Regarding fertility and conception, it is important to look at both female and male factors that may be contributing to challenges in getting pregnant. So often, we see women jumping through all of the hoops, taking exceptional care of themselves, running every fertility related lab imaginable, only to have everything come back normal.
When we ask about their male contributor’s sperm quality, quite often the answer is “I don’t know.” It’s not surprising, considering that so much of Western fertility treatment is centered around the woman’s role in creating pregnancy. Sometimes, we miss a key factor related to what it takes get a person pregnant (read: good quality sperm!).
Much like in female reproductive health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition therapy can promote health hormone balance, lower stress levels and optimal blood which allows for optimal sperm production in men with compromised fertility.
Tips for optimal fertility for men:
- Stay Cool – Heat can damage sperm and result in poor sperm quality. When trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea for the male to limit exposure to hot tubs and hot baths. Also make sure to wear pants and undergarments that permit “breathability” to help keep things cool.
- Reduce Chemical Exposure – These days, we’re exposed to a wide variety of synthetic chemicals in our day-to-day life – they’re all around us and sometimes hard to avoid. Some of these synthetic chemicals can have a direct effect on sperm, in part because they mimic estrogen in the body, resulting in reduced sperm count and/or poor sperm quality. Reduce exposure by avoiding plastics when possible, especially when cooking. Use natural cleaning products, and eat organic when possible.
- Improve Diet – Diet goes a long way in promoting (or tampering with) fertility. Eating foods that are rich in natural nutrients like zinc, vitamin C and other natural anti-oxidants have been shown to improve sperm quality. These foods include dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach along with nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds and almonds. Likewise, a diet that is full of junk including fried foods, artificial sweeteners, soda, alcohol, tobacco and/or drugs can dramatically affect the quality of sperm. When working on fertility, stick to a diet similar to the “Whole 30” plan, found here: www.Whole30.com
- Move Your Body – The right amount of exercise can go a long way. Regular exercise (four to five times a week for at least 45 minutes) and a healthy diet enhance fertility by keeping body weight at normal levels and relieving stress and anxiety. Also important to note, excessive amounts of exercise (marathon running and associated training) can be a cause of infertility because it can lead to a lowered sperm count in men. Also, regular bicycle riding may create chronic low-grade trauma to the testicles, making it more difficult for the body to create healthy sperm.
- Manage Stress – Stress is perhaps one of the key players in the list of things that keep couples from conceiving. Stress not only affects our emotions, it also has a physical effect on our body, producing elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When cortisol levels are chronically high, common when someone is very stressed out, it can over time result in elevated blood sugar levels, hormone imbalances and ultimately poor sperm quality. Find ways to keep stress in check and you’ve won half the battle.
- Consider Herbs and Supplements – There are a wide variety of herbs and supplements that have been shown to improve sperm quality and motility. Work with a qualified health care provider to find what is right for you.
- Consider Acupuncture – Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a wonderful tool for promoting fertility because it can work with the nervous system, immune system and endocrine system to promote healthy hormone balance, reduce stress and promote healthy circulation.