Whether you’re just starting to try and get pregnant, or been trying for a long time, making lifestyle changes to increase your fertility is essential. Lifestyle habits are rarely the sole cause of infertility. However, making changes could possibly push you over the “infertile” line if your sperm health is borderline. They may even help fertility treatments work better.
Here are some tips to increase supporting male sperm function.
Consider Adding Some Antioxidants to Your Diet
Antioxidants are known as cancer and heart disease fighters but they may also increase fertility.
In short, antioxidants are substances that prevent cell damage from free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally by your body when it breaks down your food, but are also created when you’re exposed to things like toxic chemicals, radiation, cigarette smoke, or pollution.
Remember that sperm are also cells, so it makes sense that adding antioxidants to your diet may help improve their health. In fact, researchers have found that men who took antioxidants in supplement form had less DNA damaged sperm than men who did not take antioxidants. Some researchers found that couples had higher pregnancy rates if the men took additional antioxidants.
There are many antioxidants, but the ones that have been specifically studied in regards to improving sperm health are:
- Zinc – found in oysters, crab, red meat, poultry, and beans.
- Vitamin C – found in many fruits and vegetables, with the highest levels found in red peppers, kiwi, oranges, and grapefruit.
- Selenium – found in high amounts in brazil nuts (1 oz provides 780% of your daily recommended value). Also found in tuna, cod, beef, turkey and chicken.
- Vitamin E – found in nuts, seeds, oils, and leafy greens.
- Folic Acid – found in beef liver, leafy green vegetables, fruits, beans, and peas, and often in fortified grains.
- Lycopene – found in tomatoes, apricots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon.
Reduce Soy Intake
Too much soy may impact your sperm counts, according to a research study that looked at eating habits. Just because you don’t eat tofu doesn’t mean this study won’t apply to you. Soy is found in a number of foods today, including fake meat patties, energy bars, and health drinks. You may be surprised at how much soy you’re eating if you take a close look at your diet. The study found men who ate high amounts of soy had lower sperm counts than men who did not. In fact, men who had the highest soy intake had 41 million/ml less sperm than men who did not eat soy foods. Soy, however, may not be all bad. Other researchers have found that soy may help prevent prostate cancer. So what should you do? The study on soy and sperm counts found that men who were overweight or obese had a stronger reaction to the soy. Also, the higher the soy intake, the lower the sperm concentration was.
Stop smoking !!
I’m sure you already know many good reasons to kick your smoking habit. If you weren’t convinced yet, now you have one more reason: Quitting smoking may increase your fertility. Studies on smoking and semen quality found that smoking affects many aspects of sperm health, including decreased sperm counts, decreased sperm motility (the swimming ability of the sperm), and sperm shape. If you’re going through fertility treatments, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook and can keep on smoking. Researchers have also found that smoking had a strong effect on treatment success when using IVF with ICSI fertility treatments.
Cool them off !!
You may be able to increase your fertility by keeping cool “down there”. The male reproductive organs are outside of the body for a reason — to keep them at temperatures lower than 37C , our normal body temperature. High temperatures can damage sperm. It’s best to avoid hot tubs or taking long hot baths. But even if you’re not the hot-tubbing type, there are other things you may do every day that increase your scrotal temperatures. Sitting for long periods of time increased scrotal temperatures, according to research. If you have a desk job, or even a long commute to work, be sure to get up and walk around now and then. This is good for concentration, too, so you can boost your fertility and your energy all at once! Also, don’t sit with your laptop in your lap. Both keeping your legs tightly together to balance the laptop, and the heat generated by the laptop itself, can lead to higher than normal scrotal temperatures. Instead, place your laptop on a desk or table.
Whether or not boxers are more fertility-friendly than briefs is a matter of debate. I found one study that said it did make a difference, and another study that found no difference. As long as you’re not wearing extremely tight, non-breathable fabric, whether or not you prefer boxers or briefs probably doesn’t matter.
Drop the weight
One way to increase your fertility is to bring your weight to a healthier level. Being over or underweight can upset hormone balance, leading to lower sperm counts. Not sure if your weight is within the healthy zone? Check your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a measurement of your weight that also takes into account your height. In a study on thin men, they found that men with a BMI less than 20 had lower sperm concentration and a 28.1% lower total sperm count. They also found that FSH, a hormone that plays a role in the reproductive system, was higher in slim men. In a separate study, men with obesity had lower testosterone levels. Also, as BMI levels went up, the incidence of lower sperm counts went up. For example, for men with a normal BMI, 5.32% were found to have low sperm count. In overweight men, 9.52% had low sperm counts, and in obese men, 15.62% had low sperm counts.
Too much alcohol can decrease your fertility.
A study looking at alcoholics found that only 12% of the men had completely normal sperm counts and health, compared to 37% of non-smokers and non-alcoholics. They found that as the amount the men drank went up, sperm counts dropped, normal sperm shape decreased, and sperm motility worsened. Another study, this one looking at couples going through IVF treatment, found that for every additional drink a man consumed per day, the risk of conception not leading to a live birth increased by 2 to 8 times. This was especially true if the drinking occurred within a month of the IVF treatment. However, other studies have found no relationship between male fertility and just a few drinks. What should you do? Moderate drinking is probably okay, especially if you reserve those drinks to a few times a week, instead of daily. However, if you’re going through IVF treatment, you might consider cutting out alcohol for the time being.
Underlying medical conditions may help increase your fertility.
Untreated diabetes may lead to infertility, specifically causing retrograde ejaculation. Even if you’re without symptoms, you might want to get your blood sugars tested if you have been diagnosed with retrograde ejaculation. Up to one third of people with diabetes are unaware that they have the disease. An untreated infection of the reproductive system or urinary tract can cause infertility in men. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may lead to reduced sperm motility, and repeated STD infection may lead to scarring, which can block the passage of semen. Some infections have no symptoms besides infertility. Other medical conditions that can lead to infertility are thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, Cushing’s syndrome, and anemia. These diseases are also commonly missed. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone to walk around with thyroid problems for years before getting a diagnosis.
More is best
You already know that if you want to have a baby, you need to have sex around the time of ovulation. Having frequent intercourse all month long, however, may help increase your fertility. Research studies have found that semen health is best when sex occurred less than two days prior.
One study of about 3,000 men looked at sperm motility and morphology (shape) in relation to the number of days they abstained from sex. They found that in men with low sperm counts, peak sperm motility occurred after one day of abstinence. The peak sperm morphology occurred after zero to two days of abstinence. For men with normal sperm counts, sperm health was significantly decreased after 10 days of abstinence. To keep your sperm in tip-top shape, you should try to have sex at least twice a week, and not only around the time of ovulation.