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How to Improve Sperm Count and Quality
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on May 08, 2008
As a follow-up to my article on Natural Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant, this article describes what men should and shouldn't do to improve sperm count and quality.
According to Dr. Bernard Robaire, a professor in obstetrics and gynecology at McGill University, men produce about 100 million sperm per day - about 1,000 sperm for every heartbeat. So in the vast majority of cases, improving sperm count and quality is all about providing healthy nutrients to make sperm, and making sure that one's lifestyle choices aren't damaging one's sperm. Put another way, men don't have to do much to increase overall sperm production; the focus should be on providing the right materials to produce healthy sperm, and then keeping those sperm healthy.
How to Produce Healthy Sperm
Strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight for your structure.
Having too much or too little body fat can disrupt production of the following male reproductive hormones:
Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) - released by the hypothalamus; prompts the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) - released by the anterior portion of the pituitary gland; tells specialized cells in the testicles to produce testosterone.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) - also released by the anterior pituitary; tells the seminiferous tubules in the testicles to produce sperm.
Testosterone - produced in specialized cells in the testicles; stimulates production of sperm in testicles and increases sex drive.
Because body fat is closely associated with the production of these male reproductive hormones, a man is most likely to produce healthy sperm when he is at a healthy weight for his structure.
Get regular exercise, but don't overdo it.
Being physically active is good for reproductive health, but exercising to exhaustion on a regular basis can disrupt hormone levels in a way that lowers sperm quality.
Strive to feel emotionally balanced.
Emotional stress leads to an increase in cortisol production, which in turn, leads to a number of changes to the male reproductive hormones listed above, which results in lower sperm quality.
Folate, selenium, and zinc are particularly important to producing healthy sperm. Vitamins C and E are thought to protect sperm against damage by the environmental stressors listed in the next section.
How to Keep Sperm Healthy
Prevent overheating of testicles.
Tight underwear, prolonged sitting, use of laptop computers directly on one's lap, and even being in a hot working environment can all increase scrotal temperature and decrease sperm count.
Avoid hot baths and hot tubs.
Spending 30 or more minutes in water that is 102 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or above can significantly lower sperm count.
Stay away from anabolic steroids, testosterone-based supplements, and anti-androgen drugs.
All of these drugs may reduce fertility by interfering with sperm production. The most commonly used anti-androgen drugs are those prescribed to treat prostate enlargement, prostate cancer, and male pattern baldness.
Avoid tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol.
Avoid cimetidine (Tagamet).
Cimetidine is an over-the-counter drug that is used to treat heartburn and ulcers; regular use of cimetidine is strongly linked with low sperm counts.
Avoid large amounts of coffee.
While a cup of coffee per day isn't likely to reduce fertility, drinking several cups of coffee per day can definitely decrease sperm motility.
Regular use of tobacco (including chewing tobacco), marijuana, and large amounts of alcohol are all strongly linked with low sperm counts. There is even some evidence that suggests that heavy tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol usage can damage the DNA of sperm, which may result in abnormal fetal development and an increased risk of cancer for the next generation.
Beyond heeding the suggestions provided above, it's also important to minimize one's exposure to toxic chemicals that are linked with reduced fertility in males and females. For more information on reducing exposure to common toxins, view:
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