If you’re a woman trying to conceive, you’re probably spending an awful lot of time tracking your cycle, taking your temperature, watching your diet, checking your mucus (oh, the joy …) and all kinds of other things you never realized you’d do in order to get pregnant.
You may also be giving your partner the side-eye and thinking, This is so unfair! Why doesn’t he have to completely change his habits and schedule and diet and track things on calendars! And you’d be totally right.
Good news! The commitment (although not exactly equal) is on both of you to make sure you’re creating the prime environment for conception. There are actually a TON of things your partner should be doing in order to optimize his little swimmers because remember – he’s 50% of this baby-making equation!
When it comes to male fertility, there are three areas to consider:
The simplest measurable part of a man’s reproductive health is sperm count, or the number of sperm in his ejaculate, most often expressed as the number of sperm found per millilitre (ml) of semen with each ejaculation.
Sperm morphology refers to the shape and size of sperm. Ideal sperm should have a head that is oval in shape, have a mid-section, and have a long, straight tail.
Sperm motility refers to the sperm’s ability to move in a straight line. If the movement of the sperm is sluggish or not in a straight line, then the sperm will have a hard time attempting to invade the cervical mucus, or penetrate the egg.
Healthy, normal shaped, quick swimming sperm are pertinent in not only fertilizing an egg, but also in providing optimal DNA so that the embryo is genetically healthy and has a greater chance of surviving.
So, how do we ensure your man has happy, healthy sperm?
Have you seen the latest research on what’s happening with our men from Shanna Swan, PhD, one of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York*?
Here are some highlights:
– The global fertility rate has dropped 50% between 1960 – 2016, with the US birth rate 16% below where it needs to be to sustain the population.
– After analyzing 185 studies involving nearly 45,000 healthy men, Swan and her team found that over the past four decades, sperm counts among men in Western countries had dropped by ~59%. Yikes.
– Swan estimates that by 2050, a large portion of the global population will need assisted reproductive technology to procreate. Double yikes.
– Sperm counts have been dropping, infant boys are developing more genital abnormalities, and men’s problems with conception are on the rise. Erectile dysfunction is increasing and testosterone levels are decreasing 1% each year.
– Men are experiencing lower testosterone levels and, as a result, more men are getting prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapy, which increases testosterone levels but causes an even greater reduction in sperm count. “Ninety percent of men can have their sperm counts drop to zero while they’re on it,” says Swan.
– Sexual desire among men is also declining. Swan, who has studied infertility for more than 30 years, says men are seeking help for erectile dysfunction on average seven years earlier than they did in 2005, with 26% of men falling under the age of 40.
– Research shows an overall increase in genital abnormalities, including a higher rate of undescended testicles, and unusually small penises. Growing numbers of sperm appear defective with some having two heads or wandering aimlessly instead of pursuing an egg.
Scary? For sure.
Fixable? Heck yes.
“The problem isn’t that something is inherently wrong with the human body as it has evolved over time; it’s that chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance.”*
Many factors are at play — more alcohol use, smoking, excess body weight, and a lack of exercise are a few. But Swan and her colleagues say the bigger problem could be caused by hormone-disrupting chemicals found in our day to day lives.
– Phthalates are in things like personal care products, and they mimic the body’s hormones. They help hand lotion penetrate your skin, and they help the smell get into your nose. They also help the pesticides get to the plant. The most common source of exposure to phthalates is food, because phthalates are in all soft tubing and soft coverings used to process and package food. Heat combined with food is a bad combination in the presence of phthalates. They have many impacts on humans, but the worst is their ability to lower testosterone.
– Bisphenols are compounds that act on estrogen, as opposed to the phthalates, which act on testosterone. They make plastics hard. They’re found in almost all plastics – tupperware, food containers, baby bottles, drinking water bottles, and every other million way plastic is used. The most familiar is BPA but there are substitutes like BPS, BPF, and so on.
– Pesticides are hormonally active in many ways, depending on the particular formulation. They get into our foods. They’ve also been found in people who are handling these products occupationally. Pesticides are a major source of exposure and a real risk to our hormone system.
– Flame retardants are chemicals that are in everything from cushions in our sofas to our kids’ pajamas to firefighting foam. They’re really hard to get rid of in our homes.
– PFAS are chemicals that are used, for example, in Teflon to make things stick-resistant. They also make things water-resistant, like raincoats. These are chemicals that have strong hormonal effects, particularly on the thyroid and the immune system.
We’ve covered the latest research in male fertility rates, the how and why of decreasing sperm counts and fertility rates, and now let’s look at how to naturally optimize sperm health.
Choose organic. It’s not a gimmick. It’s serious and important and worth the extra money. Especially for the fragility of the sperm cells. If you’re unable to buy everything organic and you’re needing to choose the most important – anything that comes from an animal MUST BE ORGANIC! Animals accumulate toxicity much more than plants do. So make sure your animal foods are of the highest quality you can get your hands on.
In addition, focus on eating real, whole, fresh, organic food that you cook yourself. Eat high-quality organic protein, clean + healthy fat sources, a variety of organic fruit + veg, lots of greens, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, properly fermented yogurt or kefir. Purchase the highest quality of food you can find and afford.
To ensure his body is capable of doing all of the above, we need to ensure that his body has optimized nutrient levels to promote high quality sperm that can get the job done. There a TON of options when it comes to supplements, but I’ve narrowed down my top 6 for you:
Complete Multi without Copper and Iron: a full-spectrum multivitamin with Albion chelated minerals for maximum absorption and bioavailability. This powerhouse multivitamin supplies supporting nutrients not normally found in regular multis, such as alpha lipoic acid, TMG, fruit bioflavanoids, choline, and inositol. This formula also contains vitamin E, high levels of all B vitamins, and natural mixed carotenoids.
Omega TG1000: uses the latest innovation in omega-3 EPA/DHA technology to insure superior quality, purity and absorption. Essential fatty acids ensure a healthy sperm membrane, which is required for proper sperm maturation. Omega 3’s also improve sperm count significantly.
Detox Antiox: synergistically combines many nutrients that have a positive effect on sperm health, including zinc, vitamin C, E, selenium, and other potent antioxidants. Adequate zinc intake is important for the creation of the outer membrane and tail of a sperm. Sperm utilize zinc for maturation, mobility and strength. Zinc is also necessary for hormone balance. Selenium is necessary for proper sperm formation.
This formula also contains multiple ingredients known to raise glutathione levels making it helpful for protecting delicate sperm cells. It also combats free radicals and helps detoxify harmful chemicals including heavy metals. L-Leucine when taken with NAC prevents mercury from being reabsorbed into the central nervous system.
CoQnol Ubiquinol 100mg: contains ubiquinol, the reduced, antioxidant form of CoQ10. As an antioxidant, coQ10 increases fertility, especially in men. CoQ10 improves sperm motility and is especially useful for men with poor sperm quality. CoQ10 is necessary for a healthy sperm cell membrane and energy (forward movement). It is also protective of sperm cells and protects the important genetic codes they carry (DNA) for creation of a healthy child.
L-Arginine: researchers have discovered that Arginine regulates nitric oxide, a powerful compound in the blood responsible for regulating blood flow, immune function, communication among nerve cells, liver function, blood clotting, and even sexual arousal. Arginine acts as a natural Viagra – improving erectile function and increasing the quantity of sperm (by up to 250%). Arginine also improves sperm motility and health.
Carnitine Synergy: L-Carnitine is an amino acid responsible for shuttling omega fatty acids. L-Carnitine has been shown to help normalize sperm motility in men with low sperm quality. L-Carnitine helps sperm to metabolize fats and sugars for energy, and it’s vital for the formation of sperm cells. L-Carnitine stimulates the natural production of sperm, and the higher the sperm-cell count, the higher the chances for fertilization. Not only does L-Carnitine increase sperm levels, but it also enhances the sperm’s motility and improves the health of the sperm cells. It is believed that this supplement can be particularly efficient for the treatment of age-related infertility in men.
clean up your environment
This includes getting rid of chemical-laden personal care products, cleaning products, yard fertilizers, etc. Eliminate all plastic from your kitchen. Don’t drink out of plastic water bottles. Avoid canned goods, only buy brands that specify “BPA-free”. Handle paper receipts as little as possible and wash your hands afterwards. Avoid using cologne, antiperspirant, and aluminum-containing deodorant. Look for cleaning and laundry products that are plant-based, fragrance-free and phthalate-free. Throw away all non-stick Teflon-type cookware. Cook only in cast iron, stainless steel, glass or ceramic.
Drink at least ½ your bodyweight in ounces of clean, filtered water per day. Do not drink out of plastic water bottles, use glass or stainless steel refillable bottles.
Help your testicles create the perfect environment for making healthy sperm by avoiding hot tubs, saunas, hot baths, briefs/tights shorts/tight pants, excessive cycling (occasional cycling is fine, but make sure to take frequent breaks and get those tight shorts off IMMEDIATELY after a ride).
Reducing stress is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your sperm health. Easier said than done, but start small. Take a daily walk outside to clear your mind, try meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or massage, and just do your best to do at least one small thing each day that you enjoy.
Find an activity that you love, remember to avoid activities like cycling, take breaks to keep the boys cool, and avoid the sauna! HIIT training is awesome for increasing testosterone production!
set the sperm free
The best news so far in this post may be that frequent ejaculation can increase sperm production (it’s a demand/supply thing). However you manage it, try and ejaculate daily.
The main factors of man’s fertility are: sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Some risks that can affect your sperm health are toxins, excessive heat, and poor overall health.
You can improve the overall health of your sperm by making lifestyle changes, keeping your testes cool, eating a proper diet, and taking targeted supplements.
The Fertility Code is the best-kept secret of women who want to take the guesswork out of conceiving, and give themselves every possible chance of getting pregnant quickly and naturally.
Bringing together evidence-based information, science-backed protocols and nurturing practices, this course is your one-stop-shop for getting your body, mind and soul prepared for conception.
This essential fertility course is for anyone who is struggling to get pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant soon. The course covers allllll the fertility topics: egg quality, ovarian reserve, miscarriage, ovulation, cycle tracking, low progesterone, IVF, prepping for egg retrieval + embryo transfer, thyroid health, toxins, and much more. It covers EVERYTHING you need to know and you can move through the modules at your own pace.
The Fertility Code will give you the tools, protocols, tests, supplements, and more to optimize your fertility health, nourish your body, and give it what it needs to make a baby, and ensure a healthy full-term pregnancy. It has helped hundreds of women get pregnant, and stay pregnant, and it can help you too.
And if you want to get a baseline of your fertility health before getting started, take my take my free ‘How Fertile Are You?’ quiz! After you complete it, you’ll receive a detailed report from me explaining your results.
If you want more personalized guidance and support, or want to have a more in-depth conversation about your specific concerns, feel free to schedule a 1:1 consultation. I offer 1:1 consultations through the convenience of video conferencing for women and couples with various fertility & hormonal health concerns.
Sarah Jane Sandy is a certified nutrition therapist, and a fertility and women’s health expert. She has helped hundreds of women increase their fertility naturally and go on to have healthy full-term pregnancies. Learn more about her own fertility journey here. To send Sarah a message, complete her Contact Form.