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Natural Help for Male Factor Infertility

Even though male factor infertility makes up about 30-40% of all infertility cases, the inability to get pregnant is always looked at as a women’s issue. Such is not the case! Statistics show that about 30% are due to male factor and another 30% or so are due to both male and female issues. It’s not an area that has been researched as fully as female infertility, but more and more studies are being done on the causes as well as the nutrients that may be able to help.

issues in male factor infertility

  1. Low sperm count. A great number of sperm should be about 60-70 million sperm per 1 milliliter of seminal fluid, with about 20 million being the lowest number to be considered “normal”. Many men now deal with low or lowered sperm count and studies have shown that the increase in xeno-estrogens in our environment may be a contributing factor. Due to the amount of estrogens a man consumes each day through food/water/plastics as well as what he was exposed to in utero can have drastic effects on his sperm count.
  2. Low motility. This test measures the ability of the sperm to move and also to swim moving forward. Due to nutrient deficiencies, sometimes sperm are basically immobile or can’t function to swim correctly.
  3. Sperm morphology refers to the size and shape of the sperm itself. Abnormal sperm may have to large of a head, or misshapen head, other may have crooked or split tails. This is also due to nutrient deficiencies and chemicals in our environment.
  4. Varicocele, is an enlarged vein within the scrotum. This can cause extra heat in the area which can damage sperm and it may also be linked to lowered sperm counts.

Most conventional medical options refer a couple to IUI (intra uterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro insemination) due to the fact that if the sperm can’t get to the egg, or penetrate it, conception is unlikely to happen on it’s own. There are a few good options for men to increase the health of their sperm naturally though! Just keep in mind, that sperm take about 3 months to fully mature, so it may take some time to see a noticeable difference.

Recommendations for Increasing Male Fertility

Nutrition

Good nutrition is just as important for men as it is for women! If the diet is lacking, it will be almost impossible for the man’s hormones to be in correct balance for proper sperm development as well as libido. Nutrient dense foods, high in vitamins A, D, E, and K are very important as well as foods that contain omega 3′s (helpful for reducing inflammation and balancing hormones), vitamin C (for increased production and mobility) and zinc (found in high concentrations in the sperm and can increase count).

{links in the previous paragraph will take you to specific nutrient posts with lists of foods high in those nutrients} 

A good diet will also include foods high in anti-oxidants, the nutrients that help fight free radicals in the body. If you think about it, these free radicals are like what causes rust on a car – they causes damage to our cells, and sperm cells are very sensitive to this. When we eat foods with plenty of anti-oxidants we render the free radicals useless and they help to rebuild the damage done. Foods to nourish the body in this area will be fruits and vegetables, ones rich in color. It’s also important to consume a variety of different fruits and veggies as each color has specific anti-oxidants.

What to Eat:

  • Hormone free animal products. The conventional products available in grocery stores country-wide have been found to include  hormones like estrogen, leftover from the hormones given to animals to make them grow bigger, faster. Search out organic meats and find grass-fed meats for more nutrients. Use pastured eggs and lots of them (they are amazing foods!) ad stick to organic (and raw if possible) dairy products.
  • Wild caught fish is important for the omega 3 fats, protein, and all the other good stuff fish contain. Quite often, seafood was considered food for fertility in past cultures and given to young couples. Just make sure you stick with smaller wild caught fish to lower the exposure to toxins.
  • Probiotic and lacto-fermented foods are important for gut health and when the gut is healthy, it can better absorb nutrients. Look for organic yogurt (no sugar), make your own kefir or kombucha, and try real sauerkraut or other fermented veggie.
  • Consume a diet high in colored vegetables, aiming for 5 different colors per day and some form of greens. Going organic is also important as the pesticides mimic estrogen in the body and cause major hormonal upset.

What Not to Eat:

  • Foods high in sugar should be avoided at all costs. Not only does sugar intake correlate with hormone imbalance, it also suppresses the immune system and robs the body of nutrients.
  • Caffeine should be avoided as it’s detrimental to adrenal function. Your adrenal glands are one of the  areas that produce the reproductive hormones, and the constant stress of caffeine can cause it to focus on dealing with stress hormones rather than reproductive hormones.
  • Alcohol should also be avoided – studies have shown that it can decrease sperm count for as much as three months after a big drinking fest.
  • Gluten should also be looked into as a probable culprit of male factor infertility. When I spoke with Dr Tom O’Bryan last summer he mentioned that one of the nutrients a damaged gut first begins to NOT absorb is zinc – which we know is pivotal in sperm quality/quantity. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, I highly recommend it. (He also recommends getting something called zinc talley to help figure out if the male is low in zinc and describes how to use it in the podcast.) If a person is also sensitive to gluten it can attack certain parts of the body (the testes are not immune to this), cause malabsorption of other important nutrients, and increase inflammation throughout the body.
  • Processed foods – if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m not a fan of processed foods. Nutrient poor, these foods make your body work harder and do little to nourish. Stay away from them at all costs!
  • Soy is much debated, but when it comes to fertility, everyone I’ve come across in the natural fertility world knows that it’s to be avoided like the plague. High in phyto estrogens, it can upset the balance in a male quite easily, lowering libido as well. If you cut out all processed foods it’s easy to stay away from soy – it’s in everything from condiments to boxed foods!

 Lifestyle Changes:

  • EMF’s (Electromagnectic Fields) occur in our daily lives from use of cell phones, WiFi signals, and basically anything that transmits without a cord. These EMFs have been found to lower sperm count, especially when the phone is carried in the pocket or attached to a waistband or a laptop is placed on the lap. (Tim Ferriss, bestselling author of the Four Hour Work week ran tests on his own sperm count and found it to be low. He started to do some research on the subject and realized that electromagnetic radiation could be the cause. He stopped carrying his cell phone in his pocket for 3 months and his sperm count doubled in three months.” source)
  • Plastics also contain xeno-hormones and can upset the natural balance within the body. It’s important to not use plastic containers with your food, especially if you’re reheating them in the microwave! (xeno-hormones – which contribute to lowered libido, low testosterone, and lowered sperm production)
  • Toxic cleaners (a.k.a. “normal” cleaners) also contain chemicals that cause free radicals in the body as well as chemicals that mimic hormones in the body. use natural cleaners or make your own.
  • Hot water should also be avoided as extra heat can damage sperm. This includes long showers, baths, and hot tubs. Wearing tight underwear can also cause heat issues as can excess exercise.
  • Quit smoking – smoking damages sperm, nough said. So quitting can increase sperm quality and quantity.

Supplements:

While I’m a big fan of getting our nutrients through food, I also know that in some cases, it’s important to help the body recover from a nutrient deficiency. In the case of healing male factor infertility, certain supplements may be of help.

  • A good whole foods vitamin that sources it’s ingredients from whole foods rather than synthetic lab-made chemicals.
  • Vitamin C – studies suggest that because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps to protect the sperm and it’s DNA from damage thereby increasing the sperms quality. It also helps to neutralize any chemicals or toxins found in the semen from things like environmental pollution, or smoking.  Along with it’s antioxidant properties, vitamin C seems to help sperm be less sticky, or clumped together, so that they are more mobile.
  • Vitamin E is also really important (Vitamin E also has a property in it known as tocopherol. It was given the name after a fertility study was done with rats in 1936 and in Greek this means “to bring forth a child”.)
  • If he is found to be low in zinc (use zinc talley to find out) use a food based zinc supplement. This can help not only quantity, but the development of the sperm, benefiting morphology.
  • Fish oils are important for fertility and I think just about every person should be on them, especially when trying to conceive. I often recommend a fermented cod liver oil, but in the case of male factor infertility, I’m almost thinking something like krill oil may be more beneficial as it includes a powerful anti-oxidant known as astaxanthin.
  • Folate (also known as folic acid) is an important nutrient in the development of the DNA within the sperm. Use a whole foods based B-complex vitamin.
  • Maca is a herb/root vegetable grown in the mountain regions of South America. It’s been shown to increase energy, libido, and help to produce quality sperm.

Her Help, and Intimacy Guidelines:

Even when it seems that sperm quality or quantity is the only issue, there is a lot the woman can do to help conception happen.

  • Know your cycle. Knowing when you ovulate and even more than that, when you’re about to ovulate, is of extreme importance. If you don’t know when ovulation is near you may be to late for the sperm to reach the egg before it deteriorates. (the egg only lasts 1224 hours after ovulation, so even if you are intimate the day you ovulate, it may not give the “not so great” swimmers a chance to reach it. So learn to chart both temperatures and cervical fluid.
  • Create quality eggs. Eating a nutrient dense diet and consuming clean and organic foods is important to not only balance hormones, but also to produce eggs that don’t deteriorate near as quickly and are more easily penetrated by the sperm.
  • Create quality cervical fluid. This fluid can feed and sustain the sperm for up to 5 (yes, FIVE) days which is very important for sperm that need a bit of extra help. This fertile fluid is easier for the sperm to swim through, helping them get closer to where the egg will be when it ovulates. They can then sit in waiting, being fed by the fluid, until the egg is released.
  • Be intimate. When dealing with sperm that need a bit of help, it’s important to not be intimate everyday, but yet be intimate enough so that the sperm isn’t “old”. Saving for the big day is never recommended. If the woman has figured out her cycle and can tell when she’s ovulating it’s best to be intimate every other day before ovulation. So let’s say the woman knows her cycle and she regularly ovulates on day 16 – it would be important to be intimate on days 12, 14, and early on day 16. (around days 13 – 15 you should see increased cervical fluid) If you don’t know your cycle, begin intimacy every other day once you notice fertile cervical fluid. The rest of the time be intimate 2 – 3 times per week so that his body doesn’t start slacking on sperm production.
  • During intimacy use only sperm friendly lubricants. Increasing the woman’s cervical fluid is the best bet, but something like Pre-seed or even the white of an egg (yes, really) won’t damage the sperm. It’s also important to stay lying down. ;-)
  • After intimacy it may help if the woman stays lying down for some time to make sure that the sperm gets to where it needs to go.

Holistic Care

When looking at dealing with infertility, it is important to start testing after about a year, so that the couple knows the problem that they’re facing. Once they know the issue they face, they can better find natural treatments. Working with a naturopath, acupuncturist, or chiropractor can help identify nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and find ways for the body to increase overall health. Many alternative therapies also complement conventional treatments very well, increasing the success rates. Working with an alternative health practitioner at least a few months before conventional treatments can also be even more helpful.

 

For more encouragement you can read:

 

Has anyone seen a boost to your husbands fertility using natural methods? If so, what where they and what did you do?

Donielle Baker

Donielle Baker

owner and editor of Natural Fertility and Wellness at Natural Fertility and Wellness
Donielle is an author, amateur herbalist, lover of real food, and an advocate for natural health. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health, so much so that she is currently taking courses to become a master herbalist. Her personal background includes both infertility and miscarriage and she began this blog in order to share all of the information she found helpful in her journey to healing.
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
Donielle Baker
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Comments

  1. We just had an analysis done and found out that my husband’s count is 0.3. No not 3, but 0.3. Even if we managed to double his count it would still be under 1, which I’ve read is considered the bare bones minimum for IUI. We eat fairly well and do a good amount of what’s here- I should try to get him to get his cell phone out of his side pockets.
    Do you know any treatments for a variocele other than surgery? I suspect that may be part of the issue but he doesn’t have insurance so surgery would be pretty pricey. We are saving up for a urologist consult but I’m afraid they’re just going to recommend more tests before they think about doing anything.

    • Heather B. says:

      @Stacy, My husband had the surgery and it didn’t seem to help much. Making dietary changes did end up in a surprise pregnancy (though it did end in miscarriage…we didn’t know we could get pregnant b/c it had been several years since his surgery & it alone hadn’t made a big difference in sperm). We had gone off gluten and dairy and been eating less processed food. Now that we know we can get preg. we are taking some of the suggestions here and taking more vitamins & charting again :)

    • @Stacy, Stacy – I’m sorry about the news you’ve been given. Unfortunately I don’t know if there is a way to reverse a variocele other than surgery. Though like Heather mentioned – I’ve heard conflicting results as to whether it’s really effective.

  2. Thanks for posting this. We’re in a similar situation as the previous commenter. We found out (I guess it’s been almost a year now) that my husband’s sperm count is, for all intents and purposes, 0. He was producing in the single digits, but none of them were viable. We don’t have the insurance or the money to see a specialist right now, so I’ve just been doing as much research as I can as to how to increase his sperm count. He also has low testosterone (which is partly why the sperm count is so low) and his vitamin D levels were dangerously low, so I had him start taking maca powder, lots of fermented cod liver oil and butter oil, and we bought some salmon roe for him to take, but it’s so yucky it’s been hard to get him to take that regularly. We switched to raw goat’s milk a year ago, and eat lots of pastured eggs, and the only gluten we have in the house is sourdough baked goods that I make (I know we should probably cut out gluten completely for a while, but with all the other dietary changes we’ve been making, I’m just not ready for that yet…). So, compared to a year ago, we’re doing SO much better diet-wise, but I don’t know if it’s done any good as far as his hormones and sperm count are concerned. I really need to look into good vitamin E and zinc supplements, and I’ll have him start taking vitamin C. We still have some krill oil we haven’t used up, so I guess we should try that, too. I hate to take lots of supplements, but with his situation, I’m afraid it’s necessary right now. I also have hormonal issues, so we’re just trying to eat lots of good fats and do what we can to balance them out naturally. I had never heard of the enlarged vein thing – I wonder if that’s part of the problem as well. So many things to think about! We just started taking diatomaceous earth for detoxifying and it’s silica content – have you ever done much research on that? We looked into calcium bentonite clay too, but decided to give diatomaceous earth a try since it’s cheaper and seems less complicated to take… Anyone had any experience with either of these?

  3. Great to see more information on make infertility. Having had personal experience of this and went on to conceive naturally it is good to see good information for others to learn.

    One other thing is cycling – not good for male fertility. Testis get too hot.

    I also found hypnosis helped me with negative thoughts, lack of hope etc.

  4. Anilorak says:

    Hi Donielle! Found you via HP :) I’m curious, have you ever come across anyone who started out with zero sperm production and, after making the changes you outline here, start producing sperm?

    • donielle says:

      @Anilorak, Not personally, but I have talked to other health care practitioners who follow the same recommendations and they mentioned that some of the men they were helping did notice a marked improvement.

      • Anilorak says:

        @donielle,
        Thanks… does “marked improvement” mean going from zero upon biopsy (TESE) to any number above zero? Or as is usually the case, from a low number (but not zero, so maybe 10,000, even 100 sperm) to a number closer to the normal range? When we met with an acupuncturist, he made this distinction, saying that he felt acupuncture could help if we needed to increase the number but we already had something to work with, but not if we have zero to start with.

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