There are few things more frustrating in life than trying desperately to have a baby and start a family but not being able to due to infertility. While there are many reasons why women may experience infertility and rates can be staggeringly high, it’s not just a problem that impacts women. Men can also have infertility issues as well.
And in today’s world, unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this. It’s often thought that men can reproduce forever because they don’t have a biological clock like women do, but in some cases, men can’t produce at all – at least not until they figure out how to fix their infertility issues.
Current research (1) is suggesting that fertility rates for men do not look good. Look at the numbers, between the years of 1973 and 2011, scientists saw the total sperm counts in men who thought they were fine and fertile go up to 60%. This indicates that a problem is clearly on the rise and unless we take steps to remedy this issue, soon having a baby will be harder than ever. When infertility strikes in men, treatment is also not always sought because the man is so embarrassed about their possible infertility. It might take months of unsuccessful trying – even years – before the male finally decides to see a doctor and get tested.
This is a shame because in some cases, infertility can be remedied relatively quickly and successful conception could be seen shortly after.
So what’s behind all this male infertility? What is causing men to lack the ability to procreate?
Let’s look at a few of the main causes and some solutions that could help to remedy the situation.
If you are a smoker, here is a very good reason to butt out: smoking can dramatically increase your risk factor for infertility. Research (2) has illustrated that smoking regularly is closely connected to a decrease in semen volume in men, and since low sperm count is one of the biggest issues related to infertility, it’s something to take seriously.
Smoking has so many negative health repercussions to it that you really must make quitting your priority. What’s worse is that if you continue to smoke and do happen to get pregnant, smoking around your newborn baby will put their health in serious jeopardy. It increases the risk for a number of diseases and health conditions.
Stop The Pain Killers
You might want to think twice before popping that pain killer, or more specifically, that ibuprofen. Research is now suggesting that this commonly used over-the-counter drug may very well be linked with male infertility.How this works is that it meddles with healthy testicular function. When subjects (3) used ibuprofen for two weeks in a row, it was seen that their levels of luteinizing hormone was increased and this impacts proper testosterone function.
It’s a wise idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist for smarter alternatives to ibuprofen if you need pain management for whatever reason.
Taking ibuprofen and experiencing the potential impacts that it may have on the body may lead to issues such as infertility, erectile dysfunction, depression, and may also put you at risk for accelerated bone and muscle mass loss.
Bone and muscle mass loss is another thing to take very seriously as this can increase your risk of weight gain down the road (due to a sluggish metabolic rate) and may also put you at a higher risk factor for osteoporosis, bone breaks, or fractures.
Improper Washing Of Fruits And Vegetables
You work hard to get your 5-10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in each day. That’s great news – these foods are loaded with important nutrients required by the body.
The drawback however? You may be putting yourself in harm’s way. Another factor that appears to be linked to decreased testosterone function in men is the consumption of pesticides and herbicides used on these fresh product choices.
So if you are not washing your fresh fruits and vegetables as well as you should be, this could be seriously coming back to haunt you down the road. Your efforts to do something good for yourself is actually working against you.
The good news is this is a relatively easy fix. You just simply need to be sure that you thoroughly rinse the produce when you purchase it, or instead, choose to buy organic produce. That would be your best defense against this issue, so if you are currently experiencing infertility and are looking to have a baby and put that behind you, this is likely the better path to take.
Release The Stress
Perhaps one of the biggest culprits that can lead to infertility in both men and women is stress. If you are heavily stressed out on a regular basis, make no mistake, there is a very good chance that your reproductive system will suffer because of it.
If you think about this logically, it makes sense. Bringing a baby into this world takes a lot of energy and resources and if your body knows that you are under great stress, it’s not about to bring another huge stressor into the matter.
While this will definitely influence a woman’s body more than a man’s, as the woman is the one who needs to carry the baby to term and then care for it after birth from a biological standpoint, men are not getting off so easy.
The stress they experience is also going to have devastating effects on their hormonal profile, increasing levels of cortisol while decreasing levels of testosterone. Low cortisol and high testosterone are the hallmarks of a healthy male, so you are virtually on the opposite end of the spectrum when this is the case.
Furthermore, research has shown that men who are heavily stressed out tend to release fewer sperm per ejaculate, which makes it harder for those sperm to reach the egg. In addition to that, the sperm are of lower quality, so this can also cause more problems with conception occurring (4).
Stress can creep up on you and be hard to control at times. In fact, you may not even fully know you are stressed until a breakdown occurs. This is why it’s essential that you learn how to read your body carefully, watch for the subtle signs that indicate you may be stressed and upon seeing them, immediately begin practicing stress reducing tactics.
If you stay on top of it, you will be able to lower your stress level considerably over time.
Excess Body Fat
Finally, the last major game player in infertility for men and one that is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society is excess body fat. We are seeing the men of our nation become more and more overweight, which is placing great strain on our health care system, not to mention making it hard to reproduce.
When men are packing on excess fat cells on a seemingly daily rate, this is going to change their hormonal profile once again. Fat cells have estrogenic effects on the body, so the more fat cells that are present, the higher a man’s estrogen levels will generally be.
As you may already know, estrogen opposes the action of testosterone, so now you have low testosterone levels to contend with. When testosterone drops, sperm production and quality declines, and infertility is just around the corner.
In addition to this, research also now suggests that the sperm produced by overweight men may have trouble fertilizing an egg, therefore this too can lower the rate of conception (5).
Obesity is something that you have direct control over, for the most part, so it only makes sense to do everything you can to try and combat it.
So there you have some of the most commonly seen reasons that you may find yourself suffering from infertility.
Now let’s talk about some natural solutions.
Steer Clear Of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that you avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals at all costs. These are chemicals that can interfere with natural hormone production, making it challenging to maintain optimized sperm levels and fertility.
These are most often found in plastic containers (think the water bottle you’re drinking from), canned foods (soups, pastas, even canned corn), as well as household cleaners.
When in doubt, go natural with your house cleaning products. Not only can you prevent these EDC’s from entering your system, but you’ll reduce your chance of experiencing exposure to other harmful fumes as well. Plus, if you have pets in the home who are accustomed to licking the counters or furniture, if they happen to do this after cleaning, the results can be devastating. Most people never think of this side effect of carrying these products into their homes but it’s definitely there.
Know Your Produce
Earlier we spoke about the importance of purchasing organic produce and that is a very important part of trying to improve your fertility levels.
But, not every single piece of produce your purchase needs to be organic. If you are on a grocery budget, it may be unrealistic to do so. Instead, you’ll want to simply focus on what’s known to be the ‘dirty dozen’, which are the produce options that tend to have the greatest amount of pesticides on them, thus are the biggest threat to your health.
The dirty dozen includes:
· Sweet bell peppers
If you can make extra sure you purchase organic for these, that will go a long way towards making certain that you are not going to be experiencing the harmful chemicals in your body. There’s also a ‘clean 15’ list, which are produce options that are thought to be just fine to purchase normally. These tend to be ‘clean’, meaning they are not exposed to the level of pesticides and thus don’t pose the threat you were worried about.
· Sweet corn
· Frozen sweet peas
Carry this list with you whenever you go to the grocery store and you should have no problem making an informed decision over what to purchase.
Make Additional Changes To Your Diet Plan
Finally, one last thing that you must do is focus on getting rid of the excess weight that you’re currently carrying. This can be a hard one for many people because our food habits ‘die hard’ as they say are so ingrained in our behavior patterns.
But, if you really want to stand the best chance of putting excess body weight behind you and making certain that you are doing what you can to improve your ability to reproduce, you will learn how to make changes to your diet plan.
While you can – and should – certainly adopt an exercise program, remember that nothing is going to help you see faster results than nutritional efforts. Exercise is good, but the rate of calorie burn tends to be much slower than what’s needed to really see optimal rates of fat loss, therefore most people will get discouraged if they are only using exercise as a tool.
So what changes should you make in your meal plan? Here are a few to get you started:
· Focus on eating a lean protein with each and every meal and/or snack
· Try and get a few servings of vegetables into each meal that you eat
· Focus on reducing your intake of processed meats and fatty cuts of beef
· Eat more fish and seafood
· Satisfy your sweet tooth cravings with some fruit or low sugar/low fat yogurt
· Avoid high fat dairy items
· Watch for hidden sources of sugar in your diet such as from condiments, sauces, and beverages
· Do not ever drink your calories
· Limit the amount of whole grains you consume
· Swap out whole grains for smarter choices like sweet potatoes or beans
· Aim to have three meals per day and two to three smaller snacks
Often you don’t have to do an entire diet overhaul to get great results. Little changes will add up so start making those changes today and watch what happens when you do.
Frequently Asked Questions About Male Infertility
What are the symptoms of infertility in males?
While every man’s symptoms will be slightly different, the main ones to be on the lookout for include changes in sexual desire, testicle pain or swelling, issues with sustaining an erection during sexual activities, problems with ejaculation, and small testicles that feel firm to the touch. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your physician.
Can male infertility be treated?
Most definitely! With the right approach, you can certainly treat most cases of male infertility and that man can go on to father a child. Some treatments may be more intense than others, so speaking to your doctor to figure out the root cause will be essential. In some cases, hormone injections or surgery could be needed to address the underlying cause.
What can cause a man to be infertile?
Men can become infertile for a wide variety of reasons, but usually it’s due to low sperm production or an inability of sperm to be transported as they should be. Over 60% of men suffering from infertility have an issue with sperm production, so this is something that is more easily fixed with lifestyle related changes.
How can I make my sperm stronger?
Many lifestyle factors can impact the strength of your sperm. Some of the best things that you can do to help them swim a little faster and further include eliminating junk and processed foods from your diet, hitting the gym regularly, taking nitric oxide supplements (or consuming beet juice), eating plenty of nuts and seeds to increase your zinc production, and making sure to get sufficient sleep every night.
What age does men’s fertility start to decrease?
Men may have a biological clock after all. As it turns out, men who are over the age of 40 will notice naturally lower sperm quality than men who are younger. This doesn’t mean they can’t have a baby past the age of 40, but things may be more challenging for those who try. There is also a higher risk of miscarriage in their partners when the man is over the age of 40.
So there you have the main points to know and remember to help enhance your fertility levels and prevent infertility altogether. While there are always going to be certain medical conditions that will prevent you from being able to have a baby, for the most part, today’s infertility rates can be easily solved simply by making a few smart lifestyle changes. It will take some work on your part, but when that work is put in, you can rest assure that you will be in a better place to create the family you are wanting.It’s not something to be embarrassed about. Infertility happens. It’s what you do now that matters the most.
1. Levine, Hagai, et al. “Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis.” Human Reproduction Update 23.6 (2017): 646-659.
2. Pasqualotto, Fabio F., et al. “Cigarette smoking is related to a decrease in semen volume in a population of fertile men.” BJU international 97.2 (2006): 324-326.
3. Kristensen, David Møbjerg, et al. “Ibuprofen alters human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115.4 (2018): E715-E724.
4. Janevic, Teresa, et al. “Effects of work and life stress on semen quality.” Fertility and sterility 102.2 (2014): 530-538.
5. Palmer, Nicole O., et al. “Impact of obesity on male fertility, sperm function and molecular composition.” Spermatogenesis2.4 (2012): 253-263.