SUPPORTING FERTILITY FOR MEN
So, You’re ready to become a dad.
You’ve had conversations with your partner about children, and you’re finally ready to begin trying to conceive. But with all the talk of infertility and pregnancy struggles, you wonder if there’s anything you can do to contribute to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Men’s fertility is declining year over year
Infertility has always been thought to be a female concern, but studies have shown that men are responsible for about a third of infertility cases.1 A recently published study cited just how much male fertility is in decline. Between 1973 and 2011, sperm counts have declined between 50-60%!2 This statistic is particularly concerning, because no one knows exactly why. Hypotheses have been made regarding diet, environmental toxins and lifestyle factors, but the truth is no one knows for sure.
Healthy sperm count and sperm quality is essential to achieve pregnancy, so these statistics are important to keep in mind. Let’s explore some of the ways we can boost sperm health and improve your fertility.
Supporting men’s fertility
Male fertility is primarily focused on maintaining healthy testosterone levels and optimizing sperm health. This includes sperm motility (swimming ability), sperm morphology (shape), sperm count and semen volume. To optimize sperm health, men need to support their bodies and minds with a positive and healthy lifestyle. The goal is to eat nourishing foods, keep inflammation low, support testosterone levels, reduce exposure to toxins, and engage in regular, healthy physical activity.
Focus on your health before you start trying!
Sperm takes almost 3 months to fully develop3 – similar to women, whose eggs take 3 months to completely mature. This means that what you do today, can affect your fertility 3 months down the road. If you and your partner have been talking about children, start considering how you can boost your sperm health before you begin the journey of trying to conceive.
The impact of proper nutrition
We all know that eating a diet filled with processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats will negatively affect our health, but it can also affect your sperm quality. When eating for optimal sperm health, you’re also eating for overall health.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are a great way to get vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your body. Varying your fruits and vegetables is the best way to consume different antioxidants, like vitamin C and phytonutrients, which will help to neutralize free radicals that can cause inflammation. Some great foods include tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, oranges, berries and kale.
- Eat lots of leafy greens to support your liver’s detoxification processes and provide a good source of folate. Folate has been linked to improved sperm health4, so enjoy plenty of spinach, kale, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and more!
- Consume whole grains, like oats, brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat. These foods are filled with fibre for digestive health, along with vitamins, like B-complex vitamins, and minerals, like zinc, which support fertility 5,6.
- Healthy sources of protein are key to support overall health as well as sperm health. Lean proteins like chicken and turkey contain an amino acid called D-aspartic acid, which can help regulate testosterone levels.7 Other great protein sources include wild caught fish, lentils, beans and chickpeas. Reduce your intake of soy, as a recent study has shown that soy may be related to low sperm count.8
- Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, like omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which have been shown to support sperm health. A 2018 study showed that a diet high in walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts increased sperm quality, including count, shape and speed.9 Avoid inflammatory trans fats and hydrogenated fats, often found in prepared foods.
Eliminating alcohol may not be easy, but it’s recommended to reduce your alcohol intake to support healthy sperm. Even just 5 drinks a week may reduce sperm quality and reduce testosterone levels.10 Similarly, caffeine may damage sperm DNA, so be mindful of the amount of caffeine that you consume – including coffee, caffeinated teas, soft drinks and even chocolate.11
Supplementation for sperm health
Taking a well-rounded, good quality multivitamin is a great way to ensure your body gets the vitamins and minerals that it needs to create healthy sperm. Pranin Organic PureFood A-Z multivitamin is a great option, as it’s made from 100% organic whole foods. Without any synthetic ingredients or preservatives, the absorption rate is higher than your typical synthetic supplement. Look for a multivitamin that includes antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E as well as minerals like zinc. These are involved in regulating sperm count, improving sperm quality and reducing inflammation in the body.
In addition to a multivitamin, consider taking a B-complex supplement and vitamin C. Pranin Organic makes great whole-food supplements for these as well. A healthy dose of daily B-vitamins is important for supporting sperm health, since low folate levels have been implemented in poor sperm counts, and vitamin B12 has been shown to improve sperm motility, increase sperm count and reduce DNA damage in the sperm.
Other possible supplements that might support sperm health include Coenzyme Q10, Ashwagandha, and Omega 3’s. Coenzyme Q10 may increase semen quality12, while omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) may increase sperm count, motility and morphology. You can get omega 3’s from fish oils, or vegan supplements derived from algae. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb often used to manage stress, may also increase testosterone levels and improve semen quality.13 Always be sure to speak to your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.
Stick to a regular exercise routine
A healthy level of physical activity and movement can help to support testosterone, while reducing inflammation and managing stress. Remember – stress is inflammatory, and inflammation may impact sperm quality. Plus, you get to reap all of the other benefits of exercise, including a healthy cardiovascular system, nervous system, improved mood and more. Just don’t overdo it – too much exercise can be inflammatory, and intense physical activity has been linked to decreased semen quality.
Reduce exposure to toxins in the environment
Toxins can cause free radical damage and inflammation in our body. Free radicals can damage cellular health and potentially affect sperm cells. Some of the ways you can reduce toxins in your environment include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding BPA and other plastics, and transitioning to natural healthcare products. What we use on our body (think shampoo, deodorant, body wash, etc.) is being absorbed by our skin and circulates inside of us. The more chemicals you expose yourself to, the higher the toxic burden on your body.
Whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, stress has the ability to trigger inflammation and impact testosterone levels. Chronic and long-term stress can lead to inflammation in the body due to high levels of cortisol. High cortisol is also associated with low amounts of testosterone. Normal testosterone levels are essential for healthy sperm production, so managing stress is important to keep your overall health and sperm health in top shape. Regular exercise, meditation, yoga and regular self-care are great options to manage stress and maintain good reproductive health.
It’s pretty clear that men’s health is just as important as women’s health when it comes to fertility and conception. Men can optimize their sperm quality by living a healthy and active lifestyle, while also managing stress, reducing their exposure to toxins and being mindful of their environment.
KELLY MAIA AGNEW, CNP, ROHP, RNCP
is a holistic nutritionist with a passion for women’s health and wellness. Upon receiving her Honours Bachelor of Commerce, with a specialization in marketing, she began her corporate career in buying for a multi-billion dollar corporation. After neglecting her health and quickly burning out, she decided to make a career change. She graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in 2017 with first class honours – all while working as a marketing associate for a national crown corporation. Learn more about Kelly by visiting her website.
3- Book: Making Babies. Sami S. David, MD and Jill Blakeway, LAc. page 22.