Updated: Jan 13
When we think of infertility, it’s often the health of the woman that comes to mind.
But did you know that 15% of all couples will experience infertility, and 50% of these cases can be attributed to the health of the male partner?
So, what are the key drivers of male infertility?
Well, to be honest there are many, but the three most common causes are:
Tobacco & Alcohol use
Stress has a huge impact on both female & male reproductive health. This is because stress can directly impact hormone production – for instance by decreasing Luteinizing Hormone (LH) which stimulates the production of Testosterone. This has a flow on effect of reducing spermatogenesis (the development of sperm cells in the testes), and can also cause changes to sperm motility (ability to move), morphology (the shape & structure) & also the sperm count.
Stress also increases cortisol levels (which is antagonistic with testosterone), and can lead to increased DNA fragmentation in sperm, which is vulnerable to DNA damage as they cannot repair themselves.
Did you know that infertility is increased by 10% for every extra 9kg above a healthy weight a man carries?
This is due to hormonal changes including an imbalance between testosterone & oestradiol (due to the increased aromatization of androgens into oestrogens by fat cells). Often, cortisol levels will also be increased (which we know has an adverse effect on testosterone levels) and can cause inflammation & oxidative stress in the reproductive tract. Increased temperatures in the scrotum can also occur, which has grave implications on sperm quality.
Tobacco & Alcohol use
With over 4,700 known chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are known to be mutagenic, it’s no surprise that tobacco smoke can cause DNA damage to sperm, and affect sperm motility and morphology. It has also been shown to increase the liver’s rate of testosterone metabolism. A recent study in China found that non-smoking women who’s partners smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day were at an increased risk of experience early miscarriage in not only their first, but also subsequent pregnancies, than those who’s partners did not smoke at all.
Alcohol is another drug we need to be mindful of, as it reduces testosterone levels and therefore sperm concentrations. Alcohol drinkers are also more likely to present with altered sperm motility, morphology, and sperm count than non-drinkers.
The most exciting aspect of these findings is that they are all areas that dietary & lifestyle changes can dramatically improve. By simply cutting out alcohol & tobacco, reducing weight, and looking at stressors, men can increase their fertility & the chance of conception with their partner.
The lifestyle changes are obvious, but from a nutritional perspective, increasing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients through diet & supplementation, can support the body in healing from the damage caused by stress, obesity, and tobacco & alcohol use. My favourite nutrients for this purpose are:
B vitamins (best taken as a complex)
Feel free to share this article with your man if you think he could use a gentle nudge to improve his health for the sake of fertility, & get in touch to arrange a personal consult.