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When a man ejaculates, he produces 100 million sperm cells, while a woman releases only one egg per month. Yet, a third of fertility issues come from men. How does Nature turn probability on its head?
As a man, you’ve been told sperm disorders form the biggest chunk of challenges men face in their conception journey, including underdeveloped sperm, oddly shaped sperm, sperm that may move improperly, oligospermia (low sperm count), and azoospermia (non-existent sperm production). This is indeed correct.
But when you get past this post and all tests seem normal, are there some unknown reasons you have not been made aware of? You bet!
Varicoceles is defined as swollen veins in the scrotum. 16% of all men may have this, but in infertile men it can be as much as 40%. Sperm growth is harmed by improper blood drainage and causing the testicles to be too warm to create sperm in high numbers.
Retrograde ejaculation is defined as when semen goes back into the body and into your bladder instead of out of the penis. Some causes include surgery, medications, or health issues.
Immunologic infertility can result when a man’s body makes antibodies that attack his own sperm. This can result from surgery, injury, or infection. This can also affect the production and function of sperm. As of this writing, it is unclear how antibodies lower fertility.
Obstruction can be a cause of male infertility. Repeated infections, surgery, swelling, or developmental defects can cause blockage, and any part of the male reproductive tract can be blocked.
Hormones that are made by the pituitary gland tell the testicles to make sperm. If you have low hormone levels, it can cause poor sperm growth.
Medications can also affect sperm production, function, and delivery. Some meds that treat health conditions such as arthritis, depression, digestive problems, anxiety, infections, high blood pressure, or cancer can have an effect on male fertility.
Genetic issues can be a big culprit. Changes in the number and structure of chromosomes can impact male fertility. An example of this is if the male Y chromosome is missing parts. Most doctors only do a normal sperm test to check motility, count, and morphology of your sperm. To determine if genetic issues are the cause, you should talk to your doctor about doing a sperm DNA fragmentation test. Sperm carry half of the DNA to the egg.
Chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance can also affect male fertility. All of these conditions are related, and about half of all men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction. These conditions can also cause ejaculatory disorders such as the previously mentioned retrograde ejaculation.
Hyperprolactinemia is defined as a condition when too much prolactin is in the blood, and can affect women as well as men. This can result in a myriad of male fertility issues, such as impaired libido, erectile dysfunction (ED), diminished volume of ejaculate, and oligospermia (low sperm count).
Imbalanced diet consisting of processed foods and simple carbohydrates, will ultimately result in conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. This diet can ultimately affect male fertility negatively. Macronutrients such as good fats, complex carbohydrates, and high in lean proteins such as chicken or fish can positively affect male fertility.
Hypogonadism is defined as when sex glands produce little (if any) sex hormones, and can lead to a low sex drive or libido. For men, this hormone is testosterone. If not enough testosterone is produced, it can lead to low libido or other effects that can negatively affect male fertility.
Lack of micronutrients such as Vitamin C, zinc, or folates can also lead to male infertility. Vitamin C protects the man’s body from oxidative stress. Zinc plays a role in sperm formation and testosterone metabolism, and can increase testosterone levels, sperm count, and sperm motility. Folic acid is a B-vitamin that synthesizes DNA, and low levels of folic acid are associated with decreased sperm count and decreased sperm motility.
Lack of sleep can also lead to male fertility issues. Short and long sleep durations were associated with impaired sperm health through antisperm antibody (ASA) production in semen, so getting just enough sleep will have a positive effect on male fertility. In addition, the quality of your sleep is also important. Short sleep (defined as less than six hours of sleep) and long sleep (defined as more than nine hours of sleep) had a negative effect on male fertility. For those who take medications that affect your ability to sleep or have conditions that affect your ability to sleep, you should talk to your doctor about improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.
While many of the issues we have pointed out may need medical intervention, increasing your fertility via non-pharmacological means of a balanced diet, blissful sleep and a lowered stress load on your body is good for long term health and easy on your pocket as medications and medical procedures can be expensive.
Most of us under-eat proteins and good fats. Bread, rice, pasta or roti tend to take the center of our plate. Unfortunately, all these are carb loaded, can spike insulin, and adversely affect sperm health. Swap some of your carb intake with proteins and good fats. For example, you could increase your consumption of spouted beans, lentils and dals, organic vegetables, grass-fed meat, eggs, healthy fats such as avocado, cold-pressed oils, and coconut. Switch to millets instead of wheat & rice. Their protein and complex carb content is much higher. Cut out sugar. Make nuts & seeds a regular feature of your meals.
As previously mentioned, vitamins and minerals can greatly aid male fertility. Vitamin C, for example, reduces oxidative stress and improves sperm quality. Zinc can promote sperm formation and testosterone metabolism, while folic acid synthesizes DNA and promotes sperm count and sperm motility. Vitamin D3 can also assist with male fertility potential, particularly through sperm motility. Getting the dosage and quality correct on supplements is critical. Else, popping these may make you feel good but may not improve your health score.
While getting nutrients in their supplemental form ensures the right dosage, your first choice should be to look for natural sources of these nutrients. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, and potatoes. For zinc, you should eat nuts such as almonds and cashews. If you have a nut allergy, you can also try mushrooms, kale, red meat, eggs, and dark chocolate. To ensure that you consume enough folic acid, you can try foods such as edamame (green soybeans), lentils, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocados, lettuce, mangoes, and oranges. If you have any other specific food allergies, you can adjust accordingly.
Ashwagandha, used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, is an adaptogen that helps the sperm move more efficiently. In one study, there were reports of higher sperm count, semen volume, and sperm motility after a 90-day treatment.
As with all supplements, pick a good brand with clean ingredients and sourcing. Seek expert advice to pick bioavailable forms of supplements. For example, methyl-cobalamin is the bio-available form of Vitamin B12, far superior to Cyano-cobalamin. Magnesium Glycinate or Citrate are absorbed easily in the body, compared to Magnesium Oxide, which literally passes through the system.
The role of sleep in both male and female fertility outcomes can never be underestimated. Good sleep improves not just spermatic function but IVF outcomes as well. Getting enough sleep and getting high-quality sleep is important. Ensure that you get between 6-9 hours of sleep each night and adjust this accordingly if you take medications that affect how you sleep as well as any health conditions that may affect your sleep. You can improve the quality of your sleep significantly by switching off any electronic devices an hour before bed and ensuring that there is no sound or light when you go to sleep.
We wish you the best when it comes to your fertility journey. If you have any further questions, you can contact us at Sepalika to ensure that your partner and you have the most optimal health – for not just conception, but all they way to delivering a healthy baby.