There are many steps men can take to help improve fertility. Different lifestyle choices can negatively impact sperm health. In some cases, these factors are only temporary, while in other situations the decline in fertility can be more long-term.
Nevertheless, there are positive lifestyle adjustments that can help to improve sperm parameters and elevate the chance of successful fertilisation. Following our 10 top tips for sperm count can help to increase male fertility.
1. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
Research has shown a direct correlation between obesity and reduced fertility. Obese men have increased abnormal semen parameters and higher incidences of erectile dysfunction1.
This is thought to be partly in response to a decline in testosterone levels and an increase in oestrogen concentrations2. Alterations of the normal hormone profile disrupt endocrine function and can cause a high risk of infertility. Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to support and increase male fertility.
2. Stop smoking!
Numerous studies have confirmed the negative impact cigarette smoking has on the body, especially the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Research has also established that smoking can adversely affect fertility. Studies show that smoking decreases sperm production, increases sperm abnormalities, reduces motility, and diminishes sperm fertilisation capacity. These negative repercussions are due to elevated seminal oxidative stress and DNA damage3. Smoking marijuana is also bad for male fertility. Studies show that regular marijuana use lowers testosterone levels and can negatively affect sperm production4.
It’s important to note that secondary tobacco or marijuana smoke can also damage health and lower fertility. Even occasional male smokers will experience a decline in healthy sperm. If you want to start a family, stopping smoking is important.
3. Limit alcohol intake
Alcohol is toxic to sperm and can cause fertility abnormalities. Men who abuse alcohol have impaired sperm motility and sperm counts. Alcohol significantly reduces seminal plasma testosterone levels and adversely affects the production of luteinising and follicle stimulating hormones5. Antioxidant activity also declines and oxidative stress increases, lowering semen quality. Low to moderate alcohol consumption won’t significantly reduce fertility.
4. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is very important for overall health and vitality. Sleep deprivation can negatively impact the body’s function and disrupt reproduction. Hormone secretion is partly regulated by circadian rhythms. Poor sleeping habits can cause hormonal imbalances that negatively impact fertility. Sleep deprived men often exhibit high cortisol (stress hormone) and low testosterone levels. This can contribute to poor fertility and reduced sexual function6. The amount of sleep needed to support reproductive health and general well-being can vary depending on the individual. Usually between seven and nine hours per night is ideal.
Our top tips for better sleep
- keep your mobile phone out of your bedroom,
- read a book before you sleep – don’t watch TV,
- make sure the room is dark and quiet (use a mask and earplugs),
- dim the light before bedtime,
- ideally practise yoga and Mindfulness meditation (start with simple breath relaxation techniques)
- no coffee, tea or any other caffeine at all after 2 pm,
- just light meals after 7 pm, avoid meat,
- no alcohol
- have a bath to relax you,
- learn to massage your partner,
- turn your bedroom into a sleep haven for sleep and intercourse only!
5. Eat nutrient-rich foods
Diet has a major influence on fertility. Good reproductive health relies on a constant supply of nutrients. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will boost the availability of important amino acids, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants.
Meat and dairy products are also an important source of key amino acids necessary for healthy reproduction. If you follow a restrictive diet, it’s important to ensure that you are not missing any important nutrients. A balanced diet will support healthy sperm parameters and can significantly enhance fertility.
6. Limit sugar intake
Consuming too much sugar can have a detrimental effect on male fertility. Excess sugar supresses the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illnesses which can disrupt healthy sperm production. Endocrine function and insulin resistance can also be negatively affected when excess sugar is regularly consumed.
This disturbs hormone balance and sperm parameters are adversely affected. Furthermore, nutritional demands are escalated and this can lead to a shortage of nutrients needed to support fertility. Keeping sugar consumption to a minimum will help to better support healthy sperm development.
7. Prevent scrotum overheating
Changes to intrascrotal temperature can significantly alter sperm count and spermatogenesis. A temperature of approximately 34.5ºC is ideal for maintaining healthy sperm production and development.
This is just slightly below normal body temperature and one of the reasons why the testes are located outside the body. Saunas, electric blankets, hot baths, tight underwear or trousers, using lap-tops on your lap for extended periods; these are all factors which can lower sperm count due to excessive heat exposure.
8. Avoid stress
Severe or prolonged stress can negatively affect sperm count. Stress elevates cortilsol and decreases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH is essential for signalling the production of fertility hormones that trigger sperm production. As a consequence, sperm count can fall. High stress levels can also increase oxidation, damaging existing sperm and further reducing fertility7.
9. Frequent ejaculation
Studies show that frequent ejaculation helps to keep sperm healthy, whether this is through sexual intercourse or masturbation. If sperm remains in the testes for extended time periods they become susceptible to DNA damage and reduced motility. Frequent ejaculation encourages the body to continue to produce fresh, viable sperm8.
10. Take fertility supplements
There is a wide selection of supplements available that can help to improve male fertility. These are formulated with vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and amino acids that are essential for healthy sperm production. Busy lifestyles often make it difficult to meet nutritional needs. Men can benefit from regularly taking fertility supplements to protect sperm health and support fertility.
In addition, scientific studies have show that an increase in sperm count can be achieved by taking the following food supplements:
- amino acids such as Arginine and Carnitine
- antioxidants such as Glutathione and and co-emzyme Q10
- trace metals such as zinc and selenium
- vitamins such as A, B9 (folic acid), C, D and E
- extracts such as pine bark extracts (Pycgnogenol)
These amino acids, vitamins and trace elements are naturally occurring nutrients and no side effects are to be expected. On the contrary, increasing the supply of such micronutrients causes significant health benefits such as a stabilisation of the immune system, a positive effect on cardiovascular circulation and skin and hair health.
There is therefore no medical reason not to implement a micronutrient rich diet for a minimum of six months to increase fertility. Ideally this should be carried on until successful conception.
More sperm-enhancing nutrients
- “Hammoud, A. et.al. (2008). Male obesity and alteration in semen parameters. Fertility and Sterility. Volume 90, Issue 6, (pp. 2222-5).” ↩
- “Hammoud, A. et.al. (2008). Impact of male obesity on infertility: a critical review of the current literature. Fertility and Sterility. Volume 90, Issue 4, (pp. 897-904).” ↩
- “Mostafa, T. (2010). Cigarette smoking and male infertility. Journal of Advanced Research, Volume 1, Issue 3, (pp. 179-86).” ↩
- “Kolodny, R. et.al. (1974). Depression of plasma testosterone levels after chronic intensive marihuana use. The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 290, (pp. 872-74).” ↩
- “Maneesh, M. et.al. (2006). Alcohol abuse-duration dependent decrease in plasma testosterone and antioxidants in males. Indian Journal of Physical Pharmacology. Volume 30, Issue 3, (pp. 291-6).” ↩
- “Andersen, M. et.al. (2011). The association of testosterone, sleep, and sexual function in men and woman. Brain Research. Volume 1416, (pp. 80-104).” ↩
- “Agarwal, T. and Said, T. (2014). Oxidative stress, DNA samage and apoptosis in male infertility:a clinical approach. BJU International. Volume 95, (pp. 603-07).” ↩
- “European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). (2009). Daily Sex Helps Reduce Sperm DNA Damage And Improve Fertility. ScienceDaily. 1 July.” ↩