Here are some steps for improving the health of sperm based on the latest research. This is not an exhaustive list but I included bullet points from a few of the most relevant fertility categories.
Diet & Nutrition
- A healthy anti-inflammatory diet is critical for sperm production. Deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids have a detrimental impact on sperm health and deficiencies are very common in the United States. Aim for eating 3+ cups of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. If you aren’t hitting this goal you may need additional nutrient supplementation. If you are on a more restricted diet including vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, keto, paleo or autoimmune paleo you may need additional nutrient supplementation as well.
- Avoid sugary beverages like soda and sports drinks which decrease sperm motility.
- Avoid trans fats aka partially hydrogenated oil and polyunsaturated fats like soybean, corn, and sunflower oil. They have a negative impact on sperm and embryonic development.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking decreases male fertility, decreases IVF/ICSI success, and increases risk of complications if a pregnancy does occur. Some people may think smoking marijuana doesn’t count. Or maybe it doesn’t count if you eat it. No matter the delivery method, marijuana is not good for sperm either. Evidence shows it can lower motility and function of sperm. Quitting is hard so invest in a lot of support here. The effects of smoking do seem to be cumulative as well so if quitting isn’t an option cut back as much as possible.
- Exercise, but not too much. Studies show frequent intense exercise has a negative impact on sperm health as well as not moving enough.
- Heat can damage sperm and decrease sperm count so it’s important to avoid hot tubs, lots of biking, cell phones in the pocket, and computers in the lap.
- A focus on environmental factors is critical for improving sperm health and fertility. Eliminate all hormone-disrupting chemicals from your environment. These chemicals are found in plastics, cans lined with BPA, furniture covered in fire retardants, non-stick pans, lead paint and high VOC paint.
- Invest in a quality water filter to filter medications, heavy metals, and microbes from your water source.
- Invest in a quality HEPA air filter for your bedroom to improve the indoor air quality and reduce exposure to pollution.
Making lifestyle and dietary changes, taking targeted nutrients, and practicing self-care to boost fertility is not always easy. It can be so helpful to get support. If you are interested in learning more about how to boost fertility with an integrative approach, join me in the fall at my Fertility Class series designed for men and women wanting to conceive. We will cover these topics in a lot more detail with additional fertility optimizing discussions on diet and nutrition, hormone balancing, epigenetics, detoxification, environment factors, and treatment. It is never too soon to start planning!
P.S. If you were able to read this article without getting the Footloose soundtrack in your head for a week—nice work! I cannot say the same. “Let’s Hear it for the Boy[s] . . . “
Hum Fertil (Camb). 2018 Jan 31:1-10. doi: 10.1080/14647273.2018.1432078. [Epub ahead of print]
The association between trans fatty acids, infertility and fetal life: a review. Çekici H1, Akdevelioğlu Y2.
Hum Reprod Update. 2017 Jul 1;23(4):371-389. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmx006.
Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Salas-Huetos A1,2, Bulló M1,2, Salas-Salvadó J1,2.
Hum Reprod. 2014 Jul;29(7):1575-84. Epub 2014 May 8. Sugar-sweetened beverage intake in relation to semen quality and reproductive hormone levels in young men. Chiu YH, Afeiche MC, Gaskins AJ, Williams PL, Mendiola J, Jørgensen N, Swan SH, Chavarro JE.
Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014 Oct;290(4):777-82. doi: 10.1007/s00404-014-3281-x. Epub 2014 May 20.
The impact of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption on sperm parameters and sperm DNA fragmentation (SDF) measured by Halosperm(®). Anifandis G1, Bounartzi T, Messini CI, Dafopoulos K, Sotiriou S, Messinis IE.
Eur Urol. 2016 Oct;70(4):635-645. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2016.04.010. Epub 2016 Apr 21.Cigarette Smoking and Semen Quality: A New Meta-analysis Examining the Effect of the 2010 World Health Organization Laboratory Methods for the Examination of Human Semen. Sharma R1, Harlev A2, Agarwal A3, Esteves SC4.
Fertil Steril. 1994 Jan;61(1):35-43. Cigarette smoking and sperm density: a meta-analysis. Vine MF1, Margolin BH, Morrison HI, Hulka BS.
J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015 Nov;32(11):1575-88. doi: 10.1007/s10815-015-0553-8. Epub 2015 Aug 16.
Marijuana, phytocannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and male fertility. du Plessis SS1,2, Agarwal A3, Syriac A4.
Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Sep 15;182(6):473-81. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv135. Epub 2015 Aug 16.
Association Between Use of Marijuana and Male Reproductive Hormones and Semen Quality: A Study Among 1,215 Healthy Young Men. Gundersen TD, Jørgensen N, Andersson AM, Bang AK, Nordkap L, Skakkebæk NE, Priskorn L, Juul A, Jensen TK.
Andrologia 50:1 2018 Feb Sperm DNA fragmentation as a result of ultra-endurance exercise training in male athletes.Vaamonde D Follow, Algar-Santacruz C Follow, Abbasi A Follow, García-Manso JM Follow
Arab J Urol. 2018 Feb 13;16(1):10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.aju.2017.12.004. eCollection 2018 Mar.
Lifestyle causes of male infertility. Durairajanayagam D1.
Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2015 May 1;284(3):339-44. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2015.03.001. Epub 2015 Mar 12.
Environmental exposure to lead induces oxidative stress and modulates the function of the antioxidant defense system and the immune system in the semen of males with normal semen profile.
Kasperczyk A1, Dobrakowski M1, Czuba ZP2, Horak S3, Kasperczyk S4.
Nat Rev Urol. 2016 Oct;13(10):584-95. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2016.157. Epub 2016 Aug 31.Epigenetics in male reproduction: effect of paternal diet on sperm quality and offspring health. Schagdarsurengin U, et al.
Toxicol Sci. 2018 Mar 1;162(1):241-250. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfx246. Paternal Exposure to Environmental Chemical Stress Affects Male Offspring's Hepatic Mitochondria. Godschalk R, et al. Toxicol Sci. 2018.
Hum Reprod. 2017 Nov 1;32(11):2159-2169. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dex283. Preconception urinary phthalate concentrations and sperm DNA methylation profiles among men undergoing IVF treatment: a cross-sectional study.
Wu H, et al.
Hum Reprod Update. 2018 May 1;24(3):320-389. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmy005. The effect of paternal factors on perinatal and paediatric outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Oldereid NB1, Wennerholm UB2, Pinborg A3, Loft A4, Laivuori H5,6,7,8, Petzold M9, Romundstad LB10,11, Söderström-Anttila V12, Bergh C13.
Environ Pollut. 2018 Apr;235:806-813. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2018.01.021. Epub 2018 Feb 21.
Seasonal variation of semen parameters correlates with environmental temperature and air pollution: A big data analysis over 6 years. Santi D1, Magnani E2, Michelangeli M3, Grassi R3, Vecchi B3, Pedroni G4, Roli L5, De Santis MC5, Baraldi E5, Setti M6, Trenti T5, Simoni M2.
Postgrad Med. 2015 Apr; 127(3): 338–341. Published online 2015 Feb 19. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2015.1015928. The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Male Fertility. Jason R. Kovac, MD, PhD, FRCSC,1 Abhinav Khanna, MD,2 and Larry I. Lipshultz, MD2
Dr. Lori Hulsing is a board-licensed Naturopathic doctor who specializes in integrative family medicine. In her experience, a highly competent doctor becomes highly effective when there is a warm and personal connection. Rigorously trained, qualified and committed to excellence, Dr. Hulsing is honored to help patients of all ages create a strong foundation of health.