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Alcohol And Sperm

Alcohol can damage a man's fertility in at least two ways.

Firstly, drinking large amounts of alcohol makes it quite difficult for a man to have sex. If he's drunk, he may not be able to get an erection. If he doesn't drink large quantities of alcohol but does drink some every night, he may not be interested in regular sex, rather, he may be more inclined to roll over and go to sleep when he gets into bed. This is a reasonably obvious impact that alcohol can have on male fertility.

The second way in which alcohol reduces male fertility is not obvious from the outside. The chemicals in the alcohol itself can affect the make-up of a man's sperm cells and the level of his sperm production. To understand how alcohol consumption leads to the production of poor quality sperm, we first need to know what qualifies as good quality sperm.

Quantity, Quality, Motility

There are three main defining categories for good, healthy sperm. These are concentration (quantity), general shape and structure (quality), and swimming and penetration ability (motility).

Healthy sperm has a concentration of at least 20 million sperm cells in every milliliter of ejaculated semen. The desired shape (also called "morphology") of a sperm cell is an oval head with one long tail. Funny-shaped heads or tails that are doubled-up or curly are an indication of poor quality sperm. Lastly, at least ½ the sperm in the semen should be moving for the sperm to be considered as having adequate motility. All these attributes combine to determine a sperm cell's ability to swim to meet an egg in the fallopian tube, penetrate that egg's out layer, fertilize the egg, and create a viable pregnancy.

Alcohol Reduces Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral for producing sperm cells with a healthy structure and good motility. Alcohol inhibits the body's absorption of zinc from the food a man eats. In fact, studies have discovered a link between zinc deficiency in men and low sperm counts. Research has also found that heavy drinking does reduce sperm quantity and quality.

Drinking alcohol may also increase the amount of the female sex hormone estrogen produced by the liver. This creates an imbalance in the usual level of male and female hormones in a man's body. The male sex hormone, testosterone, is essential for making sperm, therefore all this hormonal chaos can reduce the amount of sperm produced.

Abstinence Or Moderation?

Medical researchers disagree as to whether or not one or two drinks per day won't damage sperm, or if indeed total abstinence from alcohol is the only way to guarantee no adverse effects on a man's sperm production. What is clear, however, is that low sperm counts may go up within three months of a man giving up drinking (studies have found this to be true in 50% of cases). This is because it takes sperm cells three months to mature to the point at which they're capable of fertilizing an egg.

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