Guide to Male Fertility
Fertility and infertility are often thought of as issues that only women are concerned with. However, when a couple begins trying to conceive and it’s taking longer to get pregnant than expected, there are holistic approaches for both women and men that can make a difference. Below is a guide for men on increasing their fertility through both sperm count and sperm quality, increasing the chances of a couple getting pregnant naturally.
It takes 100 days for sperm to mature - yes, 100! That means any diet and lifestyles changes that are implemented now will take 100 days to affect the outcome of sperm. Keep this in mind while preparing the body - it’s a long game approach. In addition, when trying to conceive, having sex once every 48 hours is recommended as this will allow for an adequate amount of sperm to build up (sperm count) to give the best chance at success. If having sex more frequently, it is likely that the sperm count will be lower and the chances may not be as great. Incorporating one or more of the suggestions below will help to both increase sperm count and improve sperm quality.
Stress can interfere with the hormones needed to produce healthy sperm in a desirable amount. Try incorporating a relaxing activity every day. Some examples are: taking a walk outside, singing, getting a massage, meditating, and doing yoga.
Get Regular Exercise and/or Movement:
Regularly moving your body will improve circulation, which can significantly improve sperm quality and count. Choose a form of exercise you enjoy and do it regularly. Moderate exercise is preferred over intense workouts, which often generate excessive body heat and can decrease sperm count and viability.
Check Scrotal Temperature:
As 34.4 - 36.7°C (94-96°F) is a normal temperature for the scrotum, anything above that range will impede sperm production. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing and participating in exercise that causes excessive heat build-up. Excess heat can also come from hot tubs, saunas, and laptops placed directly on the lap. To lower scrotal temperature if it’s too high, you can also try ice packs or cold showers to the testicles, and making sure to allow the testicles to air dry after exercising.
Things to Avoid
Caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, exposure to any suspected drug, and industrial chemicals. These toxins can affect sperm count, strength, motility, and mobility.
Long-term use (14+ consecutive days) of common painkillers, such as ibuprofen, interferes with testosterone production and therefore both sperm count and quality.
Medications for ulcers may also decrease your ability to conceive.
Hydration is critical to the normal function of all body processes. Sperm is carried by a liquid called seminal fluid. When someone is dehydrated, the liquid will be too thick, which decreases sperm motility. Aim to drink at least 2-3L of filtered water or herbal tea daily.
A balanced diet is important to ensure the body has all the nutrients needed to make healthy and adequate sperm. The best way to achieve this is by eating a varied, colorful, whole foods diet. Consider taking a men’s multivitamin for extra support, especially if your lifestyle hasn’t been health supportive.
Antioxidants are important to decrease free radical levels. Free radicals damage the membrane of the sperm, affecting motility. Antioxidants are found in both the seminal plasma and in the head of the sperm. Try incorporating foods high in antioxidants such as berries, beans, Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples, pecans, and sweet cherries.
Things to Avoid
Saturated fats reduce sperm volume and motility.
Excessive sugar and refined carbohydrate intake can result in infertility, as they can cause a disruption in the brain and hormone function. Insulin spikes affect neuron production in the brain, and when we have sugar spikes or high insulin levels our bodies go through oxidative stress, meaning they’re less able to fight against cell damage.
Cottonseed oil is known to contain toxic residues due to heavy spraying of pesticides. It is also naturally high in gossypol which is known to inhibit sperm function.
Processed vegetable oils can be damaging to the body as they are easily oxidized. These oils contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, an excess of which can cause a pro-inflammatory response in the body. Vegetable oils also contain trans fats, which are a byproduct of turning any oil heat stable. They chemically damage fat cells, and we use these fat cells to build cell membranes throughout the body, including sperm. When sperm are built with these damaged fat cells, they do not function as well as healthy sperm.
There are several lovely male fertility blends on the market - try these herbs individually or find a blend that looks good to you!
Maca helps with hormonal balance, supports hypothalamus and pituitary communication (for the proper production of hormones which regulate making sperm), and increases libido and energy. Try adding 1 tsp to a smoothie or taking in capsule form daily.
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase testosterone levels and improve sperm quality. It also supports a healthy stress response. Try taking in tincture form 1-3x per day.
Tribulus increases sperm health by improving its motility, morphology, and count. It also increases erectile health and circulation. Try in capsule form and follow the dosage on the bottle.
American Ginseng is an adaptogenic herb. It helps support the nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system. This herb supports hormonal balance, increases sex drive, and increases energy. Try taking it as a tea.
Saw Palmetto is known as the ultimate herb for the male reproductive system. It contains phytochemicals such as beta-carotene. Best known for its ability in reducing prostate enlargement, it has also been used to enhance sexual function and sexual desire. Try in tincture or capsule form and follow the dosage on the bottle.
Vitamin C helps protects sperm from free radical damage, increasing sperm count and motility. Good sources of vitamin C are red peppers, oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. Supplement with 90 mg/day (portion out throughout the day as vitamin C is lost within 4 hours of consumption).
Vitamin E is important in protecting the sperm membranes against free radical damage, which can affect both sperm quality and quantity. Foods high in vitamin E include almonds, spinach, avocado, and sunflower seeds. Supplement with 15 mg/day.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are used to make prostaglandin, which has hormone-like properties. EFAs maintain sperm cell membrane integrity, sperm formation, and sperm motility. The best food sources include oily fish and fresh unsalted seeds and nuts. Supplement with 1.6 g/day.
Selenium plays a role in testosterone synthesis, sperm maturity, and sperm motility. The best food sources are nuts (especially Brazil nuts), seeds, and eggs. Supplement with 50 mcg/day.
Zinc is found in high concentration in the prostate, testes, and sperm. It is needed to create the outer layer and tail of sperm and it helps protect sperm from free radical damage. Supplement with 20 mg/day. It is important to take zinc with vitamin B6 or b6-rich foods for maximum absorption. Food sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, oysters, lamb, nuts, egg yolk, rye, and oats. Vitamin B6 food sources include cauliflower, watercress, bananas, and broccoli.
Try taking a multi if your blood work has been off, your immunity has been low, or your health hasn’t been great for a while.
For more individualized advice, contact a holistic practitioner for support.