Male infertility basically refers to a condition where a male is unable to impregnate a fertile female, and this affects 40% – 50% of couples dealing with infertility.
What are the causes of male infertility?
There are so many factors which cause infertility in men ranging from environmental and lifestyle factors, hormone imbalances, medications, to infections and chromosome defects. Scientists believe that environmental and lifestyle factors are one of the largest factors responsible for male infertility because studies show that the rate at which men are becoming infertile is too high to be attributed to genetics. Therefore, in this article, I will focus on environmental and lifestyle factors and I will also discuss natural remedies or ways to prevent these factors from affecting your fertility.
Cause 1: Prenatal endocrine-disrupting chemicals
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are chemicals around use which affect how our hormones work. Unfortunately, some of these chemicals started getting introduced into our systems when were were being formed in the womb and they include phthalates (found in perfume, plastics, shampoo, air freshener, laundry detergents, insect repellents, shower curtains, car steerings, IV drip bags etc), triclosan (found in anti-bacteria gel) and BPAs (found in plastic). These substances interfere with our endocrine system – which is built to regulate our hormones and biological processes. The disruption to our endocrine system that these products cause can have serious effects which include effects on our reproduction and development. These effects are worse when we are exposed to this chemicals while in the womb, as this is the period when the biological systems we will carry for life are being ‘put together’. It is also worth noting that even small doses of these endocrine disrupting chemicals can have serious effects which might not be detected for years or even decades.
Cause 2: Smoking
Most people don’t realise this, but being exposed to toxins from tobacco smoke – from the point of concenption to adulthood – can have negative effects on male fertility. There are more than 4,000 toxins in tobacco smoke, and all of these combine to harm fertility. If you’re a smoker, studies show that the semen you produce will be of lower quality, they won’t swim very fast and they will have an increased chance of being deformed. If you’re a heavy smoker, these effects will probably be even worse so if there was ever a reason to kick the habit, this is it.
Cause 3: Exposure to pesticides
Unfortunately, the food that we eat can negatively affect our fertility without us knowing. Pesticides are used to ensure that crops are not full of insects by the time they are harvested, but what we fail to realise is that these pesticides remain in the food long after they have been sprayed. In addition to this, washing food does not totally remove the pesticides from them. Unknowingly, we ingest the pesticides along with the food and guess what, they can affect men’s fertility. This includes pesticides which travel by air to food that has not been sprayed by pesticides. Eating organic food is certainly the best choice if you have access to it.
Cause 4: Stress
With our increasingly stressful lifestyles, it is important to remember that men who are stressed tend to have lower sperm concentration and reduced sperm quality. This makes it more difficult for a sperm to fertilize an egg. This make a good business case for taking a few weeks each year out to go on holiday and destress.
Cause 5: Obesity
Being overweight plays a much overlooked role in both male and female infertility. Obesity affects the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg, probably due to impaired semen quality. Living a healthier lifestyle and losing some weight could considerably improve your chances of fertility as obesity comes with other issues apart from impaired fertility.
Conventional Treatment for male infertility
Is it possible to treat male fertility? The short answer is yes. Conventional treatment will begin with an investigation to the root cause of your infertility. If after investigation, it appears that damage has been done to the reproductive organs or there are abnormalities, you might require surgery to correct this. If it turns out that you have some type of hormonal imbalance, you might require medication to address this. Finally, if nothing seems to work, technology like IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is an option which you may may want to explore.
In many cases on the other hand, making lifestyle adjustments can reverse male infertility and this is a wise (and cheaper) option to explore before committing to conventional treatment. Here are the natural steps you will need to take in order to improve your fertility chances by making lifestyle improvements.
Natural Remedies for Male Infertility
1. Avoid EDCs
If you are trying to conceive, it would do you a lot of good to try your best to eliminate endocrine disrupting chemicals from your life. The easiest way to do this is by avoiding plastic, especially when heated, as well as canned foods. Stop using canned tomatoes, and do not heat your food in plastic containers! You might not be able to realistically remove all EDCs from your life, but the little that you can go may go a long way.
2. Stop smoking
Smoking is not good for your body, whether or not you are trying to get pregnant. Smoking harms every part of your body, and it also harms those around you, including you partner, and any kids which may be in the vicinity.
3. Limit exposure to pesticides
Try your best to reduce the amount of food you eat containing pesticides. Stay away from processed food and try to eat organic food where possible. Like EDCs, it’s unlikely you can avoid pesticides completely, but you can reduce your exposure. If you are interested in growing your food, this is by far the most surefire way of ensuring that you there are absolutely no pesticides in your food. It is very easy to start a vegetable garden to grow small herbs and vegetables.
4. Take time out to relax
Living in a busy city can be very stressful, but it is up to you to realise this and take time out to relax and unwind. You can take a holiday to a quiet resort within the country, or try exercise, yoga or meditation. Again, some people find gardening therapeutic and this is a great way to get yourself fresh, organic food.
5. Improve your diet
Diet is a key factor to consider in reversing the adverse effects of poor environmental factors on fertility. Increasing your intake of raw, organic food will not only help with infertility symptoms, but also with weight management. A diet primarily made of fish, fresh fruits, legumes and green leafy vegetables will help reduce inflammation and increase the quality and quantity of your sperm. Alternatively, a diet high in processed food, refined sugar, starch and grains will not do much to improve your fertility. It is also sensible to avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs including marijuana.
6. Use herbal supplements
The most important fertility-enhancing supplements for men are vitamin C and zinc. Daily intake of 100mg – 200mg of zinc has been shown to increase sperm count, sperm motility and testosterone levels. Vitamin C (2000 – 6000mg daily) helps to prevent the sperm from sticking together, and this improves the chances for fertility.
Other herbal supplements that have been shown to improve sperm counts include horny goat weed, saw palmetto berry, gingko biloba and panax ginseng. In combination, these help to improve sexual desire, bloodflow to sexual organs and susbsequently erections. Because it takes around 3 months to create new sperm, it i important to take these supplements consistently for at least a 3 month period to start seeing results from supplements.
If you are worried about infertility, your first step should be to see a doctor or a specialist for standard fertility tests to try to identify the source of the problem. A doctor who is specialist in area of male plumbing is called a urologist. The urologist might ask you general lifestyle questions for the reasons I have explained above, before asking you to have a sperm analysis test. The test is designed to check your sperm count as well as the motility and shape of the sperm.
There are also test kits available for sale, which you can use to analyse your sperm at home. You can also go through a procedure to test your sperm count at home. The best one I’ve seen costs around $40.00, and it offers you results in 30 minutes or less with around 97% accuracy. If you are concerned about the cost of seeing a urologist in your area, or if you would rather carry out this test in private, this is a great option for you. I will explain in detail the test procedure, and the expected results for healthy sperm in my next post.