By Dr. Raquel Hammonds
Low sperm count and infertility in men is more prevalent than most couples think. People tend to think that if a woman is not getting pregnant the fertility issue must be with the woman, but that is not always the case. In fact, 40% of infertile couples find male infertility or male fertility-health problems contribute to their inability to conceive naturally.
But first things first, How would I know? While women have many tests to try to find out the cause of infertility, men have only a couple of options for testing in regards to sperm count and quality, with a Sperm Analysis being the easiest method. The results of a Normal Test would be a sperm count of 15 million or more sperm with healthy motility and morphology. Suboptimal levels are less than 15 million sperm and counts below 10 million are considered Poor.
There are many potential causes of low sperm count and male infertility. By exploring the root cause and removing exposure, many cases of male infertility are commonly resolved. Some of the main causes of Male Infertility include:
- Cigarette smoking:
- Researchers have found that the free radicals created from chronic smoking damages the sperm. The good news is the damage done from smoking can be reversed… As long as you quit smoking.
- Pesticides and hormones in foods:
- The pesticides found on produce and the hormones added to dairy and meat have a huge effect on a man’s hormonal balance. Pesticides mimic estrogens in the body while the added hormones in meat and dairy can disrupt the ratio of testosterone and estrogen in your body.
- Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Waves
- A small study performed in Fertility and Sterility, showed that RF-EMWs emitted from devices connected to Wi-Fi (like your cellphone/laptop). decrease sperm motility outside the body while increasing sperm DNA fragmentation. Please keep in mind that this study was limited in its scope and sample size. This is a developing area of research that is worth keeping an eye on, though as of publication there has not been any definitive findings stating that your electronic devices impact your fertility.
One Production Cycle of Sperm takes approximately 64 days. The changes that you make today are impacting the sperm you will be using two to three months from now. Here are a few critical nutrients to help optimize your sperm health for the future:
- Zinc: In men, Zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals for fertility; increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm levels and improve the form, function, and quality of sperm. Food sources of Zinc include Food sources: liver, oysters, beef, lamb, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Selenium: Selenium is necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies, men with low sperm counts have also been found to have low levels of selenium. Food sources of Selenium include Brazil nuts, liver, snapper, cod, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, and turkey.
- Folic Acid: Men with low levels of folate appear to be at an increased risk for forming sperm that contain too little or too many chromosomes. If an egg is fertilized by an abnormal sperm it could result in a birth defect such as Down syndrome, or an increased chance of miscarriage.
- Vitamin C: For men, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality and protect sperm from DNA damage; helping to reduce the chance of miscarriage and chromosomal problems. Vitamin C also appears to keep sperm from clumping together, making them more motile. Vitamin C is abundant in fruits and vegetables like red peppers, broccoli, cranberries, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruit.
Optimizing your chances of conception and sperm health can seem overwhelming, but you now have the tools to play a critical part in your family’s future. Often overlooked, but we recognize and honor the space men hold in the fertility sphere.
We are all rooting for you,
Dr. Raquel Hammonds