlying health issues, alleviate symptoms, and give women a life of increased energy, sensuality, and resilience.
“A magnificent book! Every woman needs to read it, and every doctor.”
- Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of The Female Brain
“Gottfried is a rare breed of physician who can discuss progesterone replacement and the power of chanting in the same paragraph—and with equal authority. Her engaging and well-researched book, The Hormone Cure, offers women an excellent resource for the sometimes wild ride from peri to menopause.”
- Dr. Daphne Miller, M.D., author of The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World—Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home
“Occasionally a health-related book comes along that is perfect for its time—the right topic, the right information, from the right authority. Dr. Gottfried's book is a definitive integration of safe and effective approaches to the management of issues of the brain, breast, bones, and heart that come with the onset of menopause. This is a book of our time that will help women navigate successfully through the challenging neuro-hormonal changes that come with menopause.”
- Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., founder of the Institute of Functional Medicine
Delarue J, Matzinger O, Binnert C, Schneiter P, Chioléro R, Tappy L. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes and Metabolism 29 (3) (2003): 289-95.
Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Martha A. Belury, Rebecca Andridge, William B. Malarkey, Beom Seuk Hwang, Ronald Glaser. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation in healthy middle-aged and older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2012; 26 (6): 988 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.05.011
Meldrum DR, Gambone JC, Morris MA, Esposito K, Giugliano D, Ignarro LJ. Lifestyle and metabolic approaches to maximizing erectile and vascular health. Int J Impot Res. 2012 Mar-Apr;24(2):61-8. doi: 10.1038/ijir.2011.51. Epub 2011 Nov 10. Review.
Noreen EE, Sass MJ, Crowe ML, Pabon VA, Brandauer J, Averill LK. Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7 (31) (2010).