Great emphasis is given to the importance of a woman’s health and nutritional status before and during pregnancy. But her male partner has to play an equally crucial role at conception by providing a good supply of healthy, motile sperm, consisting of a good count, optimum motility and shape (morphology) as well as being free from infection. Our modern, stressful lifestyles, coupled with old enemies such as poor diet, smoking and excessive drinking are often major factors that contribute to poor sperm health. Recent research reported in the Human Reproduction journal confirms a link between diets high in saturated fat and reduced sperm count, whereas those with high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids were linked to higher concentrations of sperm.
Whether you’re dealing with a low count, poor motility or morphology, there is always room for improvement when it comes to the intrinsic and genetic status of the sperm. There have been many studies carried out on nutrition and sperm quality, and outcomes suggest that as well as a good diet, supplements can also play a vital role in ensuring the highest quality possible. Everyone has different dietary needs, likes and dislikes, lifestyles, eating habits and relationships. It’s important to remember that it’s not always possible to ensure the right amount of nutrients in foods.
The journey of a sperm cell through a woman’s reproductive tract is tough, and once that’s over it still has to penetrate the egg in order to fertilise it! A healthy sperm cell has to have fully intact DNA – the father’s genetic contribution to the child. The sperm then need to be properly fuelled so that it powers the tail in the right direction – forward.
If the sperm is chromosomally abnormal, there is an increased risk of miscarriage as the woman’s body will reject a developing embryo with faulty DNA. Free radicals are the main cause of DNA abnormalities, and are produced as a natural by-product of our metabolism, playing an important role in cellular repair. Increasingly, free radicals are being linked to egg and sperm damage caused in part by certain foods and the environment around us. Free radicals target the fatty fluid membranes of all our cells leaving the DNA damaged and the cell no longer able to function. Sperm are very vulnerable to free radical damage. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants that protect against this is vital, but supplementing the most important antioxidants is also recommended. All of these will increase free radical damage to the sperm. A good supply of antioxidants contained in fruit and vegetables will neutralise free radicals, also an antioxidant supplement like Vitamen boost will help neutralise free radicals.
Zinc is perhaps one of the most important nutrients in male fertility and is significantly correlated with the genetic viability of sperm. Zinc deficiency also decreases both testosterone and sperm count, as well as affecting motility. If the amount zinc is too high, however, immune function can be impaired, therefore supplementation needs to be carefully monitored.
Vitamin E and Selenium
Two powerful antioxidants that help protect the cell membrane (containing DNA) and ensure healthy formation are Vitamin E and Selenium. The amount of selenium in food depends on the amount in the soil; it’s believed that soil is often highly depleted of this mineral and therefore added supplementation is recommended.
When there is a deficiency of Vitamin C there is an increased risk of “clumping”, when sperm cells get stuck together, leaving fewer sperm available to move up towards the egg. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, which is most easily destroyed by overheating and smoking. Omega 3 (DHA) is also very important for improving sperm health.
Given how important the job of sperm is, as well as all it has to go through, it’s easy to see how crucial the right nutrition is. But, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that men hate taking pills! However this is one occasion when some nutrients just have to be taken in supplemental form, especially if there are issues with sperm health.
Over the past few years, we have seen more and more men with sperm issues. It’s a known fact that around 50% of fertility complications are down to male factor and yet still we focus so much on the woman. The male partner has an equally crucial role to play at conception in providing the healthiest sperm he can for the future health of the child. We have produced a new formulation of supplements for men that contains all the vital minerals and vitamins we know can boost sperm quality, motility, count and morphology (shape). The feedback we’ve had from men is that they don’t want to have to constantly think about when to take lots of pills, so Vitamen has been specially re-formulated as an easy to swallow daily capsule containing Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, L-Arginine and Folic Acid to really turbo-charge your sperm.
As well as making sure you’re getting all the most important nutrients, there are other areas you should look at that can help improve your chances for conception. Here are my top five tips to build and boost sperm health:
1. Sex, sex and more sex!
There are so many myths around sex when trying for a baby, and the most common questions we’re asked are about how often to have it and whether it’s better to save the sperm up. Firstly, you should be having sex as much as possible, at least three times a week. The idea of saving sperm is a myth as it will die after a few days. Research shows that the more fresh sperm there is, the better the quality.
Testosterone is the hormone of desire. Sex can become an issue between partners when they’re trying for a baby or if they’ve done endless rounds of IVF, and it’s easy to see why sex becomes mechanical. Focusing on getting a good sex life back is key to sperm health. Arousal is important as it affects the amount of sperm you will produce and you’re not helping yourself by having mechanical, passionless sex.
Take the pressure off one another when it comes to wanting a baby. Pressure causes performance anxieties in men. A man doesn’t need to know everything that’s going on in a woman’s body to be ready for sex. He doesn’t need to know when she’s ovulating and he doesn’t need the pressure to perform.
So often we see that the relationship is tense due to trying for a baby, which makes it harder to have sex. Sex can become a subconscious currency between couples. Trying for a baby and going through IVF challenges any relationship.
Make sure you get a sexual health screen. It’s well-documented that alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs affect sperm health and increase free radical damage, which affects the DNA of the sperm. Being overweight or underweight can also affect fertility, so it would really help to take a good look at your exercise regime and your diet.
Today’s men are producing up to 50% less sperm than their fathers, with around 43% of them experiencing fertility problems, according to research published in The British Medical Journal. A dramatic drop in potency has occurred over the last ten years, with an increasing number of men suffering from sperm abnormalities as well as low counts and motility. Studies reveal that in one third of cases where couples take longer than the average to conceive, poor sperm health is the most likely cause.
READ MORE: Can You Really Eat Yourself Pregnant?