What The Experts Want You To Know About Sperm Health
So what’s going on with sperm counts?
“Sperm health is declining, there’s no doubt about it. A recent publication revealed a dramatic reduction of over 59% in sperm count in the last four decades. In 1973, sperm count among western men was 99 million sperm per millimetre of semen; by 2011, it had shrunk to 47 million. Recent data suggests only one in four men has optimal semen quality. The decline shows no sign of levelling off.” – Dr Nauf AlBendar, founder of The Womb Effect
What’s the reason behind the decline?
“There are many. To name a few, pesticides, hormone-disrupting chemicals, pollutants, diet, mobile phones, stress, smoking, long-term exposure to a noisy environment and infections. One of the leading causes of fertility problems includes sperm disorders – this could be not having enough sperm, sperm not moving as fast as they should or sperm being the wrong shape. All three can also occur at the same time.” – Nauf
“Obesity, poor diet and a lack of exercise are key factors. Obesity and a poor diet increase oestrogen levels and insulin resistance, which directly reduces the production of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The western diet, meanwhile, is increasingly deficient in fruit and vegetables, which means sperm lack the nutrients they need to flourish. A lack of exercise – think sedentary office jobs – not only make us lazy but also warm our testicles and make testicular function sluggish. Exercise, on the other hand, boosts testosterone and blood flow and naturally helps the body stimulate sperm production. We also can’t ignore the role of stress – stress releases cortisol, which is a direct antagonist to testosterone, which decreases sexual function.” – Dr Jeff Foster, GP & founder of H3 Health
How is this affecting fertility?
“It takes two to tango. Despite women’s fertility getting most of the airtime, fertility is weighted equally between men and women. In 30% of couples, the struggle will relate to issues with the man’s fertility; in another 30% of couples, it will relate to issues with the woman’s fertility. A combination of fertility issues affecting both the man and the woman (for example, a low sperm count paired with issues with ovulation) is reported in 20% of couples who struggle to have a baby, whilst for the remaining 20% of cases, the causes of infertility are unknown.” – Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife & co-founder of My Expert Midwife
How can you find out the state of your sperm?
“If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year without success, a semen analysis can provide more clarity, and it’s worth going private if you can. A test can be done through your GP, but these tests tend to focus solely on sperm count and not much more. A test done privately will examine things in more detail, such as the shape and DNA of the sperm. However, if a test done via your GP shows a low sperm count, you may be referred to your local fertility clinic, although waiting times can be substantial. Be wary of home testing kits, many of which only look at sperm count, not sperm health, and some work against different ranges, which means some men may get an abnormal result when everything is actually okay, and vice versa.” – Lesley
“If you want to get tested, book in with Jonathan Ramsay, one of the UK’s best male fertility doctors – he practises in Hammersmith, Charing Cross and Harley Street as well as at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Andrology Solutions on Wimpole Street is also great, as is The Doctor’s Laboratory. A simple sperm analysis can be done via your GP, but a sperm DNA fragmentation will go into far more detail. The Doctor’s Laboratory has links with other clinics, so it’s possible to book in direct with them even if you’re struggling to get an appointment elsewhere.” – Hannah Alderson, nutritional therapist
What are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sperm health?
“Many men think that if they don’t ejaculate for a long period of time, somehow they’ll have lots of ‘super sperm’ ready to go, but that’s not the case. For most men, not ejaculating for a long period of time will only result in a slight rise in sperm count, as many of the sperm not ejaculated will simply be reabsorbed by the body. It’s also impossible to run out of sperm. Each ejaculation contains, on average, around 500 million sperm. Whether a healthy man ejaculates once a fortnight or several times per day, his semen will contain sperm because his body is constantly making new sperm cells.” – Lesley
What lifestyle changes could make a difference?
“The figures and headlines surrounding men’s fertility may sound bleak, but all is not lost and there is plenty you can do that makes a difference. If you’re planning to start a family, remember it takes 12 months to make a baby as those three months prior to conception are extremely important. It takes around three months (typically 64 days) for your body to produce a fresh batch of sperm, which means you can absolutely improve your sperm health within this three-month period.” – Hannah
Boost your sperm health with these expert tips…
“Smoking damages DNA in the sperm, which leads to lower chances of conception and an increased risk of miscarriage if conception does occur.” – Lesley
“The sperm of men who drink within the recommended guidelines (up to 14 units/week – roughly equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or ten small glasses of low-strength wine) – and spread their alcohol intake through the week does not seem to be negatively affected. However, regularly exceeding the recommended guideline or binge-drinking can not only affect the health of their sperm but, also, their libido and performance.” – Lesley
Eat The Rainbow
“Eating colourful, nutrient-dense food will boost your antioxidant intake. This will improve free radical damage, which may impact sperm health. One antioxidant, lycopene, is particularly great for sperm health. Tomato purée is a fantastic source – eat this every day if you are trying to conceive. Get into the habit of having one smoothie a day, too, made with colourful foods like avocado, spinach, berries, lemon juice and walnuts.” – Hannah
“Exercise can improve testosterone levels and sperm count, but it’s essential to strike the right balance as too much exercise can harm sperm production. Around 45 minutes of activity three to five times per week of moderate intensity is enough to stimulate healthy hormone production. Too little is ineffective but equally too much will send the body into a stress response state and reduce testosterone levels.” – Jeff
Deal With Stress
“Stress is a significant factor in the modern infertility epidemic. It increases oxidative damage and inflammation, which reduce sperm quality. Stress can also interfere with the hormones needed to make sperm. An ashwagandha supplement can help – this adaptogen has been shown to treat stress-related infertility and improve male fertility by boosting testosterone levels.” – Nauf
Get An Early Night
“Get into the habit of going to bed before 10.30pm, which studies show can increase the quality of sperm. Men that do not get enough sleep (less than seven hours a night) are six times more likely to have poor-quality sperm and a lack of fertility.” – Nauf
Take A Supplement
“Keep nutrient levels topped up with a good-quality male multivitamin, ideally one that has good levels of vitamins C, D and E, and added zinc and selenium. Zinc and selenium can be trickier to get from the diet, making supplementation useful. You may also want to think about an omega-3 supplement if you don’t eat a lot of oily fish, and CoQ10, which studies show can increase sperm motility.” – Hannah
Keep The Heat Low
“There’s a reason your testicles hang outside of your body – increased scrotal temperature can hamper sperm production. Studies suggest wearing loose-fitting underwear, sitting less, avoiding saunas and hot tubs, and limiting scrotum exposure to warm objects and radiation, such as laptops and mobile phones, may enhance sperm quality.” – Nauf
Snack On Nuts
“Research has shown that eating a daily portion (around 75g) of walnuts improves sperm motility, vitality and health, whilst having two handfuls of mixed almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts daily for 14 weeks improves sperm count and sperm health.” – Lesley
For more information and support, head to HannahAlderson.com, DrJeffFoster.co.uk, TheWombEffect.co & MyExpertMidwife.com
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.
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