There are many factors, environmental and otherwise, that can have an impact on a man’s fertility. Genetic or medically diagnosed infertility typically can’t be changed by lifestyle alterations. If your infertility is a result of genetics or an illness or medical procedure, then should consult a fertility specialist to learn about “assisted reproductive technologies” that are appropriate for your particular case. These assisted technologies are things like IVF, ICSI and IUI. As for the second category, environmental, you may be able to significantly impact your fertility just by altering your lifestyle. In this article we describe some of the most common environmental factors you should be aware of, and things you can try to help your journey to pregnancy along.
Factors Affecting Male Fertility
- Illness – mumps, malaria, cancer, cystic fibrosis
- Injuries – trauma to testes or surrounding area
- Lifestyle – drugs, alcohol, smoking, obesity, strenuous and/or prolonged seated activities (horseback or bicycle riding)
- Medications – chemotherapy treatments, anabolic steroids
- Age – contrary to popular belief, male (paternal) age matters
- Genetic defects – i.e. Klinefelter’s Syndrome
Fertility and Smoking
Male smokers have a 30% higher chance of being infertile. Smoking is particularly damaging to sperm cells and destroys them at the DNA level. If you needed another reason to quit smoking, THIS IS IT!
Some things you can do to prevent infertility
- Don’t smoke!
- Avoid heavy marijuana and alcohol use
- Avoid excessive heat and compression to testes
- Wear protective equipment in sports to protect testicles
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables to provide necessary vitamins and minerals
- Drink plenty of water
Male Fertility and Diet
We’ve talked about things to avoid in terms of fertility, now what are some things you can do to improve it? It is difficult to compile hard data on dietary substances that improve male fertility. However, improving overall physical health is definitely the first step before undertaking more intense fertility treatments. And the good news is you can make these chances for free and the earlier the better!
Some things to add to your diet:
- Fruits and Vegetables: These are rich in Vitamins A, B, C & E. The antioxidant properties of these vitamins can protect sperm’s DNA. Vitamin A is found in leafy greens, carrots and apricots. The B vitamin folic acid has fantastic antioxidant properties and will keep the sperm free of chromosomal abnormalities. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, and liver. Wheat germ and almonds are excellent sources of Vitamin E. What is a way to get ALL of these in one amazing super food? The sweet potato!
- Oysters: We’ve all heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac, maybe this is why! They are packed with zinc, a mineral known to increase the production of sperm and testosterone. Other foods that contain zinc (although not in as high quantity) are beef, poultry, dairy, nuts and beans.
- Pomegranate Juice: Another super food. The pomegranate is an antioxidant-rich fruit shown to boost sperm count and quality. Plus it tastes great!
- Pumpkin Seeds: These have a double benefit. They are a great source of zinc which increases sperm count and testosterone, and also of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s stimulate blood flow to sexual organs and improve sexual function. Everybody wins here! (hee, hee!). Other great sources of omega-3’s are flaxseed, almonds and fatty fish like sardines and salmon.
- Water: Yet another benefit of drinking plenty of water. A man should drink half of his body weight in ounces of water per day. So, a 180 lb man should consume 90 ounces of water a day. Drink up!
And of course, more things to avoid:
- Processed foods: While this goes for ALL people, it is especially important in men focusing on a fertility-friendly diet. Refined sugar and flour and fatty, fried foods should be avoided.
- Soy: Studies are preliminary at this point, but some have shown a decrease in sperm count in men with a lot of soy in their diet.
- High Mercury Fish: Mercury is linked to infertility in both men and women. The common culprits are swordfish, mackerel, and tuna. Trade these out for some of the omega-3-rich fish like salmon or zinc-rich shellfish for your seafood fix!
- Caffeine: Are you a caffeine-addict? Most of us are. Research shows that too much caffeine, whether from coffee or energy drinks, can decrease sperm count. Try to cut back to no more than 2 servings a day.
The bottom line on diet is that every part of you is healthier, livelier and more functioning when you are filling your body with the high-performing foods it needs. With the addition of a couple of fertility boosters like zinc and folic acid, following the healthy living guidelines for all adults today will help protect your fertility.
These are claims based on general health guidelines and non-medical research. They are not meant to be treatments for infertility, and do not replace assisted reproductive technologies if required. Talk to your doctor before making any dietary adjustments.