Men are 50% of the equation when it comes to creating a healthy baby. Many times I’ve spent several months and sometimes years sorting out the female’s health and fertility, only to find that there are issues with the men’s sperm. That’s why I encourage both partners to be involved in the preconception journey, as it’s a great opportunity to have a comprehensive health check up. Many ‘blokes’ only see a health professional when they are on death’s door, so being proactive in this way has lots of benefits that could include feeling more energetic, healthier, happier, less stressed and perhaps a few kilograms lighter!
This article will describe some important testing, lifestyle impacts and solutions to optimising male fertility.
The Sperm test or Semen Analysis
In the scheme of things, having a sperm test is one of the least invasive tests offered. The results include:
How many or Count: When I first became a Naturopath 30 years ago, a normal sperm count was over 25 million sperm per ml. Around 18 years ago, the range was lowered to 15 million; and now, less than 10 years ago, a sperm count at or over 4 million is considered ‘normal’. Clearly the more sperm, the better, and several nutrients like zinc and herbs like Tribulus, can improve sperm count.
What they look like: Termed ‘morphology’. Again, in the past, 25% abnormal sperm (those with 2 heads, no heads, funny looking heads, no tails, 2 tails etc.) was considered normal. Nowadays, anything at or over 4% is considered ‘normal’. That means 96% of the guys sperm are abnormal. Which may be fine for some IVF procedures like ICSI (where they inject the sperm directly into the egg to make embryos). Sperm is affected by environmental toxins, electromagnetic radiation (EMR), fake oestrogens in our food (called ‘xenoestrogens’). Cleaning up the diet, minimising exposure to EMR (no phone in pockets and switching to flight mode if left by the bed), antioxidants and L-carnitine can help (1,2)
Whether they are moving, and whether that’s in circles or in the right direction (i.e. towards the egg): Termed ‘motility’, again this has declined over the years and reflects the energy within the sperm from the tiny little organs called mitochondria. CoQ10 and L-carnitine can improve motility.
Other parameters depending on the lab: If there are clumped sperm or debris, is means the sperm are impeded from moving as they should. Infections should be checked for and addressed, and Vitamin C and other nutrients can assist with clumping. If you do assisted reproductive techniques like IUI (intrauterine insemination where the sperm are first washed then inserted into the uterus) these issues are less of a problem. Low volume (amout of sperm per ejaculate) could be low with poor collection technique, low water intake or a blockage somewhere. DNA fragmentation is a relatively newer test (and costs around $300 out of pocket) and can look at the structural integrity of the sperm’s DNA.
Lifestyle Impacts on Sperm:
- Toxins: Smoking – sperm is 13-17% less than non-smokers; risk of miscarriage and birth defects in the offspring is higher (1). Chronic alcohol intake – this has a detrimental effect on count and quality(1)
- Advanced Paternal Age: Men over 35 year have declining semen volume, morphology, count and increased DNA fragmentation. Advanced age is associated with lower pregnancy rates and increased miscarriage risk (1).
- Genital heat stress: Long distance cycling is associated with increased testicular heat, subsequent oxidative stress, and suppressed semen parameters.
- Unhealthy Diet: Full fat dairy, processed meat (think salami and mortadella), alcohol, excessive coffee and soft drinks found suppressed semen parameters (1)
During our preconception workup, we organise pathology testing privately or through your GP to check relevant nutrient levels (Vitmin D, B12, Zinc, folate), markers of inflammation, and screen for thyroid, liver and cardiovascular health. We also offer in-house tests including body parameters (like muscle and fat %s); oxidative stress testing, live blood assessments See: https://alldegreesofhealth.com.au/service/diagnostic-testing/ We also offer send off tests like Hair Mineral analyses to screen for heavy metals; Allergy tests, Genetic Testing, gut health or extensive hormone tests, depending on your need. More details of tests can be found
Most of our male partners receive a quality male prenatal multi and omega 3 supplements plus whatever else is needed, depending on their requirement. There is some great recent research utilising L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine in a 2:1 ratio that improves sperm motility and function, and improves conception outcomes. We are excited about a newly released product where these amino acids, in the correct ratio, are combined with some targeted antioxidants, is available in a once a day powder, available at our clinic.
An example success story:
Joe (36 years old) and Meredith (30 years old) had been married for 4 years and had been trying to conceive for almost 18 months with no luck. When they sought professional help, they found that Joe’s sperm analysis showed low motility and low count, and the specialist’s advice was that IVF were their only option. They completed 2 cycles of IVF with no results then found about my program and came to me to prepare for another round. I explained that sperm takes around 90-120 days to form, and suggested they hold off for a few months and focus on their overall health while we worked on improving the sperm, and recheck the sperm in 3 month’s time to see if there was any improvement before doing another IVF cycle. Meredith’s cycles were regular with good fertile mucus, and we focused on her dropping 4-5kg to get Meredith into a healthy BMI range for conception. The treatment program started with a gentle ‘Detox’ that assists with clearing accumulated toxins, thorough testing and targeted supplementation. After 4 months the repeat sperm count showed an incredible improvement – both the count and motility had improved so much it was within the normal range! They were thrilled that their hard work had paid off, and decided to try ‘naturally’ for a few more months before returning to IVF. They conceived within 3 cycles and went on to having a healthy baby boy!
Want more info?
If you are not already our client, call our Fertility experts Doreen Schwegler or Rebecca Screen for a complimentary discussion about how we can get your partner on track with his health and your fertility journey on 9331 0951. Or book an appointment online https://all-degrees-of-health.cliniko.com/bookings#service
- Ahmadi S, Bashiri R, Ghadiri-Anari A, Nadjarzadeh A. Evidence based review Antioxidant supplements and semen parameters: An evidence based review Sedigheh AhmadiP 1. Int J Reprod BioMed. 2016;14(12):729-736.
- Sansone A, Gandini L, Lombardo F. Carnitine in Male Infertility. Trends Androl Sex Med. 2017:35-41. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41749-3
- Lenzi A, Sgrò P, Salacone P, et al. A placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial of the use of combined L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine treatment in men with asthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril. 2004;81(6):1578-1584. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2003.10.034
- Balercia G, Regoli F, Armeni T, Koverech A, Mantero F, Boscaro M. Placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial on the use of L-carnitine, L-acetylcarnitine, or combined L-carnitine and L-acetylcarnitine in men with idiopathic asthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril. 2005;84(3):662-671. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2005.03.064