By Fidelia Asogwa
Low sperm count and infertility in men is more prevalent than most couples think. There is an equal chance that male factor infertility can be the cause of not getting pregnant as much as a fertility issue being with the woman. While women have many tests to undergo to try to find out the cause of infertility, men have only a couple, the sperm test being the commonest.
Get tested if you notice you have low sperm count
If you have been trying to get your wife pregnant for more than a year without success, then both of you should go and get tested. The result of a good test would be a sperm count of 20 million or more sperm with healthy mobility, motility and morphology.
Suboptimal levels are less than 20 million sperm. If you find out that your sperm levels are low or are having issues with mobility, motility or morphology, it is important you get these natural therapies you can use to improve sperm count and health.
What are the causes of low sperm count?
The cause of low sperm count and male infertility are many. But the good news is that you have control over many of them.
Here are some of the top culprits that have shown to be the causes of low sperm count and male infertility.
- Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs): Exposure to electromagnetic frequencies have been shown through studies to lower sperm count due to the heating of the testicles from EMFs. To avoid the exposure to EMFs, do not keep cell phone in your pocket and do not place your laptop computer on your lap while on.
- Cigarette smoking: Smoking damages the sperm. But once one quits smoking, the damage done can be reversed.
- Pesticides and hormones in foods: The pesticides found on produce and the hormones added to dairy (milk products)have a huge effect on men’s hormonal balance. Pesticides mimic estrogens in the body while the added hormones to meat and dairy are actual hormones (like estrogen) you as a man do not need in your system.
- Alcohol: In a study of men with poor sperm quality, excessive alcohol consumption was associated with decrease in the number of normal sperm.
- Plastics: When plastics are heated, they release xenohormones which mimic estrogen in the body thereby causing the reduction of sperm cell.
- Wearing tight underwear: The testicles need to keep the sperm at a healthy temperature (which is less than the body temperature). Tight underwear can keep the testicles from being able to hang and regulate their temperature.
- Stress: Stress can have a big impact on hormonal balance which can have an effect on sperm production.
- Untreated infection: untreated infection can damage the sperm cells and render it zero. It is important you treat any sexually transmitted infection once detected to avoid its havoc on your sperm.
What to do to boost your sperm count
- Eat red foods: A report published by Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, following the analysis of 12 studies conducted by different groups around the world, found that consumption of lycopene improved the quality, mobility and volume of sperm dramatically, increasing sperm count by up to 70 percent. Lycopene is an essential nutrient found commonly in red fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries, cherries and peppers.
- Get off your bike: Cycling has many health benefits, but not when it comes to your sperm. A 2009 Spanish study by the Andalusian centre of sports medicine found that a prolonged spell on your bike can severely affect the shape and quality of your spermatozoids. After monitoring 15 Spanish athletes with an average age of 33, the study found that those that systematically cycled 300 kilometers a week had lower sperm count which is considered a fertility problem.
- Keep cool: The optimum temperature for sperm production is 34.5 degrees celsius, which is slightly below body temperature. A three year University of California study in 2007 found that five out of 11 men who stopped taking hot baths experienced a sperm count rise of almost 500 percent. What this means is that as a man taking constant hot bath is not good for your sperm.
Natural foods that increase sperm count
- Bananas: Everybody knows that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But if you want to keep fertility specialists away, you should try adding bananas to your daily diet.
- Walnuts: If you want to improve your sperm count, walnuts should be your best nuts to take. Walnuts are overflowing with omega -3 fatty acids, which have been found to increase sperm count and sexual function by improving blood flow to the genitals.
- Pumpkin seeds: A report published in the world journal of chemistry revealed that pumpkin seeds contain protective compounds called phytosterols, which can help shrink an enlarged prostate and improve testosterone production.
- Garlic: Mankind has been using garlic to treat everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease for hundreds of years, and now studies have shown that garlic can also be used to boost sperm count.
- Avocados: Avocados are packed with vitamin E, vitamin B6 and folic acid which help to boost sperm mobility and give it the strength to penetrate an egg.
Diet has a big impact on sperm health and male fertility. What you are eating today is impacting the sperm that will be swimming three months from now. So the change that you make today are impacting the sperm you will be using two to three months from now. That is the amount of time it will take for diet, herbs and supplements to have an effect.
Here are some nutrients specifically needed for healthy male fertility and they should be added to the diet as well as taken as supplements
Zinc: In men, Zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals to date for male fertility. Increasing zinc levels in infertile men has been shown to boost sperm level, improve sperm form, function and quality of male sperm and decrease male infertility. Food sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, yogurt, turkey, green peas, etc.
Selenium: Selenium is necessary for the creation of sperm. In studies, men with low sperm counts have been found to have low level of selenium. Food sources of selenium are sardines, liver, mushrooms, etc.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E has been found to improve sperm health and motility in men. It is also an important antioxidant that helps to protect sperm. Vitamin E food sources are sunflower seeds, olives, spinach, papaya (pawpaw), dark leafy greens, etc.
Folic acid: Folic acid has been found to boost sperm health. Men with low levels of foliate had increased risks for sperm that contained too little or too many chromosomes. If an egg is fertilized with one of these abnormal sperm, it could result in a birth defect such as down syndrome, or an increase in miscarriage. Food sources are black beans, liver, kidney etc.
Vitamin C: 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. Food sources are fruits, red peppers, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.
Antioxidant: Antioxidant is one of the most important components to having healthy fertility that every man and woman needs to focus on. Antioxidant helps to protect the sperm from free radical damage. Free radicals are able to damage both sperm cell health and the cell’s DNA. The DNA of both partners is the future blueprint for a child. Damaged DNA is known to cause miscarriages or birth defects/developmental problems for the future child.
Hormone Imbalance: Hormone imbalance is not just something that is reserved for woman only. Men can also have imbalanced hormones. Hormones play a large role in semen production and men’s fertility, one of the main hormones being testosterone. Due to our modern lifestyles and many of the culprits mentioned above, men’s hormones can become imbalance.
There are pollutants that mimic estrogen (xenohormones) in the body which means less testosterone. Excess estrogen in men produces erectile dysfunction, low/lack of libido, low sperm count and lowered production of seminal fluid. These xenohormones can come from pesticides on food, hormones added to dairy and meat, plastics, etc.
What to do to balance your hormones
- Reduce your exposure to xenohormones
- Eat only organic meats and dairy(like bush meat and natural milk products without additives and chemicals).
- Cleanse the body of excess hormones and toxins.
- Eat lots of fiber and cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables contain a special element that helps the body to rid itself of excess estrogens. You can also take the supplement to have the same effect.
If you have been trying to make your wife pregnant for more than one year and you have not succeeded even after handling infertility issues, it could be that you have been having sex at the wrong time. There is a right time to have sex to optimize your chances of conception and to give sperm an extra boost.
Here are some tips:
- Know her cycle: It is important as a man to know your wife’s cycle and when she is ovulating. Become interested in knowing the timing of her fertility cycle. If she does not know, find out when her period is. Roughly 12-14 days after the first day of her period is when she may ovulate. This is a rough estimate because women are all different in their cycles. One of the signs that may indicate when she is ovulating is when she is more interested in sex and has some cervical mucus equivalent to egg white.
- Timing is everything: You need to avoid sex 4 -5 days before ovulation so that your sperm supply is built up.
- Use sperm friendly lubricants if you must use at all. Note that some lubricants kill sperm cells. To avoid such, use olive oil on your penis as lubricant before having sex.
- Don’t have sex standing up. This makes it harder for the sperm to reach the cervix.
- Sperm counts are generally higher in the early morning hours, so if you are trying to conceive, try to have sex during that time. Also note that having sex all the time decreases your sperm count and so taking a break off sex for sometime can restore your sperm count naturally.