Fertility & Food, What Men Need to KnowNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
When couples are having difficulty conceiving – which is a growing problem around the world – most people assume the woman has the fertility problem. In reality, at least 40 percent of the time, the challenge to conceiving is directly related to the man.
There are a variety of causes of low male fertility, most of which have to do with the quantity (20 percent of men have low sperm counts) and/or the quality of his sperm as well as how effective they are at fertilizing the egg.
If you and your partner have visited a doctor to try and uncover the reasons why you can’t conceive, and tests indicate that it’s low male fertility, don’t despair. Your doctor will most likely recommend lifestyle changes before resorting to pharmacological and surgical interventions.
The reasoning behind this is simple.
- First, traditional medical interventions may carry significant health risks, and they also are not guaranteed to correct any fertility problems.
- Second, lifestyle changes have been shown to be very effective at increasing the quantity and quality of sperm, so they should be your first option. Of course, work with your doctor to determine what is best for you.
Nutritional Solutions to Low Male Fertility.
One recent report outlined a study which showed that eating two ounces (60 grams) of nuts a day may significantly improve the quality of sperm and how well reproductive cells function. The type of nuts didn’t seem to really matter, since participants in the relevant study had their choice of walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. They also had the option of foregoing nuts all together.
After 14 weeks, the results were pretty impressive. The men who ate nuts had a 16 percent spike in their sperm count as well as improvements in the overall health of their reproductive cells. These improvements could help with male fertility and were likely due to lower levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, which can cause infertility. The results were attributed to the fact that nuts contain high levels of omega-3, folate and antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin C and E and zinc. The research is set to be published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Before you run out and stockpile nuts in the bedroom, you need to know that they are not the only food shown to help increase male fertility. In fact, there is a wide variety of healthy foods that you can choose from to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to produce more – and healthier – sperm. Filling your diet with fresh foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables, that you prepare at home are your best bet for two reasons.
The first is that the nutrients found in fresh foods are usually more readily absorbed and used by your body. The second is that preparing your own food means you are in control of what you are eating.
So, what are these foods and what benefits do they have for your reproductive health and fertility? They include:
- Garlic: This common vegetable (yes, it is most appropriately categorized as a veggie) improves blood flow to your sexual organs, protects sperm from damage and boosts sperm and semen volume. It also may improve sperm mobility, according to the NIH.
- Oysters: These are a great source of zinc, which has been shown to improve sperm production as well as improve testosterone levels.
- Eggs: Their high levels of protein and vitamin E are believed to help your testes produce healthier and stronger sperm, two traits which are important for successful fertilization.
- Dark Chocolate: Has a lot of antioxidants as well as the amino acid L-Arginine, which can increase semen volume. Enjoy in moderation since gaining weight could reduce your sperm count.
- Bananas: Have a lot of vitamin C, A and B1 which may help your body produce sperm. They also can help increase overall stamina and, in theory, increase your libido.
- Broccoli: This popular green vegetable is packed with vitamin A which helps ensure that your sperm aren’t sluggish, which is a common cause of low fertility. If broccoli just isn’t your thing, consider red peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Spinach: Folic acid is plentiful in spinach and other leafy green vegetables, and low levels of folic acid can result in abnormal sperm shapes, such as having two heads or two tails, that can make conception problematic. Low folic acid has also been linked to an increased risk of genetic abnormalities in sperm.
- Water: In addition to its other health benefits, staying hydrated helps create good seminal fluid which helps sperm swim toward the egg while keeping them nourished during their journey.
What Else You Can do to be Proactive.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Studies continue to show that being overweight or obese impacts the quantity and quality of sperm. Specifically, in one study, sperm from obese men had lower semen volume and sperm count. The obese group also had slower sperm motility and problems with the size and shape of the sperm. So, if you and your partner are having trouble starting or expanding your family, get on the scale!
- Quit Smoking: Of course, smoking is bad for so many reasons, particularly lung cancer. Tobacco from smoking may also damage the DNA in sperm, lower sperm count and make sperm less mobile.
- Reduce Chemical Exposure: Many chemicals such as PCBs, dioxin, plastics and pesticides contain xenoestrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen, which can impact fertility.
- Exercise Regularly: According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, exercising five times a week for at least 45 minutes enhances sperm quality and count by keeping body weight at normal levels. It also helps reduce stress, another factor in low male fertility.
- Get Enough Sleep and Reduce Stress: Doing so can help increase sperm count.
- Stay Away from Foods that Negatively Affect Sperm: These foods include fried foods, processed meats, soda, caffeine and alcohol.
Men should also consider having their nutrient levels tested to make sure their body is getting enough of them, and in the right amounts, to promote fertility. Testing provides the opportunity to work with a competent healthcare provider to address imbalances.
Lastly, keep in mind that making appropriate lifestyle changes to boost sperm quantity and quality may not produce immediate results, so it may take a little while before changes are noticeable.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.