It Takes Two to Tango
Fertility problems are not just an issue for wannabe moms but for wannabe dads too. Often in the pursuit of pregnancy, future dads can be overlooked. However, in about one-third of the cases of infertility, it is the man who is responsible. Current estimates suggest about 6% of men between the ages of 15 and 50 are infertile. Quality and number of sperm and their swimming ability have a big impact on conception and are susceptible to many environmental and nutritional factors. Here are some naturopathic strategies to boost your man's fertility.
Don't disrupt the endocrine system
Some of the foods we consume, the products we use and even the water we drink contain substances that disrupt our endocrine system, such as xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are substances that have estrogen-like activity in the body which is particularly damaging to male fertility as they inhibit the multiplication of cells crucial for sperm production. These substances don't just pose a threat on your current reproductive health but also that of your children. Many of these substances such as phthalates, BPA, PCBs and dioxin are found in plastic containers, household cleaners, personal care products, pesticides and canned foods. One of the worse is phthalates as they actually cause testicular cell death. For this reason, avoid plastics, chemically sprayed or hormone treated foods, canned foods, and non-green cleaners and personal care products as much as possible.
Boost Vitamin C
Through aging, the insult from the environment (such as cigarette smoke), and our own everyday metabolic processes, free radicals build up in the body. In high quantities these free radicals can easily damage sperm as sperm lack defensive enzymes and their membranes are highly permeable to free radicals. In fact, free radical levels tend to be higher in infertile men. One way to protect against this damage is by increasing antioxidants like Vitamin C. Vitamin C has been shown to protect sperm DNA. In one study after supplementing with Vitamin C for one month, infertile men had significant improvements in sperm count, viability and motility. Most men can benefit from increasing fruits, vegetables and nuts in the diet to boost antioxidants but men with fertility issues will require supplementation to reach adequate levels.
Be Choosey with Fats
You might have been wanted your honey to give up snacking on crackers and chips because of his belly pouch, but you might not know that they are also damaging his fertility. This is because many processed snacks (including graham crackers and pretzels) contain cottonseed, which naturally contains gossypol. Gossypol inhibits sperm function and is currently being investigated for male contraception. In addition, too much saturated and hydrogenated fats decreases the fluidity of sperm cellular membranes, which affects their motility. On the flip side increasing polyunsaturated oils from fish and olives, improves all aspects of sexual function including sperm formation and activity.
Be in Sync with Zinc
Of all the minerals, zinc is the superstar for male sexual function. It is involved in almost every aspect of male reproduction including hormone metabolism, sperm formation, and sperm motility. Zinc deficiency is also linked to decreased testosterone levels and sperm counts. One study demonstrated zinc's effectiveness by giving infertile men supplemental zinc for 2 months. After the study the men showed marked improvements in testosterone levels and sperm counts. Even though zinc deficiency is rare in the United States, many men don't consume enough zinc, which is found in shellfish, nuts, seeds and legumes. Also certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors and chemotherapeutic agents inhibit zinc absorption, which can further exacerbate the problem.