Male Fertility Part 2: Health and Lifestyle
Updated: Aug 14
Many studies have been done concerning healthy/unhealthy choices and lifestyle factors, and their effect on sperm count. In this section we will review some of these factors. In general, most things that are considered “unhealthy” have a negative effect on sperm count. While healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle have a positive effect on sperm count and quality.
Firstly, men, have you ever wondered why you are made the way you are? Sperm are produced in the testicles, which hang below the body. Do you know why? Interestingly, sperm can't survive at body temperature. Increased scrotal temperature can actually kill off sperm. Muscles attached to the scrotum work to regulate the temperature of the testes. These muscles will contract in colder temperatures to bring the testes closer to the body for warmth, or relax when hot to draw the testes away from the body to cool off. Things such as having a fever, frequent hot tub use, tight underwear, and occupations that require long periods of sitting, have been shown to affect sperm quality due to the raised temperature. Even using a laptop directly on your lap for extended time can cause the laptop to heat up, and may increase scrotal temperature. A Lot of these things are easy fixes to be aware of. And it's good to remember, everything in moderation.
Obesity is directly associated with an increase in male infertility. Evidence shows that overweight men were at significantly increased odds for having decreased sperm count, or even the absence of sperm count in their semen, compared with normal weight men. Obese males have lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels, leading to poor sperm quality and reduced fertility. Obesity also leads to increased scrotal temperatures contributing to sperm death.
Exercise is obviously good for overall health, but is also beneficial for sperm count. Exercise, especially weight lifting, is known to increase testosterone which contributes to sperm formation. However it's worth noting that the use of steroids, which is prevalent in many sports especially bodybuilding, has very detrimental effects on male fertility. Use of steroids can decrease testosterone produced by men leading to low sperm count and infertility.
Whenever starting new medication it is important to ask your doctor about any possible side effects. Some common medications pose risk to sperm count. SSRIs are associated with reduced sperm count and impaired morphology, as well as some medications for hair loss treatment.
Cigarettes and Marijuana
New studies are investigating the effects of smoking cigarettes and marijuana on male fertility. In studies of cigarette smokers there are strong correlations found between smoking and reduced sperm motility. As marijuana use and legalization becomes more widespread, many fertility doctors raise some concern. The cannabis users who were studied were found to have a higher percentage of sperm with abnormalities. The motility of sperm has also been shown to be impaired. Sperm in these clients did not move effectively thus resulting in a failure for the sperm to fertilize an egg.
Excessive alcohol consumption is known to reduce sperm quality, and lower testosterone production.
It is commonly known that healthy sleep patterns have extensive benefits on one's health, and reproductive health is not excluded from this. Too much or too little sleep is known to alter circadian rhythms. It is suspected that an alteration in circadian rhythms affects hormone levels and has a negative impact on sperm production. Studies found that shift workers and people with sleep disorders have significantly lower sperm counts than people who do not have those circumstances. Blue light exposure can also negatively impact circadian rhythm. Thus, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding screen time before bed, are two measures one can take to protect sperm count.
A healthy diet will typically result in a positive impact on sperm. Studies (although limited) have found that diets of highly processed, high-sugar foods are associated with poor sperm count and quality. One component men need to be especially wary of is soy-containing food products. Soy is known to have an endocrine disrupting component that increases estrogen activity, thus having a negative impact on sperm production. Overweight men are shown to be much more susceptible to the negative impacts of soy.
Knowing how to modify all of your risk factors will be a great benefit for your fertility. In part 3, we'll discuss environmental factors in male fertility.
Missed part 1? Find it here: https://www.mmnfp.com/post/male-fertility-part-1-of-3
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