How does nutrition affect male fertility?

When we think about fertility, chances are we're thinking about the female half of the equation. It turns out, male infertility is one of the leading causes of miscarriage. So while I talked about female fertility last week on the blog, the male half is just as important. Let's talk about it!

Unlike females, who are born with all of the eggs they'll ever have, males produce new sperm every three months. This means that for men, their diet and lifestyle has more of an immediate affect on the health of the baby. 


What can damage sperm?

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While mommies-to-be are busy getting their body healthy and prepped for pregnancy, it's more likely that their male counterpart is still eating poorly, drinking, and stressed out. Does this affect sperm health? YOU BET. 

Reminder: everything in the body is connected. So what you eat and surround yourself with affects every cell in your body. Including sperm, dudes. 

Sperm are genetic carriers, so the wellbeing of the DNA is a main concern for male fertility. Just like the DNA in your cells, genetic material can be damaged by reactive oxygen species (ROS) - oxidation in the body.


What causes oxidation in the body (ROS)?

  • Hydrogenated fats (any fat at high temperatures, any fat that has been refined, any fat that comes in a packaged food)
  • Red meat 
  • Processed meats (deli meats, sausage...)
  • Refined and processed foods (anything with a long shelf life that comes in a package) 
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Pesticide exposure (non-organic produce) 
  • Toxin exposure (heavy metals, endocrine disruptors in plastics, body products...)

What nutrients are needed for healthy sperm? 

There are several important nutrients needed along the way, required in everything from hormone production to stimulate reproductive processes to the mobility and morphology of the sperm. Here's a look at the most pertinent nutrients: 

  • Vitamin E (improved sperm quality)
  • Vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E (improved sperm motility and number counts) 
  • Selenium (improved sperm quality)
  • Zinc (reduction of ROS and needed for hormone production) 
  • Folate (DNA quality) 

what else can affect male fertility?

Outside of DNA damage and nutrient deficiencies, there are a few other important things to consider:

  • Food sensitivities and intolerances
    • For example, those with Celiac Disease have a higher rate of infertility
    • Soy might also be an important consideration for some men 
  • Hormones: testosterone, cortisol, insulin...
    • Hormones are required for sperm quality and count - if hormones are unbalanced, fertility will be affected
    • Weight has a direct affect on hormone production
      • Extreme high and low BMIs are associated with more infertility

What should I do?

Everyone is different, but there are a few universal things to do (no matter what, honestly... but especially for fertility): 

  • Eat real food! Try to make it organic.
  • Avoid processed, packaged, fast-food.
  • Eat more plants, less meat
  • Less alcohol, more water 
  • More relaxation, less stress 
  • More exercise, less sitting 

Outside of these principles, it is important to fine-tune your health to ensure you don't have nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, hormone imbalances, or toxic overload. There are things you can do to help with these... guess who can help? Me! Contact me here. 

Jen Unruh