We don’t talk about male reproductive health as often as we should, considering how crucial it is for a man’s emotional and physical well-being.
Thankfully, there are naturopathic treatments for men that work to improve your fertility by ensuring the overall health of your reproductive system.
But what are common male fertility issues, and what steps can you take from home to improve your fertility?
Let’s dive into all there is to know about men’s fertility, and the naturopathic solutions for your reproductive well-being.
Male Infertility By The Numbers
Infertility is known to affect approximately 15% of couples worldwide, with male infertility contributing to about 50% of cases.
Some of the important factors we look at when it comes to men’s fertility include sperm quality and quantity.
Overall sperm counts are reported to have fallen almost 50% since the 1930s – although the exact number is impossible to know for sure, it’s accepted that sperm counts have declined over the past few decades.
Potential Causes Of Fertility Issues In Men
Infertility can be a frustrating issue to solve, due to its emotional (and sometimes physical) toll.
In general, if your overall health is lacking, then your reproductive health may be lacking too.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of fertility issues in men.
1. A Thyroid Disorder
Thyroid disorders are indeed more common in women, but they can also affect men – and may be the cause of your issues with fertility.
The thyroid gland, located at the base of your neck, is responsible for producing the hormones that control your metabolism.
Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) and hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) are two common thyroid malfunctions, but there are other conditions that affect how your thyroid gland produces and regulates hormones.
In fact, one third of all hypothyroidism cases are male patients, and can lead to male infertility if left untreated.
Hypothyroidism can lead to infertility because of how it affects your semen quality and sperm count; plus, it can cause erectile dysfunction and reduced testicular function.
Typical symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, mood and energy level issues, fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, cold sensitivity, insomnia, and constipation.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism manifests in similar yet different ways: symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland often cause anxiety, increased appetite, rapid heart rate, heat sensitivity, and weight loss.
If you think you may have a thyroid condition impacting your infertility and your overall well-being, consider talking to your health provider about getting your hormone levels checked.
2. Low Sperm Count
Sperm count, or the average number of sperm per semen sample, is an important factor for male fertility
The World Health Organization states a healthy sperm count is 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen, or at least 39 million sperm per semen sample.
The reason why experts believe sperm counts are drastically declining across the world is ultimately unknown, but we do know some factors that impact sperm count and quality.
3. Certain Prescription Drugs
Some prescription drugs can affect how your body produces sperm, from quantity to quality.
These effects are not necessarily permanent, however – once you stop taking the drug in question, your sperm counts may go back to normal.
Some of these drugs include:
• Some antibiotics
• Anabolic steroids
If you are currently taking one of these drugs, it may be the culprit causing your fertility issues – make sure to consult with your doctor if you are having issues conceiving.
4. Poor Nutrition
Nutrition is another big factor that can interfere with healthy sperm production.
If you aren’t eating a balanced diet of whole foods, your reproductive health may suffer the consequences.
Unhealthy fats are important to avoid – this 2014 study shows how the consumption of unhealthy fatty acids is linked to a proportionate decrease in sperm count.
Also, you should consider avoiding foods high in phytoestrogens such as soy products. These may reduce sperm production and testosterone bonding.
Plastics and canned foods are often high in synthetic estrogen, so eating a healthy diet of whole foods and avoiding prepackaged foods is a great way to set yourself up for success.
5. Emotional Stress
There are countless benefits to reducing stress, and fertility is no exception.
Stress causes your body to act defensively and direct energy away from reproduction.
You can reduce stress by exercising, sleeping well and enough, and participating in mindfulness techniques – but in general, how you manage your stress is up to you.
For natural tips on stress relief, talk to your naturopathic doctor.
Lifestyle Changes For Male Fertility
Some of the most important steps you can take to improve your fertility can be taken at home.
Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference when you’re struggling to conceive.
1. Eat A Healthier Diet
Proper nutrition is incredibly important for your overall health, and it will have an impact on your reproductive health.
It’s especially important to consume antioxidants because they help remove toxins, slow tissue damage, and have an effect on your sperm quantity and quality.
To ensure your sperm is bountiful and healthy, consider adding some of these antioxidant-rich foods to your diet:
• Fish and seafood
• Nuts and seeds
• Foods high in vitamin C (citrus, leafy greens, nightshades)
• Foods high in vitamin E (nuts, vegetable oils)
• Cruciferous vegetables
Healthy fats are also a great addition to your diet, including omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
They have a very positive effect on sperm development, and healthy fats actually contribute to the healthy development of the sperm membrane.
Other foods known to improve sperm count include:
• Dark chocolate
• Whole wheat and grains
• Vitamin D enhanced milk products
• Aromatics such as ginseng and turmeric
• Fermented nuts and seeds
2. Start Exercising
From stress relief to weight loss, exercise can positively affect your fertility in a number of ways.
Plus, regular exercise will help improve your sleep quality, which contributes to overall health and well-being.
Even light exercise, like walking instead of driving to work one day a week, can work to improve your sperm count and quality.
3. Supplement With Vitamin D
Approximately 32% of Canadians are deficient in vitamin D, and men typically have less vitamin D in their blood than women.
These numbers get even lower in the winter, when you’re spending much less time outside in the sun.
There are a number of factors that contribute to our country-wide deficiency, from skin colour to dietary habits to sun position.
This deficiency is especially problematic if you’re trying to conceive, because low vitamin D intake affects healthy sperm development.
Although we know vitamin D is responsible for bone health, it also plays a big role in fertility.
This 2012 study shows the importance of vitamin D for reproductive health, highlighting the immense diversity of how this vitamin impacts your body.
4. Avoid Alcohol And Tobacco
We all know alcohol and tobacco are substances that can have negative impacts on our health.
However, those impacts can be easier to ignore if you aren’t trying to conceive.
Cutting out smoking and drinking (or drinking in moderation) can have a great impact on your sperm count.
Alcohol in particular can affect your reproductive health in a number of ways, from a lowered libido to sperm quality to impotence.
Smoking is obviously terrible for your body in countless ways, but it’s especially damaging when it comes to fertility.
Talk to your medical provider for tips on how to cut these habits from your lifestyle at least a couple of months before trying to conceive.
5. Address The Root Cause Of Your Fertility Issues
The struggle for conception can be immensely frustrating when you don’t know what is causing your fertility issues.
However, there are natural solutions that can help improve your fertility and give you a positive start on the path to fatherhood.
For more information and resources on men’s fertility, contact us at Annex Naturopathic.
Our experienced naturopathic doctors will work with you to determine any potential causes or factors that may be impacting your ability to conceive.
If you have any questions about how naturopathic medicine can be a powerful tool in your quest to conceive, we would love to hear from you.
Contact Annex Naturopathic today.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND