The health of a man’s sperm too often gets put in second place when it comes to establishing fertility, as much of the focus has almost always been on the health of the woman’s eggs. But both sperm and eggs are equally important. Whether you are trying to have a baby through natural conception or you are a gay man who want to have a biological baby through surrogacy and egg donation, the health of your sperm is vitally important. Healthy sperm are characterized by multiple factors, including sufficient quantity, vigorous movement, and normal structure. Factors contributing to healthy sperm are many and include steps to reduce inflammation in the body, a nutritious diet, certain supplements, environmental concerns, and other lifestyle factors that can help to ensure your sperm are as healthy as possible. Let’s explore each of these in more detail and also provide you with practical, effective steps you can take to get your sperm in great shape in as little as 75 days
Get Your Sperm Tested
Semen is composed of sperm made in the testicles plus fluid from nearby glands. The semen analysis is a visual microscopic exam of semen obtained by masturbation after a 2 to 5 day abstinence period. This analysis measures the volume of semen, the sperm count, swimming ability (motility), and shape (morphology) based on criteria set by the World Health Organization. Although the semen analysis has been used for decades as a general indicator of male reproductive health, it cannot accurately establish whether a man is fertile or infertile.
Abnormal sperm tests should never be ignored as they may indicate other medical conditions such as cancer or metabolic and cardiovascular disease
Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test
Sperm DNA (the genetic material carried within the sperm) must be intact to function properly. The Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test determines the percentage of broken (fragmented) DNA within the sperm. DNA fragmentation is associated with lower pregnancy rates but only if the percentage of fragmentation is high. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not recommend this test since it does not predict treatment outcomes for most men.
Remember, it takes two to make a healthy baby; healthy sperm, and a healthy egg; contact us to discuss additional sperm tests, especially if you have experienced infertility or have an abnormal semen analysis test.
Vitamins, Supplements & Diet To Increase Sperm Health
Because new sperm are produced every 10 to 12 weeks, sperm can be damaged during this time through inflammation caused by poor diet, certain lifestyle choices, and health issues. The use of anti-oxidant-rich vitamins, along with a sperm-friendly diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications over 12 weeks can improve normal sperm production and increase the chance for a pregnancy and healthy baby.
Part of the inflammatory response includes the production of white blood cells which carry little “bombs” called oxygen radicals that are meant to protect our body. When inflammation is excessive, these “bombs” can oxidize sperm leading to sperm damage.
Anti-oxidants are molecules that neutralize oxygen radicals and prevent them from doing harm. Vitamins containing anti-oxidants such as Vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium are all effective at preventing sperm damage.
What is the simplest way a man can naturally enhance his sperm? Consuming an antioxidant-rich diet and a daily vitamin supplement helps to optimize sperm quality and improve pregnancy rates
Vitamins To Increase Normal Sperm Production
Taking an antioxidant-rich vitamin supplement daily before conception or IVF treatment, helps to optimize sperm quality. But vitamin supplementation is just that, a supplement to a well-balanced diet and is not intended as a substitute for nutritious foods.
Santa Monica Fertility’s M.E.N.S vitamins were formulated to provide a breadth of anti-oxidant molecules and sperm-friendly agents proven to increase normal sperm production. Just as women take a prenatal vitamin, men should do the same to help ensure both optimal sperm quality and the health of the baby. Vitamin supplementation works best in combination with other anti-inflammatory efforts such as a well-balanced diet, exercise, health maintenance, and stress management.
Diet To Increase Sperm Count And Quality
In addition to vitamin supplementation, you can also lower inflammation and improve sperm quality by eating a diet that includes foods with a high anti-oxidant content, good fats, and high fiber. Include lots of brightly colored fruits (cherries, berries), vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage), whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread), plant-based proteins (beans, nuts, avocados, olive oil), fatty fish high in Omega-3 (salmon, tuna, sardines), and fresh herbs and spices are all great choices.
Foods high in saturated and trans-fat, foods fried in vegetable oil, processed, or those that cause blood sugar spikes all increase inflammation and should be off limits. Some common foods to avoid include French fries, high-fat meats, and processed meats such as hot dogs, sugary snacks like candy and pastries, soda and energy drinks, whole-fat dairy products, coffee creamers, and margarine.
The goal is to lower inflammatory foods and increase anti-inflammatory foods. These dietary guidelines can also help with weight loss which also lowers inflammation
Lifestyle And The Quality of Sperm
Anything that throws off your psychological or physical equilibrium can induce an immune response called inflammation. When inflammation is continuous and chronic it can damage body tissues, including sperm. Part of the inflammatory response includes the production of white blood cells which carry little “bombs” called oxygen radicals. These are great for protecting your tissue, but can also damage sperm. Adopting certain healthy lifestyle and stress reduction activities can help diffuse these “bombs”.
Does Stress Affect Male Fertility?
Stress occurs when your normal equilibrium is thrown off. Some men seem to function well with incredible stress levels, as this is their individual equilibrium and their body knows how to compensate. But for most men, chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation which over time becomes damaging to sperm. The use of excessive coffee, cigarettes, and energy drinks to combat stress only worsen inflammation and diminish sperm health. So it’s better to break the cycle of inflammation by introducing anti-inflammatory activities that are also enjoyable and achievable. Exercise, yoga, acupuncture, time off work, or just 10 to 15-minute mindful meditation sessions during the day may help break the cycle of inflammation.
Our busy, stressful lives often depend on laptops and cell phones. Heat is the enemy of sperm so this is why your scrotum hangs away from your body, to protect your testicles by keeping them lower than body temperature. When you put a laptop on your lap it heats up the one part of your body needed for sperm production, so avoid placing your computer on your lap. Also, watch out for cell phones since wi-fi radiation may also be harmful. The same caution is also due for hot tubs and saunas. The soothing heat is a great stress reliever but limit your time in them as they may affect sperm if used too frequently or too long.
Sleep also helps to reduce the effects of stress, as it allows the resumption of hormonal rhythms, lets the mind and body reset, and most importantly, improves fertility.
Does Exercise Increase Male Fertility?
Moderate exercise at least three times a week provides tremendous benefits for male fertility. Exercise decreases inflammation, helps weight loss, lowers insulin, improves blood sugar levels, and helps you sleep. One study demonstrated that a 12-week program of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) actually improved the epigenetic profile of sperm. Exercise also leads to an increase in testosterone, a hormone critical for sperm production, and improved sexual function.
How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm’s Health?
Alcohol, particularly red wine, provides some antioxidant and health benefits when consumed in moderation but in excess can cause inflammation. The term “moderation” is probably different for each person. We know the effect of drinking excess alcohol can be transmitted genetically and possibly epigenetically to children through sperm, leading to abnormal physical features and cognitive deficiencies as seen in fetal alcohol syndrome. We may be able to better define a “safe” level of alcohol intake once we learn more about these phenomena. Until such time, it’s best to limit alcohol intake for the 3-6 months prior to conception to optimize sperm development.
Stimulants and Male Fertility
Like alcohol, caffeine in moderation may help to kickstart your day by giving you more energy. But in excess, caffeine becomes inflammatory and may disrupt your sleep, especially if you add sugar or down too many energy drinks.
Cigarettes have been scientifically shown to diminish sperm quality and delay the time to conception. There is nothing good about cigarettes for a future father.
Does Cannabis Affect Sperm Quality?
We don’t as yet have good information on whether Cannabis or CBD oil has a harmful effect on sperm quality. The medicinal benefits of these agents have to be weighed against possible harm, so it’s best to be cautious.
The health of your sperm is vitally important when it comes to producing a healthy baby, whether you are half of a couple conceiving naturally, or you are a gay man who wants to have a biological baby through egg donation and surrogacy. For most men, having healthy sperm is not all that complicated, but you do need to have a plan. Because multiple factors impact sperm health, this needs to be approached carefully and with the understanding that even simple changes, such as quitting smoking, controlling stress, getting enough exercise, and consuming a healthy diet can have enormous benefits. Remember that it takes two to make a healthy baby: healthy sperm and a healthy egg. Contact us today to discover how adopting these dietary, vitamin supplement and lifestyle recommendations can help you live a more sperm-friendly lifestyle and increase the chance of fathering a healthy baby.