Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc
More than three million visits each year to North American physicians are because of infertility. Couples want to have a baby, but are seemingly unable to conceive.
More than three million visits each year to North American physicians are because of infertility. Couples want to have a baby, but are seemingly unable to conceive. In fact, about 15 percent of all couples have trouble conceiving and the numbers are increasing. Failure to conceive can be devastating for a couple and cause strain on a relationship, which negatively impacts fertility as well.
Infertility is defined as the absence of conception after one year of regular intercourse without the use of any contraceptive. Contrary to popular belief, women are not always the cause of the problem. Men are responsible at least 40 percent of the time. There are many ways men can naturally boost their fertility. Before attempting any of them, however, it is important to rule out any underlying treatable medical conditions.
Low sperm counts or poor sperm motility may be due to environmental toxins such as chemicals, radiation, drugs, heavy metal exposure, cigarette smoking, street drug use and pollution. Stress, poor diet and lifestyle habits also contribute.
Drugs for the treatment of ulcers, cimetidine and ranitidine, have both been reported to decrease sperm count and produce impotence as one of their side-effects. The average sperm count is between 120 million to 350 million per cubic centimetre. A low sperm count is one below 40 million per cubic centimetre.
Marijuana, cocaine and heavy cigarette smoking all decrease sexual capabilities by damaging the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. Coffee and other caffeinated products (soft drinks, chocolate, analgesics) decrease sperm production. Elimination of caffeine raises sperm count. Since cigarette smoking destroys many vitamins and minerals, it's important that any infertile couple do their best to quit this negative health habit.
Optimal weight and healthy diet should not be overlooked in the male partner of an infertile couple. Just because it's the woman who actually gets pregnant, it doesn't mean the man's diet, or more accurately the results of his diet, doesn't affect the process. Food deprivation in men leads to a loss of sex drive and structural changes to reproductive tissue, leading to infertility. Obesity, on the other hand, can be associated with a low sperm count and impotence. Folds of fat may raise the temperature of the testicles, lower testosterone levels and elevate female hormone levels.
Everyone can enhance fertility through a healthier diet. This means getting plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It also means avoiding refined carbohydrates, coffee, tea, alcohol and foods with artificial additives. Male fertility can further be enhanced by eating more oatmeal, dates, kelp, dulse and other seaweeds, black beans, kidney beans, yams, peanuts, walnuts, wheat germ and brewer's yeast. Beneficial juices include celery, oatstraw, carrot and spinach.
Reports from around the world support the use of supplemental nutrients to enhance fertility in both sexes. In men, the most important supplemental nutrients to enhance fertility are vitamin C, zinc and L-arginine. Vitamin C helps prevent sperm from clumping or sticking together, thus improving the chances for fertility. Safe and effective dosages are between 2,000 mg and 6,000 mg daily.
Zinc supplementation has been shown to increase both the sperm count and sperm motility. Effective dosages are between 100 mg to 200 mg daily. Low sperm counts and poor motility are also helped by supplemented L-arginine (4,000 mg daily). Arginine is found in high amounts in the head of the sperm.
Other nutrients that have been shown to improve sperm counts include essential fatty acids, chromium, selenium, copper, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 (200 mg daily) and B-complex vitamins. Side-effects of any of these supplements are negligible in comparison to the damage done by fertility-enhancing drugs and hormones. Since sperm formation takes almost three months, it will take at least this amount of time before seeing the benefits of a nutrient supplementation program.
There is a long list of herbs known to enhance fertility. For men, recommended herbs are Avena sativa, false unicorn root, pumpkin seed, Siberian and panax ginseng, damiana and sarsaparilla. Many herbal companies market formulations containing three or more of these herbs in tincture or capsule form. Check with the natural health section of the grocery store, local health food store or with an herbalist. Nutritional assessment and treatment of vitamin and mineral imbalances by a qualified health-care practitioner are also recommended.
Sex Survey Results
Canadians across the country find poor sexual performance the most difficult topic to discuss, both with partners and doctors, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Canadian Male Sexual Health Council. More than 3,000 telephone interviews on sexual health were conducted with Canadians 18 years of age or older, at least 300 in each region of Canada. The survey also found that more than one in four males has experienced anxiety about being able to perform sexually. That figure jumps to 40 per cent in males over the age of 45.