Sperm production and how diet and lifestyle can help
July 12, 2019
Male infertility is an increasingly common problem. Unfortunately it has not received the attention it requires either from the medical community or from men themselves. Thus, doctors often resort to invasive fertility treatment on women at the first sign of semen analysis abnormality. What is needed is more understanding and focus from clinicians and also for men to feel free to talk and address their concerns.
Blame it on the Belgians!
ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) was developed in the early 90s in Belgium. In ICSI treatment, the female partner undergoes ovarian stimulation and monitoring until she is ready for the egg collection procedure. To create the embryo a strong microscope is used to look through a semen sample in order to identify one normal sperm per mature egg retrieved. This means that as long that some sperm is present a man will be able to father a pregnancy through ICSI.
Undeniably, ICSI has revolutionised the fertility world; it is a very effective treatment that has enabled men, that would otherwise have to resort to using donor sperm or adoption, to have their own biological children and indeed in many cases it is their only option. However, it doesn’t address the underlying problem, and its success has meant that medical research into the causes and treatment of male infertility has been relatively neglected.
Spermatogenesis (sperm production)
Unlike women, who are born with a set number of eggs, the vast majority of men are “blessed” with a nearly endless supply of sperm. Sperm production is a continuous process, starting at puberty and continuing well into the 70s. However, sperm quality does significantly decline in the late forties/early fifties. This process is regulated by the hormones FSH and LH and can be affected by hormone-related conditions such as underactive thyroid or raised prolactin levels. Like any other process in the human body sperm production can be affected by a man’s general health and should always be checked.
Sperm transport from the testicles to the urethra can be affected by infections and trauma. However, the longer male urethra tends to protect the testicles from ascending infections and so this is a much rarer problem.
Most of us know that smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs and obesity are bad for our long-term health. Few appreciate the more immediate detrimental effect they can have in a young mans’ semen quality and a couple’s fertility. There is now strong evidence to support that a healthy lifestyle, free of tobacco and alcohol which is supplemented with regular aerobic exercise and a Mediterranean style diet, not only reduces our cardiovascular and cancer risk but also improves semen quality and the chance of livebirth.
Diet… the building block for healthy sperm
A healthy Mediterranean style diet with high intakes of seafood, poultry, whole grains, legumes, skimmed milk, fruits and vegetables, has been consistently associated with better semen parameters in world-wide studies. Unhealthy dietary patterns that are high in fats, red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets and sweetened beverages are associated with poorer semen quality.
It is important to note that commercial agriculture and farming as well as environmental pollution can result in harmful substances entering our diet which is also detrimental to healthy sperm production. The answer is to eat as organically as you can. Certain ocean fish such as swordfish, king mackerel and bigeye tuna, can contain high levels of mercury and pesticide residues which should be avoided as should non-organic fruit and vegetables sprayed with commercial pesticides. You should also really try to avoid full-fat dairy and soy products which are high in oestrogen and are detrimental to healthy sperm production.
Here is a list of some of my top Dos and Don’ts for healthy sperm production
|Nuts (60g/day)||>3portions of red meat/week|
We work with some fantastic nutritionists who specialise in fertility. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more details. We are committed to ensuring that we are recommending the best treatment plan for a couple and that means having a real and dedicated focus on male fertility. We want men to feel more comfortable discussing this issue and ready to take action if needed.
Mr Dimitri Psaroudakis is a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists with a sub-speciality in reproductive health. Mr Psaroudakis trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and is now a Senior Consultant at the Evewell.
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