5 ways to support male fertility
Emily Kielbiski, BASc, RHN
One in six Canadian couples experiences infertility. If you’ve got fatherhood in mind, read ahead for expert suggestions that might help improve your chances of healthy conception.
Starting a family seems like the most natural thing in the world. But, for many wannabe families, the next step—actual conception—can be filled with disappointment and stress when conception eludes them.
One in six Canadian couples experiences infertility. About half of the time, the cause is a mix of factors from both the male and female, but in 30 percent of the cases, the cause can be traced to the man.
Here are five tips to support men’s reproductive systems during this dynamic time of life. For best results, Ottawa naturopath Dr. Jola Sikorski suggests making the following changes two to three months prior to trying to conceive.
In more than 90 percent of the cases, male infertility is caused by low sperm counts and/or poor sperm quality. Low sperm count is considered fewer than 20 million sperm per millilitre, while “good quality” sperm refers to motility, shape, and structure. In other words, are your swimmers getting where they need to go?
In combination with a healthy diet, supplements can provide extra support for sperm health. Research has shown that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help improve the quality of semen in infertile men. In a recent study of infertile men, supplementation with 200 mcg of selenium plus 400 IU vitamin E was found to bring about an improvement in the chance of pregnancy.
“When supplements can’t be combined with someone’s medication, a series of acupuncture visits using traditional Chinese medicine can be helpful for some men,” suggests Sikorski.
A man’s daily dose of selenium can be achieved by eating just one or two Brazil nuts per day!
Encouraging proper blood flow throughout the male reproductive system can help treat erectile dysfunction, a common contributor to male infertility.
The amino acid arginine, found in fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes, can help strengthen blood flow. Flavonoid-rich foods such as blueberries, cherries, and radishes are also associated with reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction.
One in four men with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is younger than 40.
“One of the most effective ways to boost male fertility is by eating a variety of vegetables and fruits daily,” says naturopath Dr. Priya Prakash, whose practice focuses on fertility. The variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals can protect reproductive cells from damage and improve sperm health. Healthy fats are also important for hormone balance, so include salmon, walnuts, or chia seeds in your diet weekly.
As for beverages, excessive caffeine intake (more than three cups of coffee a day) may negatively affect reproductive function. If you need your fix, try alternatives with lower caffeine and enhanced antioxidant protection, such as rooibos, kombucha, or green tea.
Create a super smoothie incorporating each of the five colour categories, as recommended by Dr. Priya Prakash.
|blue/purple||blueberries, blackberries, açai powder|
Recently, a combination of oxidative stressors has been proposed as one of the main causes of male infertility. Environmental pollution, pesticides, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can damage sperm DNA and decrease chances of conception. Increased visceral adipose tissue (fat around your midsection) is also associated with lower sperm count, so adopting a healthy lifestyle with daily movement and weight management is ideal.
Better quality sperm is associated with nonsmokers. Smoking can decrease vitamin C levels, thereby reducing sperm’s ability to recover from damage. Speak to your health care practitioner about options to quit smoking.
Testosterone is the major hormone involved with sexual drive and male reproduction, so care must be taken to keep levels balanced. “Abdominal fat makes an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into a form of estrogen,” says Sikorski. As this ratio of testosterone to estrogen becomes imbalanced, the risk of infertility increases.
Since the liver plays an important role in aiding proper testosterone conversion, include liver-friendly foods in your diet such as broccoli, asparagus, and almonds. Choosing pesticide-free foods and avoiding contaminants such as bisphenol A (BPA) found in hard plastics or phthalates in body care products will also limit the number of hormone disruptors in your daily routine.
“Three herbs I consider a ‘must’ for most males when it comes to increasing sperm quality are Panax ginseng, ashwagandha, and maca root,” says Dr. Priya Prakash. “All three of these herbs have shown benefit in increasing sperm count and motility.”
She recommends taking these herbs for at least three months or longer to notice an effect, but also adds that talking to your health care practitioner before starting new herbal strategies is a good first step.
Yes, overheating of the testicles from laptop placement and extended hot tub use can temporarily lower sperm count. The good news is that levels can normalize after absence from the heat source.
According to a recent study, thankfully, your underwear choice makes no significant difference in reproductive health.
Carrying your phone in your pocket can send electromagnetic radiation to your genital area, damaging your chances of becoming a father. “I suggest men start carrying their cellphones in their bags and make a conscious effort during the day to keep the phone as far away as possible,” says Dr. Priya Prakash.