How to boost my fertility
Fertility improvement in men
It is now well established that the couple’s fertility does not depend solely on the woman.
Many scientific studies in recent years highlight the importance of the male factor in the couple’s chances to conceive.
And there are many men who want to know what they can do to improve their fertility.
1. Keep your weight within normal limits
Increased body weight and obesity negatively affect sperm. When Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 25 or 30, there are significant changes in both the morphology of the sperm and the quality of its DNA. Obesity also disrupts the production and secretion of sex hormones.
Some studies have also shown reduced fertility not only in obese men, but also in underweight men with very low BMI.
2. Quit smoking (and other harmful substances)
Smoking is known to cause oxidative stress and reduce male fertility.
Unfortunately, this may not be evident in a routine semen analysis test. In other words, even if the sperm looks normal, smoking can actually damage the sperm’s DNA and this can only be evident in specialized tests, like sperm DNA fragmentation.
The effects of smoking are even more significant in men whose sperm analysis test is suboptimal, since smoking can worsen all sperm parameters (including motility and morphology). Passive smoking has a similar negative effect on sperm.
In addition to tobacco, marijuana, cannabis, heroin and cocaine adversely affect fertility, since they reduce sperm motility and disrupt sperm morphology.
Alcohol has also been linked to sperm damage, resulting in reduced sperm quality.
But there is hope! Studies have shown that cessation of smoking and harmful substance use can reverse their deleterious effects on sperm and improve its quality.
3. Limit coffee and alcohol consumption
Studies have shown that caffeine and alcohol, in large doses and over long periods, have a negative effect on both sperm production and quality.
4. Restrict mobile phone use
There have been many studies in recent years that link excessive exposure to electromagnetic radiation -which is emitted by mobile phones- with men’s fertility.
However, further studies are needed to clarify the exact amount of electromagnetic radiation exposure that can be harmful to sperm.
5. Pay attention to your diet
Antioxidant-rich foods are very important for a man’s reproductive health.
The following is a list of antioxidants found in foods:
Vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, kiwi)
Vitamin E (vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, legumes)
Omega-3 fats (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, walnuts, green vegetables)
Zinc (liver, meat, oysters, mushrooms, bananas, legumes, nuts, fortified cereals)
Selenium (vegetables, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ)
Folic acid (lentils, green vegetables, citrus fruits, asparagus, beans, broccoli, avocado)
On top of the above, beans and artichokes also contain high concentrations of antioxidants.
6. Stop using anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids (especially testosterone) disrupt sperm production and reduce the body’s natural testosterone secretion.
Prolonged use of anabolic steroids causes testicular atrophy, gynaecomastia and deterioration of sperm quality (which can be irreversible).
7. Maintain the correct temperature in your testicles
While the ovaries in women are protected inside their body, the testicles in men lie outside their body. This is because the temperature of the testicles must be lower than that of the rest of the body in order for them to function properly.
Anything that disturbs testicular temperature can damage male fertility.
Factors that may increase testicular temperature and adversely affect sperm quality are the following:
- Prolonged sedentary work (e.g. taxi drivers, lorry drivers)
- Working in a very hot environment (e.g. in a bakery or pottery)
- Excessively tight underwear or very tight pants (that put the testicles in close contact with the human body which is naturally warmer)
- Use of sauna or hot baths
- Prolonged use of laptops on the lap
8. Get tested for genital infections
Infertility can be caused by both sexually transmitted diseases and by the presence of more innocent micro-organisms, such as ureaplasma.
The presence of these germs and even more genital inflammations (e.g. prostatitis, epididymitis) can cause reduction in the quality of the sperm or even obstruction of the vas deferens (resulting in obstructive azoospermia).
These infections often only give few symptoms. Therefore, you should visit your doctor whenever you think that something is not quite right down there.
9. Avoid injuries to the genitals
We all know about the importance of exercise in your health, but you should also remember this: Testicles can be injured during certain ‘risky’ sports (such as martial arts, cycling and horse riding) if they are not properly protected.
Obviously, testicular injury can have some long-term effects on male fertility.
The use of a jockstrap (a special type of underwear) protects the testicles during exercise.
10. Treat varicocele
Varicocele is a very common and insidious cause of infertility, as it may not give you any symptoms. This is an enlargement of the testicular veins (similar to the better known varicose veins), resulting in impaired testicular function.
Varicocele has a relatively slow impact on sperm quality, so many men who have it may face no problem trying to father a child at a young age.
The treatment of varicocele is surgical. The effects of surgery depend on how much the sperm has already been affected prior to surgery.
11. Take note of your age
Although most people believe that the effect of age on fertility only concerns women, this is far from the truth.
Studies have consistently shown that sperm quality (and quantity) tends to decrease with age (starting around the age of 40).
This does not mean that a man in his 50s or 60s is not fertile, but men at this age are very often less fertile than their younger self.
12. Protect yourself from harmful environmental factors
Environmental factors can cause fertility issues, such as low sperm count.
This is how many scientists tend to explain the global sperm quality deterioration that has been documented in the last 50 years. Some even claim that the sperm of today’s average man is half as strong compared to his grandfather’s!
But how does the environment around us affect male fertility?
Various contaminants have an oestrogenic effect which affects sperm production. Pesticides that are widely used in crops, for example, have been proven to reduce fertility. Therefore, thorough cleaning of fruits and vegetables before eating is essential.
Another important harmful factor in sperm production is fertilizers and the use of hormones in the food chain.
Other environmental factors that have been associated with adverse effects on fertility are listed below:
- Artificial room aromas
- Food preservatives
- Photocopier fluid
- Lead and other toxic substances
13. Check the medications you take
Some medications can adversely affect the quantity and quality of sperm:
- Calcium antagonists
- Some anticancer and antifungal drugs