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This June we celebrate men’s health! There are so many key factors when it comes to establishing health, including adequate fitness, sleep, relaxation, fun, and of course a healthy diet. There are also important factors when we are addressing fertility.
Yes, we are also bringing awareness to World Infertility this month. Women are not alone when it comes to facing challenges of fertility; men can face these challenges too. In fact, when we are looking at a couple, it’s about 50% likely that each partner must address some aspect of their health and lifestyle in order to improve their fertility.2
Men, how savvy are you at knowing what factors affect your fertility?
Take this quiz4 to find out (answers at end of article) and then read further to learn what you can do to improve your health and boost your fertility!
- Age is not a factor in male fertility: T or F
- Diet can impact fertility: T or F
- Inflammation impairs fertility: T or F
- Male infertility is genetic: T or F
- Supplements are only good for women trying to conceive: T or F
- Being overweight affects fertility: T or F
- Cell phones, hot tubs and bicycles affect sperm quality: T or F
- Smoking doesn’t affect male fertility: T or F
- Alcohol doesn’t reduce sperm quantity: T or F
- Healthy males have healthy sperm: T or F
How did you do? 8 or more right? Great job! Less than? Well, now you have a better idea what factors can influence, not just your health, but the health of your sperm. Now, let’s take a look at what can be done to help increase your chances of fertility!
Minimize Silent Chronic Inflammation
Since inflammation plays a huge role in the undercurrent and development of a lot of our modern-day diseases this will be the main focus. There are a several factors that all influence silent chronic inflammation that have an impact on affecting a variety of parameters involving male fertility. Guyatrition David Grotto’s article on diet’s impact on male fertility includes a discussion on alcohol, smoking (toxins) and excess body weight. EatRightMama.com article on male fertility news covers all the major factors (e.g. diet, sleep, stress, fitness) including a look into the role of toxins. All of these, pay a role in the development of silent chronic inflammation in the body. A few of these factors will be discussed further.
Focus on Sleep, Stress and Digestion
Ideally, we want our bodies to run like well oiled machines. However, there can be kinks in the system that can clog or stop us in our tracks. No part exists separately from another in the human body. Every organ, gland, tissue and cell has the ability to impact another. Therefore, if you are experiencing a lack of sleep (6 hours or less), instead of the recommended 8 – 10 hours each night, this can impact how the body feels and deals with stress. This can cascade further into impacting digestive health. Not only a lack of adequate sleep, but also chronic stress on and in the body will also disrupt digestion. An upset digestive system, can impair nutrient absorption and develop a different microbiome profile (think altered good bacteria), which can impact how we handle stress and affect our sleep. None of this will make you feel like a Rockstar and you will need the nutrients to play other important roles in male fertility. This dysfunction can lead to a circular pattern as all of these factors can lead to the other. Therefore, it’s important to identify which is the true cause and work to support your body and mind in finding balance.
In fact, healthy exercise and functional movement, meditation, breathwork and brain dumps (or journaling) are all ways to calm and support each of these factors! The key is finding an activity you enjoy that can help you feel more grounded, relaxed and therefore improve your sleep, stress and digestion!
Up-level Your Diet and Nutrition
Now that we’ve addressed the importance of sleep and digestion for adequate nutrient absorption, let’s dive deeper into food and nutrition. The Mediterranean diet is a frequently used and well studied diet to address inflammation and other chronic health issues. The Mediterranean diet consists of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, moderate dairy, and olive oil with fish & seafood twice a week.2
What about Gluten?
If you struggle with blood sugar imbalance, heart disease, hormonal imbalance, digestive complaints or autoimmune disease you may want to also consider upgrading to a gluten-free Mediterranean diet. Gluten containing diets have been shown to correlate with a several endocrine related disorders in women including, decreased fertility and increased miscarriages in multiple studies.1, 6 While there are not many studies regarding gluten and male fertility, here’s the outcome of one study: “semen analysis revealed marked abnormalities in sperm morphology and motility, similar to Crohn’s disease, with sperm morphology apparently improving following removal of dietary gluten” for those with Celiac Disease.3
Whether you have Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) or you do not know – “many cases are undiagnosed because they are subclinical, atypical or even symptomless.”1 This shift in diet may further reduce silent chronic inflammation and therefore reduce the potential for long term damage that can impact fertility and conception.
Don’t Forget Conception Nutrients
Subtle shifts happening to your sperm can have a big impact on fertilization rates. To help protect sperm DNA from the damage of oxidative stress, have faster swimmers (motility), maintain optimal shape and size (morphology) and increase sperm count, volume and concentration, you will want to explore the variety of factors that can have impact. These factors include nutrition and those that deplete nutrients or impair absorption; inflammation, poor sleep, stress, toxins and digestive imbalances. Some studies2, 5 indicate that you can maximize your efforts through food or supplementation by consuming the nutrients below:
- Multivitamin and Mineral formula – One of the easiest ways to get a variety of important nutrients including Vitamin C, E, Selenium, Zinc, and Beta Carotene.
- Co-Q10 – Organ meats (liver), muscle meats (beef, chicken), fatty fish (sardines), legumes, and pistachios.
- Beta Cryptoxanthin – Winter squash, persimmons, papayas and oranges.
- Lycopene – Foods naturally red or pink including tomatoes, red grapefruit, watermelon and guava.
- Carnitine – Via muscle meats, the redder the more carnitine (beef, poultry), fish, and milk (whey).
If you are interested in finding specifics on dosages for most of the above nutrients, the book Fueling Male Infertility by Lauren Manaker is your go-to source. To learn more about each nutrient and the amounts in each food, visit the USDA National Agriculture Library’s Nutrient List.
Resources and Tools
If you are interested in assessing your current state of male health and fertility consider taking the quiz from Don’t Cook Your Balls (DCYB). It is 25 questions and at the end you can get personalized recommendations to support more optimal fertility.
If you are ready to commit to making some of the changes above and want to track how effective these changes are without frequent trips to the doctor’s office, you may want to consider a tracking program such as myLAB Box At Home Male Fertility Test. This is an at home FDA approved test used to track sperm count and motility.
Or, try the FDA approved Trak Male Fertility testing system, that tracks sperm count and volume to help monitor fertility and chances of conception. If you are serious about conception, consider Trak’s 90-day program at a minimum to help guide you through these male fertility waters.
Now if the shoe is on the other foot and you are already expecting a bundle of joy – congratulations! If momma-to-be is experiencing symptoms of morning sickness and you would like to learn how to be that strong supportive arm, please share this link to Eat Right Mama’s upcoming course Making Morning Sickness More Manageable!
For more information visit:
- Dad’s Diet Important for Fertility says Dave Grotto, RDN https://eatrightmama.com/dads-diet-fertility/
- Don’t’ Cook Your Balls male fertility quiz http://www.dontcookyourballs.com/quiz/
- Fertility Smart Conceive for Men (or Women) vitamins https://www.fertility-smart.net/
- Fueling Male Fertility (book) https://www.amazon.com/Fueling-Male-Fertility-Nutrition-lifestyle/dp/1792923252
- A Healthy Lifestyle is Job One When Trying to Conceive! https://eatrightmama.com/healthy-lifestyle-improves-fertility/
- Making Dad’s (Fertility) Summit 2015 – 2018: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkpC23JTFe5qaVEHfR1em6w/playlists
- myLAB Box’s At Home Male Fertility Test: https://www.mylabbox.com/product/male-fertility-home-test/
- The Testosterone Project https://www.perfectfertility.com/the-testosterone-project
- Trak Fertility’s at home fertility testing system for men https://trakfertility.com/
- Trying to Conceive? 14 Foods to Fuel Your Fertility! https://eatrightmama.com/trying-to-conceive-14-foods-to-eat-now/
About the Author
Detria Branch has a Master’s in Applied Clinical Nutrition and is a Registered Health and Nutrition Counselor as well as a dietetic intern through Gulf Cost Dietetic Internship. She lives in the Sun City of El Paso, Texas with her guy, 5 ½ year old son and fluffy kitty. She loves how nutrition is at the foundation of all health and is on a mission to make personalized nutrition accessible so that our men, women and children can thrive mentally, physically and spiritually.
- Caramaschi, P., Biasi, D., Carletto, A., Randon, M., Pacor, M. L., & Bambara, L. M. (2000). Celiachia e abortività: messa a fuoco di un possibile rapporto [Celiac disease and abortion: focusing on a possible relationship]. Recenti progressi in medicina, 91(2), 72–75.
- Chasse, J. Integrative Approaches to Infertility. Course. Retrieved from: https://www.perfectfertility.com/2019-live-webinar-integrative-approaches-to-infertility
- Freeman H. J. (2010). Reproductive changes associated with celiac disease. World journal of gastroenterology, 16(46), 5810–5814. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v16.i46.5810
- Men’s Health Month: 11 Male Infertility Myths Debunked. Fertility Centers of Illinois. Retrieved from: https://fcionline.com/our-center/news-and-media/press-releases/mens-health-month-11-male-infertility-myths-debunked/
- Monaker, L. MS RD (2019, Jan 13). Fueling Male Fertility: Nutrition and lifestyle guidance for men trying to conceive.
- Soni, S., & Badawy, S. Z. (2010). Celiac disease and its effect on human reproduction: a review. The Journal of reproductive medicine, 55(1-2), 3–8.
*Quiz inspired by Men’s Health Month: 11 Male Infertility Myth’s Debunked. The answers are:
1. F 2. T 3. T 4. F 5. F 6. T 7. T 8. F 9. F 10. F