Male Fertility Factsheet
By Ian Stones, Hove Fertility and Wellness. In this article Ian explains the many factors that can affect male fertility and shares top tips to help.
‘If you are experiencing fertility issues, then you may be aware you are not alone..’
Before looking at any diet/lifestyle advice, it’s important to understand the role of oxidative stress within the body and how this can affect sperm health.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals, which are produced from the body’s natural metabolic process, and antioxidants, which neutralise and counteract the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are cells which are known to cause damage to other healthy cells in the body, so naturally, when free radicals increase, the amount of damage increases. Sperm are particularly prone to free radical damage.
The most common causes of free radicals are:
- Processed foods, especially those high in poor fats, sugars and additives
- Fried, burnt and BBQ’d food
- Recreational drugs
- Environmental pollution
As with most health issues, nutrition is absolutely key and is one of the biggest influencers in terms of sperm health. A few small changes in your diet can have a huge impact on your chances of success when it comes to conceiving.
For a start, given the Free Radicals list above, it naturally makes sense to reduce all the foods listed on it. But it is also just as important to focus on what you put into your diet as much as what you take out. A diet high in good quality fruit, vegetables and unprocessed meat is essential, not only because of vitamins and minerals, but also because of their antioxidant elements.
Where possible, organic meat and vegetables are best. Generally, meat should be lean and low fat. Saturated fats, as found in red meat and processed meats, are particularly bad for sperm health so these should be limited. Fish is generally very good, especially those higher in Omega 3s, such as Salmon, Mackerel and Trout.
Tobacco and recreational drugs
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything good about tobacco or recreational drugs when it comes to sperm health. Both will increase the level of free radicals and therefore the damage being done to sperm.
A little caffeine is ok and some argue that coffee has some great health benefits and is strong in antioxidants. As with a lot of this advice, it’s about moderation so 1 – 2 cups of coffee or tea a day won’t be too detrimental to your health.
The testicles are outside of the body for a reason and that reason is to keep them cool. Typically, the testicles need to be around 2 – 3 degrees cooler than core body temperature. Exposure to higher temperatures can cause damage to sperm production.
Common factors around heat include:
- Long use of laptops
- Working in a hot environment
- Long periods sitting
- Hot baths and saunas
- Tight fitting underwear
- Excessive cycling
Regular exercise is another great way to help combat the negative effects of stress.
When it comes to choosing what exercise to do, it’s about finding what works for you. For some, higher energy exercise works well; whilst others enjoy calmer restorative exercise. I’m personally an advocate of balancing both. Certainly, activities like yoga, tai chi and pilates are all good for those living busy stressful lives as they allow for some down time and space to relax.
Another important thing for men to consider when it comes to maximising the chances of conception, is body temperature and the clothes worn whilst exercising. If, for example, you’re a keen cyclist and regularly wear lycra shorts, then, as this will have a negative effect on your sperm health, you might want to consider switching cycling for yoga or running for the period during which you are trying to conceive. It’s about balancing what’s best for you whilst considering the impact it has on your sperm health.
Ultimately, all of this comes down to balance. For couples trying to conceive, it can sometimes feel like life has to be put on hold. But, whilst being sensible with diet, exercise and stress management is very important, it’s equally important that these things don’t take over and stop you from enjoying your life. In any case, most of the advice above will help you live a happier and healthier life regardless of whether you’re trying to conceive or not, so it’s probably worth bearing most of it in mind anyway.
Further tests and medical informationTypically, when a couple present to their GP for fertility issues, the man will be offered a standard semen analysis which looks at 3 important issues:
3. Morphology (are they the right shape?)
For some men, trying to conceive can bring about big challenges both emotionally and physically. It’s fair to say that there is far less support for men going through fertility treatment than there is for women, which can leave men feeling isolated and at a loss as to what they should do for the best.
Couple that with the pressure of supporting their partner whilst trying to manage their own diet, emotions, work and stress levels can all become quite overwhelming. Finding somewhere to talk openly and get realistic, practical advice can be hard for men, which is why I’m keen to change that and can offer support to men struggling on their fertility journey.
If you’d like a FREE 30 minute chat to review where you are or to just talk to someone then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Sometimes speaking about it can be the hardest thing but equally the best thing you can do for yourself.