According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 15 percent of couples are infertile.1 Research has found that levels of vitamin C are significantly reduced in infertile men.
This means that a couple is not able to get pregnant after one year without birth control.
Factors that affect male fertility include:
- Low sperm production
- Misshapen sperm
- Sperm with low motility, or how quickly and efficiently sperm move
- Structural issues that prevent the delivery of sperm
However, it is essential to understand that more than one factor is often responsible for infertility. For example, if sperm count is very high, then low motility may not make a difference. Likewise, sperm count that is low but dense in healthy sperm with rapid, forward movement is often not a problem.
The problem of infertility arises when sperm are not able to move efficiently, when they are abnormally shaped, or when the body is simply not producing enough sperm.
Surprisingly, several lifestyle choices affect sperm quality, quantity, and delivery. These are choices that you make every day — such as the foods you eat, your stress levels, and exposure to industrial or recreational toxins.
While infertility can be frustrating and exhausting, it may be rewarding to know that taking steps to safeguard your health can make you more fertile.
BASIC SPERM PRODUCTION 101
The production of sperm involves signals from glands in the brain, signals from the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys, and the primary male reproductive hormone, testosterone.
Large quantities of testosterone are required to maintain sperm production — if testosterone levels drop, so does sperm quality and quantity.
All forms of stress — physical, mental, and emotional — take a toll on the reproductive messages that the body relays back and forth between glands in the brain, the adrenal glands, and the testes. Poor diet and exposure to toxins, such asxenoestrogens (false, outside estrogens) can distort reproductive hormones and interfere with the production of sperm.
While working with your primary healthcare provider, there are a few steps you can take right now to support sperm health.
TOP 4 FIXES TO BOOST MALE FERTILITY
1. Consume Healthy Fats: Research shows that dietary deficiencies and oxidative stress can significantly impact fertilization and pregnancy.2 In 2007, scientists at the University of Newcastle in Australia underscored our need for healthy fats.3Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) give sperm the resources they need to build a fluid plasma membrane — affecting the shape of sperm, the movement of sperm, and fertility. Unfortunately, PUFAs are especially sensitive to oxidative stress. Lifestyle choices that increase the oxidative load in the body include activities like smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating processed foods that already contain oxidized PUFAs.
Body Ecology Recommendation: Find a reliable source of good polyunsaturated fats and supplement your diet. We like wild-caught salmon and Super Spirulina Plus. Both are high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, giving your sperm the raw materials they need to thrive.
2. Enjoy Oysters Often: Oysters are rich in a mineral called zinc. While you can just take a zinc supplement, when you consume foods that contain the nutrients you are looking for, you also walk away with cofactors that assist in the use and delivery of those nutrients. In 2009, a study published in Nutrition Research found that low levels of zinc were associated with infertility in men.4 One reason may be because zinc helps to scavenge free radicals — the culprit behind oxidative stress.
While many people rely on seeds and pumpkins seeds as a source of minerals — such as zinc — it is essential to soak and even ferment your seeds before eating. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains, anti-nutrients called phytatesbind to zinc and inhibit its absorption.
3. Focus on Vitamin C: Human beings do not synthesize vitamin C; they must get it from an outside source. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that protects sperm against free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage the DNA that a sperm holds. Research has found that levels of vitamin C are significantly reduced in infertile men.5 Low vitamin C status is associated with decreased motility and abnormal morphology (or shape).
Body Ecology Recommendation: We suggest that you get your vitamin C from a whole food supplement, such as camu camu or acerola cherry. Body Ecology fruits like berries, lemon, lime, and cherries do contain small amounts of vitamin C, but they do not reach levels that can give a therapeutic dose.
4. Eat Foods Rich in Folate and B12: At the University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, researchers found that both folate and vitamin B12 are transferred from the blood into male reproductive organs, emphasizing the important role that these nutrients play in reproduction.6 Furthermore, the concentration of B12 strongly parallels sperm concentration. Other research shows that low levels of folate are detrimental to sperm DNA.7
One of the best sources of both folate and vitamin B12 is liver from grass-fed cattle. While liver is a food that has fallen out of fashion at the dinner table, it is certainly worth resurrecting — especially if you and your partner are trying to conceive. Other sources of folate include egg yolks from free-range hens.
Body Ecology Recommendation: If you are looking for a plant-based source of folate and vitamin B12, fermented spirulinaprovides both. In fact, because spirulina supplies healthy fats, folate, and vitamin B12 to the body, it is one of the best foods to enhance male fertility.
Take Note: Traditionally, spirulina has always been harvested from lakes near major cities left to ferment in the form of cakes. This is because spirulina is tough to digest. In order to get the most out of spirulina, we ferment spirulina to predigest it. This means that you get maximum benefit and maximum nutrients.
- Male Infertility Best Practice Policy Committee of the American Urological Association & Practice Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. (2006).Report on optimal evaluation of the infertile male. Fertility and Sterility, 86, S202–S209.
- Lewis, S. E. M., & Aitken, R. J. (2005). DNA damage to spermatozoa has impacts on fertilization and pregnancy. Cell and tissue research, 322(1), 33-41.
- Wathes, D. C., Abayasekara, D. R. E., & Aitken, R. J. (2007). Polyunsaturated fatty acids in male and female reproduction. Biology of reproduction, 77(2), 190-201.
- Colagar, A. H., Marzony, E. T., & Chaichi, M. J. (2009). Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm quality in fertile and infertile men. Nutrition Research, 29(2), 82-88.
- Colagar, A. H., & Marzony, E. T. (2009). Ascorbic acid in human seminal plasma: determination and its relationship to sperm quality. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 45(2), 144.
- Boxmeer, J. C., Smit, M., Weber, R. F., Lindemans, J., Romijn, J. C., Eijkemans, M. J., … & Steegers‐Theunissen, R. P. (2007). Seminal plasma cobalamin significantly correlates with sperm concentration in men undergoing IVF or ICSI procedures. Journal of andrology, 28(4), 521-527.
- Boxmeer, J. C., Smit, M., Utomo, E., Romijn, J. C., Eijkemans, M. J., Lindemans, J., … & Steegers-Theunissen, R. P. (2009). Low folate in seminal plasma is associated with increased sperm DNA damage. Fertility and sterility,92(2), 548-556.