Male Fertility Problems
LOOKING AFTER THE MALE MEMBER
The production of sperm occurs within the hundreds of seminiferous tubules which account for more than 97% of the volume of the testis. The hypothalamus and anterior pituitary gland control the production of hormones necessary to allow the sperm to form and mature. Sperm take approximately 116 days to mature and during this time undergo many different stages and changes. Once formed, normal sperm can swim at 1-4 mm/min.
A subfertile man is defined by any of the following; A sperm count less than 20 million per ml of seminal fluid (average is 30-60 million), less than 50% motility within 2 hours post-ejaculate, Low volume 2 mls or less, greater than 40% abnormally formed.
Whereas, infertile men produce no sperm (azospermia) or dead sperm (necrospermia).
Sperm can live up to 5 days if conditions are extremely favourable but usually last about 3 days. Sperm decrease by 1/3 each day. The number of sperm in one ejaculation averages between 280-400 million. They are all needed to help each other so that one is able to reach and penetrate the egg. This must seem huge to the tiny spermatozoa! There are a number of reasons for lowered sperm quality and quantity and hence many things you can do to help.
CAUSES OF MALE FERTILITY PROBLEMS
- History of hernia surgery
As a child, mumps, adults orchitis, gonorrhoea, tuberculosis, varicocele
- Recent febrile (fever)
Or systemic allergic reactions.
- Excessive exposure to heat or pressure
Avoid hot baths, saunas, tight pants, wetsuits, sitting on hot car engines. The reason the testes lie outside the body is not to make them easier to play with, but because body heat would kill sperm. Wear loose trousers and boxer pants.
- Certain drugs
Antibiotics, seroids, anti-hypertensives, antipsychotic’s, anti depressants can effect spermatogenesis. It would, of course, be unwise to stop taking prescription medication however it may be possible to reduce your need for this medication by attending to diet and lifestyle modifications along with herbal medicine. The use of recreational drugs should be completely avoided. There is evidence of chromosome damage occurring in marijuana users.
Stress can lower sperm counts – especially if of a chronic nature.
- Premature ejaculation or excessive ejaculation
In an effort to be ‘more’ fertile or to avoid ‘missing’ ovulation can decrease already borderline counts.
- Hormonal imbalances or genetic disorders
- Infection and inflammation
Mycoplasma and ureaplasma.
- Physical problems
Blocked ducts, tumours (may involve reproductive organs or pituitary tumours), retrograde ejaculation and ejaculation failure.
- Mechanical damage
Such as trauma or torsion of the testes, injuries to the vasdeferens or spermatic artery during hernia repair or other surgery.
- Immunological factors
Such as autoimmune reactions may result in the formation of sperm antibodies that may agglutinate (clump) or immobilize sperm or otherwi interfere with sperm function (either partner may have sperm antibodies). Occasionally, a man with sperm antibodies may have normal appearing semen with a poor PCT as the only sign of the problem.
Found in tea, coffee, cola drinks, medicines, chocolate and some foods adversely affect the way in which sperm move forward. Diet coke especially has been found to have spermacidal properties.
Decreases Vitamin C which impairs the body’s ability to deal with chemicals or heavy metal pollutants. Copper and cadmium levels increase and zinc levels decreased. Male smokers have lower levels of testosterone, they may also have a reduced sperm count and greater number of deformed sperm. Research has shown that if the father smokes, the child is more likely to suffer from malformations and a greater number of health problems such as respiratory infections and allergies.
Excessive exercise. Although, you do need to still get enough to shed any excess weight.
Reduces nutritional status within the body affecting absorption of essential fatty acids, B-complex and increases excretion of zinc, magnesium, calcium, chromium and Vitamin C. Alcohol also affects hepatic (liver) metabolism of the hormones and has a direct toxic effect on the testes.
- Heavy metals
Lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, copper all interfere with nutrient absorption and can affect sperm count and motility.
Chemicals used in the workplace (and at home) constitute a very serious hazard since exposure may be difficult to avoid. The skin and respiratory passages should be protected from all chemicals. Those most at risk are artists and jewellers, car manufacturing and repair industry, chemical workers, clothing, textile and leather workers, electricians, food industry, glass and pottery workers, building, mining and construction industries, farming and electronics industries.
There are two types: ionizing (radioactive material used to fuel nuclear power stations and x-rays) and non-ionizing (lasers, microwaves, electrical appliances, mobile phones, computers, television screens, clocks).
Abnormal spermatozoa do not penetrate cervical mucus well, because the mucus is organised into channels that are too small to admit grossly enlarged or deformed sperm. Abnormal morphology is frequently associated with low sperm counts and poor sperm motility, but it may also be a primary factor when other measurements are normal. The anti-oxidants such as zinc, Vitamins A,C,E and selenium along with the detoxification herbs are required in large amounts.
Semen may fail to liquefy and will remain highly viscous. This slows sperm motility and may impair the movement of sperm into the cervical mucous.
Either too little or too much seminal fluid can cause problems.
If the pH of the semen is low (acidic) it can cause the sperm to be immobilised. Acid cervical mucus can cause poor sperm migration. Dietary adjustments are necessary.
- Nutritional factors
The following nutrients are needed for fertility and essential if male fertility problems are a factor with your situation.:
Zinc – vital for a viable sperm count, motility and a high percentage of live sperm in semen, 40-80 mg (elemental zinc) daily.
Manganese – a severe deficiency can lead to a total lack of sperm, 10-50 mg.
Potassium – to increase sperm motility, 3-8 g.
Calcium – 1000-1500 mg .
Magnesium – 500-1000 mg.
Copper – too much or too little can be a problem, 2-4 mg.
Coenzyme Q10 – increases sperm counts and motility due to its energy enhancing and anti-oxidant effects, 100-600 mg.
Chromium – especially important if person has hypoglycemia or craves sugary foods, 100-400 mg.
Selenium – increases sperm production and motility. Protects against deformities. 200-300 mcg per day.
Bee Pollen – has a reputation for being a fertility booster in men.
Essential Fatty Acids – provides the energy sperm require, used in hormone manufacture by the body. 1000mg three times a day. Eat fish.
Folic acid – part of the Vitamin B complex, important in its own right.
Vitamin A – needed for sperm and hormone production. 10,000 iu or 6 mg Beta-carotene daily.
Vitamin B complex – all the B’s are useful to counteract stress. B12 (800-5000 mcg) specific to increase sperm count and motility, B5 for healthy testes, 50-200 mg.
Vitamin C – high levels can protect against genetic abnormalities and can increase motility. Specific to prevent sperm agglutination (1000-5000mg) per day. Vitamin E – a severe deficiency can lead to a total lack of sperm. 500-1000 iu is required per day, for a healthy sperm count. Wheat germ oil is high in Vitamin E.
Amino acids – these are needed for sperm production and motility.
Arginine – up to 3000-4000 mcg daily (do not take if there is a history of herpes).
Carnitine – 900-3000 mg three times daily.
Anti-oxidants – seminal and prostatic fluids are high in these, especially zinc and selenium. With reduced levels of anti-oxidants, sperm become hyperactive before ejaculation and become exhausted!
- Lunar Cycle – can increase sperm count by 10%.
Hair anaylsis may be important to assess the levels and deficiencies of nutrients as well as the body’s burden of heavy metals. Remember, sperm take 3 months to mature. So, sperm being ejaculated now began their formation, in health conditions which prevailed, three months previously. There is little point in repeating sperm analysis at intervals of less than this and expecting to see much change.
Above all, always HOPE….For hope must surely increase sperm count and general health.
Wishing you every success.
- Natural Fertility by Francesca Naish
- The Natural Way to Better Babies by Francesca Naish
- Metagenics guide to Causes and treatment of infertility and Clinical Naturopathic Medicine by Leah Hechtman