Eating your way to healthy sperms

A diagnosis of infertility is made when a man and wife are unable to get pregnant after a year of having unprotected sex. Infertility cases are on the rise with 1 in 6 couples having difficulty conceiving a child. When it comes to infertility, it used to be thought to be primarily a woman’s problem, but that is not the case. Men and women are equally affected.

Male infertility refers to a man’s inability to cause pregnancy in a fertile woman. Though male infertility is rarely discussed, it is just as common as female infertility. In fact, statistics show that 33% of cases are due to female infertility, 33% of cases are due to male infertility, and 33% are due to a combination of problems or unexplained infertility. 

There are a lot of factors that can cause infertility in men and women. However, the leading cause of male infertility is oxidative stress, and is observed in about half of all infertile men. This oxidative stress occurs when the production of free radicals exceed the body’s own antioxidant defenses. It increases when we are exposed to stress, toxins, infections, cigarette smoke, too much alcohol, excessive sugar intake etc. The best way to combat oxidative stress is by eating more antioxidants.

What you eat has a crucial effect on not just general health but also fertility health. Your body uses the nutrients from the foods we eat to repair cells, produce hormones and produce healthy eggs and sperm that is necessary for reproduction. Good nutrition can improve sperm health, support more stable genetic material in the sperm, and ultimately reduce male infertility risk. A healthy sperm diet should comprise of whole foods; rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits and antioxidants, low in processed foods, sugar, and high glycemic foods.

Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and selenium help protect cells in the reproductive system from damage by oxidative stress. Regular intake of vitamins C and E have been related to increased sperm motility, morphology, and sperm count. Foods that are high in these antioxidants include dark leafy green vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, spinach, okra, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, raw nuts and seeds, peppers, carrots, chia seeds, mushrooms, legumes.

Selenium is vital for healthy sperm. There is substantial evidence that selenium supplements can improve semen quality in those suffering from male infertility. In one study, Selenium taken in combination with Vitamin E showed marked improvement in sperm motility and morphology and this resulted in more pregnancies. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, eggs, meat and fish.

In addition to antioxidants, Zinc plays an important role in the reduction of oxidative stress, aids in sperm maturation, and testosterone synthesis. Men who were treated with a combination of folic acid and zinc showed a 74 percent increase in normal sperm count. Combining foods high in zinc with antioxidants like vitamins C or E will increase zinc absorption. Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, poultry, grass-fed beef, beans, pumpkin seeds, lobster, crab, and whole-grains.

Most people are aware that Folic Acid is critical for the preconception period in women because optimal folic acid levels early in pregnancy can prevent fetal neural tube defects. Folic acid is also essential for reducing the risk of male fertility and improving sperm health. Men with high levels of folate have fewer abnormal sperm than men with a low intake of folate.

Vitamin D is positively associated with semen quality and androgen status. Moreover, optimizing vitamin D levels may increase testosterone levels. Men should make sure to get their levels regularly checked, and aim for optimal levels to ensure proper sperm functioning. Our bodies make Vitamin D in response to sunlight. We also get it through red meat, eggs, oily fish etc

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Essential fatty acids, including omega-3, are abundant in sperm cell membranes. They contribute to sperm fluidity, which is necessary for the sperm to penetrate and fertilize the egg.  Increasing the intake of omega-3, will result in healthier sperm. In fact, Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase sperm concentration 16.2 to 28.7 million per ml. Flax oil, salmon, fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds, sardines, spinach are examples of foods that are rich in these essential fatty acids.

For those that are trying to get pregnant, it is important to remember that what you eat and what you don’t eat has a lot to do with fertility. Try to eat well-balanced meals, loaded with these nutrients and antioxidants that nourish and repair the body. So gentlemen, next time you want to have that extra slice of cake, or third bottle of beer, first of all ask yourself… how would this contribute to my sperm health?

Disclaimer: The medical information provided here is for information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment

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