Did you know that in a single (healthy) ejaculation more than 15 million sperm per millilitre come charging through the male urethra? You would think that those odds would favour fertilisation at every sexual encounter, yet, for better or worse, this is not the reality. Even in healthy males (who are producing several million sperm a day) conception can take up to a year with a healthy, fertile female.
However, with over a 50% decline in sperm quality reported since the 1980s, New Zealand men lead the western world in terms of poor quality sperm. Globally, in 1950 the average sperm count per millilitre was 100 million, 50 years later it was 50 million. The numbers speak for themselves.
Come on boys, this picture can’t be right? But sadly, it is.
Yet it’s not all doom and gloom, focusing on improving diet and making healthy lifestyle choices can have a positive effect on male reproductive health. It takes approximately three months for sperm to develop; by altering diet and lifestyle habits for this period of time your partner can develop healthy sperm.
Certain nutritional deficiencies inhibit sperm production and impair proper hormone functioning and thus contribute to the production of abnormal sperm. Obviously the first behavioural modification relates to what we put on our plates and ingest into our bodies. Food! Healthy food can change everything. Men seeking to improve their semen quality should eat natural foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds.)
Aim to drink between one and a half and two litres of water every day – hydrating the body helps optimise all biological activity, including sperm production.
Try to avoid processed foods (like white flour), sugar, fast/junk food, alcohol and caffeine.
Pumpkin seeds are naturally high in zinc and essential fatty acids (aim between a quarter and half a cup of pumpkin seeds per day.) Pumpkin seeds are also high in phytosterols that improve testosterone production. Another food that is super high in zinc are oysters. Garlic increases blood flow and has antioxidant qualities. Goji berries, walnuts and ginseng have been shown to improve virility.
As for lifestyle changes, try to stress less and laugh more as stress affects sperm production. Also reduce cellphone usage and also avoid wearing tight underwear as healthy semen develop at around 34 Celsius – nearly 3 degrees below body temperature (which is why the testicles in men hang outside the body – think boxer shorts, not tighty whities..)
Dietary supplementation with certain minerals and nutrients may be beneficial
Here are some natural health supplements that may help improve male reproductive functioning:
Folic acid is required for DNA synthesis so it makes to sense to supplement as sperm production is deeply linked to DNA synthesis (1mg per day is optimal.)
Supplementing with arginine, an essential amino acid required for sperm production (adults appx. 4000mg per day,) is important.
One table spoon of flaxseed oil daily as well as 3-4 grams of l-carnitine are both required for healthy sperm production. Motility is important, if the sperm don’t swim nothing happens, about 200 micrograms of selenium can improve the motility of the little swimmers.
To further improve motility and sperm count, 1mg of vitamin B12 and 500mg (twice daily) of vitamin C. Vitamin C may also protect sperm from dangerous DNA damage that can result in hereditary diseases down the line. vitamin E may improve the sperm's ability to penetrate the ovum.
If you are having difficulty getting your zinc from your food, then try supplementing with 50-100mg per day.
But again – most importantly, try to eat healthy, natural food, exercise like Rocky Bilbao and avoid stress at all costs.
Stay positive and best of luck everyone!
By Christopher von Roy BSc, MSc, DCP Immunology
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Have you tried to help your partner improve his sperm count? If so, what was his reaction?