Well Gents, it’s official, our little swimmers are dwindling at an alarming rate. A recent meta-analysis conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem confirms that “sperm concentration has declined by more than 50 percent, with no evidence of ‘leveling off’ in recent years.” Even more alarming is the fact that scientists aren’t really sure why this is occurring. There are plenty of valid theories out there pointing to various culprits – plastics, soy, even global warming – but there is no one answer that truly explains the massive drop in sperm count among Western men.
Does this mean that we should just resign ourselves to a childless dystopian future, like the one portrayed in “Children of Men?” Not exactly. There is still plenty you can do to keep your count high, or increase it if it is already low.
Diet is one of the easiest ways to improve your sperm count and motility. While it is always ideal to get our nutrients from whole foods, sometimes that just isn’t realistic. Supplements are something easy, and manageable to add to your daily routine. However, they will only help if a nutrient deficiency is the cause of your low sperm count. Below are some examples of the most commonly used supplements in treating male infertility.
- Zinc: Increases sperm count, and motility as well as testosterone levels.
- Selenium: Beneficial for both sperm motility, and morphology
- Vitamin C: This supplement ensures sperm doesn’t stick together or form clumps.
- Vitamin E: Deficiency of this vitamin can cause damage to reproductive tissue
- Vitamin B12: Deficiency of B12 can damage the nerves of the penis leading to erectile dysfunction
Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbs)
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer in the treatment of male infertility, especially if stress is a contributing factor. Acupuncture and herbs work along a lot of the same avenues as supplements, for example, these modalities can: increase blood flow to the genitals (specifically your testicular artery), cool the scrotum, increase sex drive, regulate the nervous system, and calm the mind. Therefore, we are able to treat conditions like: low sperm count / motility, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation. Some areas that Chinese Medicine won’t have much of an effect is in structural abnormalities (like a sperm duct defect) or a chromosomal disorder.
Some areas that Chinese Medicine won’t have much of an effect is in structural abnormalities (like a sperm duct defect) or a chromosomal disorder.
Lifestyle Factors to Avoid
Incorporating healthy nutrients, and a proper treatment plan are important tools in boosting fertility, however another important step is reducing lifestyle habits that can be harmful to your reproductive system.
- Smoking: I’m sure it comes as no surprise that smoking has been linked to poor sperm quality. Smokers are 54% more likely to be infertile.
- Infrequent Ejaculation: Increases oxidative stress which can be damaging to semen, as they remain in the testes for a longer period of time before being ‘recycled.’
- Stress: Testosterone levels can decrease as a result of chronic stress. (Acupuncture is a great tool for helping managing stress!)
- Heat: Hot tubs, laptops, seat warmers, and even tight clothing can all increase the temperature of your testicles. Heat negatively impacts sperm production, as they are produced in a very sensitive environment. Ideally, your testes need to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body.
- Saturated Fat: A diet high in saturated fat can lower sperm concentration an average of 31%
It’s time to pay attention
While the fact that sperm counts are dropping is concerning, one positive side effect is that it has brought men’s health issues to the forefront. I’m hoping that this will push more men to become active participants in their health and wellbeing. Out of all the patients we see here at Meridian Health centre, only about 25% of them are men. There is a wealth of literature out there that shows just how beneficial Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be for Men’s Health – so where are all the guys? Better late than never fellas.
Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., … & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 1-14.
Men’s Sexual & Reproductive Health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2017, from https://www.dontcookyourballs.com/
by Jon McDonell, R.Ac