A 6-step checklist for fertile, healthy sperm
While the focus on fertility is often placed on the mother, conception is shared 50/50 by both mom and dad. For men to be fertile, it begins with healthy sperm which begins with a healthy lifestyle. Men have no idea how much power they have over the health and vitality of their sperm. Sperm are essentially a window on a man’s overall health and are nature’s means of a continuation of the human race. If a man’s sperm are suffering from poor health, what a travesty for his family’s lineage.
Most men assume that the roughly 525 billion sperm cells they produce over a lifetime are in tip-top shape. Why would they assume otherwise? If everything is working like it should, a man will believe that his sperm is of good quality (and quantity), ready to be ejaculated at a moment’s pleasurable notice.
When a healthy adult male has sex, he can release between 40 million to 1.2 billion sperm cells in a single ejaculation. That is a lot of sperm to have to keep healthy in order to be successful in regards to reproduction. But if a man experiences reproductive issues then it may cause him to pause and consider the fact that maybe his sperm is not quite up to par.
Fortunately, there are several things a man can do to protect the health of his sperm giving the little guys a necessary tune-up to improve sperm quality.
1. Eat more walnuts
According to a study from UCLA funded by the California Walnut Commission, walnuts may improve sperm quality in younger men. Men, ages 21 to 35, who consumed about 2.5 ounces of walnuts a day for 12 weeks had improvements in sperm motility and appearance, along with a greater percentage of live sperm and fewer sperm cell chromosome abnormalities. A control group of men who ate no walnuts did not show any improvements.
The reason for walnuts sperm power appears to be due to alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat found in walnuts. Other sources of this type of fat can also be found in canola oil and flaxseeds and may have similar benefits.
2. Reach a healthy body weight
Gaining weight or becoming overweight to obese is not a friend to sperm. One reason is that excess body weight or fat can reduce testosterone levels which affect a man’s ability to produce sperm. Another reason is that carrying extra body fat, especially in the belly and thighs, increases body temperature. There’s a reason why the testicles are outside of a man’s body – it’s to keep sperm at a cooler temperature as they don’t like heat. Too much body heat from excess body weight can decrease total sperm count, motility, and can cause DNA damage.
Once a man reaches a healthier body weight, this can improve sperm quality naturally.
3. Eat an antioxidant rich diet
An antioxidant rich diet may help preserve sperm quality in middle-aged and older men, suggests a study by researchers from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Men over the age of 44 and who consumed higher intakes of vitamins C and E along with the mineral zinc produced sperm with less DNA damage, compared to those with lower intakes – similar to younger men. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants that may help reduce the oxidative damage to sperm that happens when a man ages and that has been associated with an increased risk of genetic defects in babies conceived by an older father. An insufficient intake of zinc may compromise antioxidant defenses.
4. Put in the effort to exercise
If a man wants healthy sperm, he must break a sweat by exercising. Men who exercise around 7 hours a week have a 48 percent higher sperm count than men who exercise less than an hour per week, according to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health. Moving physical activity to the great outdoors also has an additional bonus of promoting sperm production most likely due to the increased levels of vitamin D a man will be soaking up from the sun.
Exercise not only helps a man reach and maintain a healthy body weight but it also reduces stress. A study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that men with the highest stress levels and anxiety had lower sperm concentrations, reduced motility and a higher chance of DNA damage when compared to men with lower levels of stress.
5. Stay out of a hot tub
Hot tubs are very tempting to want to spend some time in soaking up the warmth they offer but if a man is trying to conceive, it’s better to stay out of one. A 2007 University of California – San Francisco study found that exposure to hot tubs or even a hot bath may lead to male infertility but that the effects can be reversible. It has been shown an increase of just 2 degrees in temperature can negatively affect sperm production in men. The best advice for couples wanting to conceive within 3 to 6 months, is for a man to take only a quick 5-10 minutes soak in a hot tub – the briefer the time and frequency, the better. Or the best bet is to avoid getting into a hot tub, Jacuzzi or hot bath altogether until conception has taken place.
6. Clean up your lifestyle
To really make healthy sperm, a man needs to clean up the clutter in his lifestyle habits – cut out junk food, no cigarettes, no drugs, reduce sugar and consume alcohol only in moderation (no more than two drinks per day for a man). By making positive lifestyle changes early life, this can naturally boost sperm quality which in turn boosts fertility.