Men like to think of themselves as enlightened, intelligent, and capable of rational thinking. Few things will put those admirable qualities to the test as male infertility. Men tend to shrink at the subject even if they are not affected.
Male fertility can depend largely on modifiable factors such as diet, lifestyle, sexual habits, and occupational exposures. In some cases, simple changes can increase male fertility. Other causes of reduced fertility may take more extensive corrective measures to restore fertility in men. The following article discusses steps to help increase sperm count and general health and optimize your chances of increasing fertility.
Causes of Male Infertility
- Inadequate sperm production by the testes
- Poor sperm motility
- Varicocele (dilated veins in the scrotum)
- Undescended testis/testes
- Excessive xenoestrogen (environmental estrogen) exposure
- Infectious disease of the epidydimis (storage tube for sperm), testes, seminal vesicles, urethra, prostate or vas; benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement)
- Endocrine (glandular) diseases affecting the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals and the testes (e.g. low DHEA and low testosterone levels)
- Congenital abnormalities
- Urethral stricture
- Malnutrition, especially protein deficiency
Statistics say that 10 to 20 % of all men have low sperm counts, 2 to 3 % of all men are completely infertile, producing no sperm at all, and infertility affects at least 15 % of the reproductive age population, with roughly 40 % of the cases attributable to men.
1. Improve Sperm Count
The average sperm count is between 120 and 350 million per cubic centimeter. A low sperm count is below 40 million per cubic centimeter. Low sperm counts or poor sperm motility may be due to environmental toxins such as chemicals, radiation, drugs, heavy metal exposure, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol use, street drug use and pollution.
Heat can also reduce sperm production. Hot baths, sitting for long periods of time and tight-fitting underwear that constricts the testes can all elevate temperatures long enough to suppress sperm production. The anti-ulcer drugs cimetidine and ranitidine have both been reported to decrease sperm count and produce impotence.
2. Reduce Chemical Exposure
The semen of the average man today has half the sperm, and of poorer quality, than 50 years ago. This is believed to be caused by exposure to xenoestrogens (PCBs, DDT, dioxin, other pesticides, plastics and industrial pollutants) that mimic the effects of estrogen. You can prevent or minimize the impact of xenoestrogens on your health by doing the following:
- Avoid plastic containers for food storage, plastic bottles, wraps and utensils.
- Use only non-bleached coffee filters, paper, napkins and toilet tissue to reduce dioxin exposure.
- Avoid chlorinated tap water, chlorine bleach and other chlorinated products; use hydrogen peroxide as an alternative.
- Eat organic food as much as possible to avoid pesticides and herbicides.
- Avoid synthetic deodorants and cosmetics; use only organic products whenever possible.
- Avoid animal products with a high fat content that contain hormones, especially conventional milk and dairy products, chicken, beef and pork.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat lots of foods high in antioxidants (carotenes, vitamins A, C, E and selenium) such as green leafy vegetables, kale, carrots, citrus, broccoli, cauliflower and yams.
What to Eat
- Hormone-free animal products. The conventional products available in grocery stores country-wide have been found to include hormones like estrogen, leftover from the hormones given to animals to make them grow bigger, faster.
- Wild caught fish is important for the omega 3 fats, protein, and all the other good stuff fish contain. Quite often, seafood was considered food for fertility in past cultures and given to young couples. Just make sure you stick with smaller wild caught fish to lower the exposure to toxins.
- Probiotic and lacto-fermented foods are important for gut health and when the gut is healthy, it can better absorb nutrients. Look for organic yogurt (no sugar) and try real sauerkraut or other fermented veggie.
- Consume a diet high in colored vegetables, aiming for 5 different colors per day and some form of greens.
What Not to Eat
- Foods high in sugar should be avoided at all costs. Not only does sugar intake correlate with hormone imbalance, it also suppresses the immune system and robs the body of nutrients.
- Caffeine should be avoided as it is detrimental to adrenal function. Your adrenal glands are one of the areas that produce the reproductive hormones, and the constant stress of caffeine can cause it to focus on dealing with stress hormones rather than reproductive hormones.
- Alcohol should also be avoided – studies have shown that it can decrease sperm count for as much as three months after a big drinking fest.
- Processed foods – Nutrient poor, these foods make your body work harder and do little to nourish. Stay away from them at all costs!
- Soy is much debated, but when it comes to fertility, everyone I’ve come across in the natural fertility world knows that it is to be avoided like the plague. High in phyto-estrogens, it can upset the balance in a male quite easily, lowering libido as well.