Very little is said about men’s fertility and the not surprising answer is that to conceive a healthy baby, both men and women contribute equally.
A recent study, A unique view on male infertility around the globe reported that in North America and Europe about 20-30% of infertility is solely for malefactor. Also, in 50% of the total infertility cases, malefactor is one of the multiple issues involved. Infertility isn’t minor and today about 48.5 million couples worldwide are struggling to conceive.
When it comes to fertility, we tend to focus on women, but both men and women should implement changes to improve their chances of pregnancy and most importantly, to improve the health of their child. The period right before pregnancy is critical because it’s when your child’s DNA is being set up for success or where many future health issues could take root.
Infertility in men manifests as lower testosterone, which indicates that other hormones like insulin are also out of control. Among the consequences are bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.
Many of these hormone imbalances are caused by diets heavy in sugar and refined carbohydrates which increase insulin levels to create organ fat and belly fat, which drive infertility (2).
Insulin, your fat-storage hormone, also increases inflammation and oxidative stress, as wells as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides, poor sex drive, infertility, thickening of the blood, and increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression.
Additionally, sperm production can be affected by marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, antimalarial drugs, steroids, and ulcer medications. Being underweight can also suppress healthy sperm production.
Dr. Walter Willett from Harvard University wrote about how infertility is caused by pre-diabetes. Researchers here studied fertility in 19,000 women from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study. They found that a majority of infertility might be treated effectively through diet, lifestyle, and supplements (3).
How to Test Male Fertility
Semen analysis determines the quantity and quality of sperm. An optimal count is above 20 million and the total of sperm should be about 250 to 300 million. In addition, morphology and motility are crucial factors. However, these percentages vary considerably and it’s best to discuss it with your doctor.
If sperm count – motility and morphology aren’t right what can you do?
Start by changing your diet and lifestyle and test again. Scores will improve after removing underlying causes damaging the sperm and providing the necessary nutrients and antioxidants, but it takes 2-3 months for healthy sperm to turnover.
Improve your diet:
You should avoid grains, processed foods, sugars, vegetable oils, and gluten. Focus on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables, some fruits, and starchy sources like potatoes, plantains, yuca, and squash. Aim to consume healthy fats available in cold-water fish, coconuts, coconut oil, olives and olive oil, butter, grass-fed meats, eggs, avocado, and nuts. (4)
A good place to start is the ‘Paleo Diet’. A great read to understand more about this is Your Personal Paleo Code.
You can also consider some supplements. One study found that nutrients like L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 could increase male fertility. Other good nutrients to reduce infertility include vitamin D, fish oil, and B vitamins.
If men or women are vegan or vegetarian, supplementing is critical and should be done with adequate testing and a practitioner’s supervision for optimum implementation.
Some lifestyle changes:
Sperm are extremely sensitive to heat, so men should avoid tight clothes, saunas, hot tubs, biking (which can cause direct trauma along with heat), laptops directly on the lap, and phones in the front pocket. Even sitting for long periods with legs together could create a problem.
Sperm are also sensitive to toxins. Switch to paraben-free, clean soaps, detergents, hair products, and deodorant and skip any colognes or other chemical scents which disrupt hormones.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. When you overstimulate this hormone, many other reactions inside your body start occurring to put cortisol under control. The bad news is that reproductive hormones take the hit and recent studies have shown that stress could be preventing many couples from natural conception. (5)
Try introducing meditation, yoga, or simply do more things that bring joy into your life. If you’re not sleeping and resting enough you should pay attention as sleep has a crucial role in cell repair and stress management.
If your sperm count continues to be low after three or four months of implementing these changes, find a functional medicine practitioner who could assist you in finding the root cause of your infertility.