When a couple struggles to conceive, it’s popular to think that the problem lies with the woman. It is true that infertility in women has been on the rise, due to lifestyle and stress, but research has shown that in 60% of couples that struggle with infertility the man is the one who is having problems.
I have written about infertility in women before, and ways to help and now it feels right to dedicate the same attention to men.
As we move into the new paradigm, it is fair to assume that both genders are struggling with a lot of the same issues. Women are better at speaking out, sharing feelings and getting support when infertility is a problem. Men generally find it harder to share, as male fertility has always been equated with virility, power and legacy.
Hopefully as we soften our conditioning, we’ll come to realize that infertility is not a reflection on men being incapable of being “men,” rather instead that perhaps their bodies are trying to tell them something. There are specific medical conditions that can affect men’s fertility, but lifestyle now plays a huge role and this is what this article is all about.
Stress, toxins, overload of female hormones, hormone disruptors and poor diets have been affecting both sexes in the past decades. Those are factors that, although surrounding us, we can control and try our best to reduce with some mindfulness.
The first practical thing to do is for men to identify what, in their lifestyle, may be jeopardizing fertility and remove them. The most common factors are:
Toxins exposure: Chemicals found in skincare and household cleaners! Most products around us are extremely toxic. We sometimes don’t realize as they are the same products advertised and sold everywhere and we would never think that entrusted companies and government agencies would allow harmful products to be sold to the public, or would they? Well, sadly, without getting too much into the economics linked to consumerism, yes, they do allow poison to be sold to us. Most skincare and household products contain heavy metals and pollutants, which lodge into our body and disrupt our hormones. Men are affected heavily seeing a serious sperm count fall.
Smoking: I could have added this as toxins exposure but it deserves a line on its own. Smoking affects each stage of the reproductive process, including egg (in women) and sperm maturation (in men), hormone production, embryo transport, and the environment in the uterus. Toxins in cigarettes (like Lead and Tar) affect DNA and cells genetic mutation equals changes to men’s health and fertility.
Alcohol: Packed with sugar, and depending on the sort and amounts consumed it contributes to metabolic disease. Anything that affects homeostasis—the natural balance of the body—will inevitably affect men’s reproductive system. In the UK, alcohol consumption is a huge problem. The pub culture is still very big and infertility is oftentimes a side effect of other metabolic disorders due to alcohol and poor diet. Some of these metabolic disorders include obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease etc.
Stress: a little stress is beneficial for men. They thrive on it and perform better, but modern men, in big cities in particular are struggling with an overload and suffering from Adrenal exhaustion which affects their fertility and libido too. Erectile dysfunctions are very common as well as low sperm count. Stress also brings on unhealthy lifestyle choices having a negative ripple effect on fertility.
Exposure to synthetic hormones or disruptors: I will make it simple! Men, your little guys need testosterone and you are probably—unknowingly—consuming a ton of oestrogen in meat, fish etc… another gift from an industry which puts profit over our rights. Hormones disruptors, like BPA are in plastic bottles and I see pretty much everyone drinking out of those daily! Time to get a water filter and a charcoal stick for your BPA free bottle
So now that we have identified the top infertility factors, what can a man do to have his swimmers stay fit and ready? Aside from removing the negative inputs above, some lifestyle and nutrition changes will benefit a lot.
In lifestyle, regular healthy practices such as Meditation, Yoga and various forms of exercise are awesome to calm, connect, breathe better and stimulate circulation—removing toxins easier—and feel good.
In the nutrients department, there are some awesome foods to consume to make it happen for these little guys (sperm) :
Tomatoes (especially cooked): Tomatoes are one of the best food sources of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is mostly available when heat is involved, hence cooked tomatoes. There have been several studies on the relationship between lycopene and male fertility and it has been found to improve the sperm’s ability to swim as well as the structure of sperm.
Walnuts: Not only awesome for brain power, being rich in omega 3 fatty acids but apparently it’s beneficial for sperm power too! Eating a handful or walnuts daily is linked with increased sperm vitality, motility and morphology (the sperm’s size and shape).
Pumpkin seeds: Great source of Omega 3 too, high in protein and zinc, which plays an important role in sperm development and testosterone production.
Pulses, especially Lentils: Lentils are one of the richest food sources of folate (folic acid) which is just as important for male fertility (you may have seen this in articles for women ‘s fertility too). Folate is essential for a healthy DNA in sperm cells reproduction.
Blueberries: Some of the most powerful antioxidants in nature are found in blueberries (Quercetin and Resveratrol) and sperm need all the antioxidants they can get. Normally sperm are made to fence off oxidative stress but health and other factors described before will impact that too; so they do need help!
Pomegranate: Another food high in antioxidants. It has been shown to improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower inflammation. To top it is all off, research shows that pomegranate causes surges in testosterone and improves sperm quality.
Cacao: We are starting to see a trend here, but Cacao is rich in antioxidants as well as in amino acid L-arginine, which studies show can increase the volume of sperm and its motility. My favourite brand right now is Boca Cacao, which is 100% cacao, so all the goodness the swimmers need!
Maca: A powerful Adaptogen, thought to give strength and virility to warriors in ancient tribes in Peru. Today it is used to help balance hormones; women use it mostly for oestrogen but it works on men too.
In terms of essential nutrients for sperm count, power and viability, we need to make sure we consume enough foods containing:
Zinc (Kidney beans, flaxseeds, spinach)
Folate (as mentioned before – asparagus, broccoli, kale, avocado, lentils)
CoQ10 (For vegan diets they might need to be supplemented, but can be found in spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower)
Magnesium (Leafy greens, nuts and seeds, cacao)
Selenium (Brazil nuts is the most popular source)
Arginine: (non essential amino acid found in seeds, peanuts, spirulina)
Vit A: (Carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach)
B12: Vegans, get your B12 in so you can get your freak on (and make it work)! Amazing supplements available, spray is better I find!
Vitamin D: (Mostly needs to be supplemented as D3 but Mushrooms are pretty awesome in giving some.)
No food or supplement can work miracles and you may need to see a fertility expert if the problem goes beyond these solutions. But you need to start somewhere—where you have control—and making healthy, informed decisio