Men are equal partners in fertility
When faced with fertility concerns, often the focus automatically shifts to the woman – her age, physiology, egg quality and hormones – in determining the cause and treatment of the problem. However statistically, about one third of fertility problems are said to be due to “female factor”, one third due to “male factor” and one third due to a combination of both.
In male fertility issues the diagnostic focus centers on the sperm test which basically show how many sperm are generally available (sperm count), how fast and the directionality they move (mobility), and how they are shaped (morphology). Each of these factors contributes to the ability for a healthy sperm to reach an egg quickly and be able to penetrate and fertilize it. Therefore, sperm count, mobility and morphology are the major male fertility tests, though there are also times when volume, liquification time, lingering infections, and other less common issues may need to be diagnosed and addressed. The chart below summarizes the reference ranges for healthy sperm function:
Supporting Sperm Health
Spermatogenesis refers to the complete cycle of sperm production and maturation. While an average of several million sperm are made every day, the full process of genesis takes about 64 days of development until fertilization of an egg is possible. This means that all factors such as nutritional intake, herbs and supplements, environmental exposures, stress, and exercise for 9 weeks will influence each sperm. Any lifestyle changes made beginning 3 months prior to possible conception have great potential to support sperm health.
Along side the use of Chinese herbs that treat the individual to correct imbalances that may be affecting fertility, supplements and dietary changes can be helpful.
Chinese herbal medicine treatment addresses each person individually to correct imbalances that may affect fertility as well as addressing the specific issue if there is any sperm abnormality. Using herbs and acupuncture is a natural and time-tested way to increase vitality and support fertility in both women and men. Diet and supplements that support sperm health are also frequently recommended as well as lifestyle changes specific to fertility enhancement.
Environmental Factors and Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress, decreased antioxidant capacity, and impaired mitochondrial function are all thought to be factors related to make infertility with the potential to impair spermatogenesis leading to poor morphology, motility and sperm count. Oxidative stress affecting the reproductive system can be due to infections, inflammation, smoking, exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, and recreational and some prescription drugs
There is a great deal of evidence that supplementation and diet can reverse the effects of oxidative stress. Vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, zinc, selenium, carnitine, and carotenoids protects sperm and increases the antioxidant defense system in cells. Ubiquinol (CoQ10) is a strong antioxidant and research shows a significant correlation between sperm parameters and the concentration of ubiquinol in seminal fluid. Zinc is also of particular concern and is known to protect the sperm against bacteria and prevent chromosomal/DNA damage while decreased levels of zinc have been shown to correlate with reduced ability for the sperm to fertilize the egg.
While vitamin supplements can be very helpful, paying attention to dietary sources of nutrients is another good approach. For example zinc is found in high amounts in oysters, nuts and seed such as hemp and pumpkin seeds. The bottom line is that there are effective ways to support sperm health and fertility for both men and women.
More Information On Supporting Healthy Sperm
Some Resources and Research:
- Gvozdjáková, A, et.al. “Coenzyme Q10, alpha-tocopherol, and oxidative stress could be important metabolic biomarkers of male iInfertility.” Disease Markers (2015). doi: 10.1155/2015/827941
- Talevi, R, et. al. “Protective effects of in vitro treatment with zinc, d-aspartate and coenzyme Q10 on human sperm motility, lipid peroxidation and DNA fragmentation.” Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology Vol. 11 (2013): 81. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-11-81.
- Ahmadi, S, et.al. “Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: An evidence based review.” Internnational Journal of Reprodoctive Biomedicine (Yazd, Iran) Vol.14, No 12 (2016): 729–736.
- C. Mora-Esteves & Shin, D. “Nutrient supplementation: improving male fertility fourfold.” Seminars in Reproductive Medicine Vol. 31, No.4 (2013): 293–300. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1345277.
- Mustafa, E., et.al. “Blood serum and seminal plasma selenium, total antioxidant capacity and coenzyme Q10 levels in relation to semen parameters in men with idiopathic infertility.” Biological Trace Element Research Vol. 159, No. 1–3 (2014): 46–51. doi: 10.1007/s12011-014-9978-7.
- A. Mancini & Balercia, G. “Coenzyme Q(10) in male infertility: physiopathology and therapy.” Biofactors Vol. 37, No. 5 (2011): 374–380. doi: 10.1002/biof.164