Lifestyle Factors in Male Infertility
Facing infertility can be very difficult for both men and women: it is emotional, stressful, and physically taxing on most couples. Matters can seem even worse when you are having difficulty getting a diagnosis for your male factor infertility. Many men suffer from fertility issues, not because of an underlying disorder or illness, but because of certain lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors such as diet, weight, and exercise can sometimes be big contributors to infertility. If you are struggling with male infertility, take a close look at your lifestyle to see if any factors may be contributing to your infertility.
What Lifestyle Factors Affect Male Fertility?
Researchers and specialists often ignore male fertility, but it plays a key role in many couplesï¿½ conception difficulties. In fact, male factor infertility accounts for up to 40% of all fertility clinic visits. A small percentage of these men suffer from particular disorders, which causes their infertility. However, a large number of men actually have no apparent reason for their infertility. Some of these men may be practicing certain lifestyle factors that are contributing to their fertility issues. Common lifestyle factors that influence fertility include:
- poor diet
- recreational drug use
- exposure to environmental toxins
A poor diet can have an adverse affect on male fertility. If you are not eating a properly-balanced diet, your body is not getting the nutrients that it needs to engage in sperm production. In particular, your body needs appropriate levels of zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin C to produce healthy, viable sperm. Many men with nutritional deficiencies suffer from low sperm count and poor sperm motility as a result of their poor diet.
Weight can also have a negative effect on male fertility and sperm production. Recent studies show that men with a higher-than-normal body mass index (BMI) are more likely to suffer from fertility issues. This is because weight influences how the body produces certain hormones. In one particular study, men who were overweight produced 24% less testosterone than men of average weight. Obese men produced 26% less testosterone. Sufficient levels of testosterone are needed to produce high levels of motile sperm.
Many men and women now incorporate herbal supplements as a part of their daily nutrition regimen. Herbal supplements can be very helpful for combating illness and promoting good physical and mental health. However, certain herbal supplements can interfere with male fertility. In particular, St. Johnï¿½s Wort, cotton, and androstenione (a natural steroid), can interfere with sperm production and health.
Alcohol has been known to be a factor in both female and male factor infertility for years now. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked with reduced sperm count and poor sperm motility. Even men who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to have weaker and slower sperm compared with non-drinkers. It is a good idea to cut back on your alcohol consumption when you are trying to conceive.
Cigarette smoking is a no-no for anyone trying to conceive a child. Both first- and second-hand smoke have been shown to reduce sperm count in men, and can also affect sperm morphology. A recent study performed at the University of Buffalo concludes that nicotine and tobacco impair the ability of sperm to bind to the outer layer of the egg, impeding fertilization.
Recreational drug use also plays a big role in male factor infertility. Marijuana use has been associated with low levels of testosterone and appears to affect sperm quality. Cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, and heroin have also been linked to reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculation problems. Anabolic steroids cause hormonal changes within the body, and can severely reduce sperm count and production.
Chemicals and Toxins
Certain chemicals and pollutants in your environment may also be contributing to your infertility. These pollutants can be found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Frequent exposure to pesticides, lead, gases, and heavy metals can have adverse affects on fertility, impairing sperm production and motility. If you work in a job that exposes you to these toxic chemicals, speak with your reproductive endocrinologist about the effects it may be having on your fertility.
Though it may seem harmless, heat can actually wreak havoc on your sperm quality and production. Sperm need to be kept at a cooler temperature then the rest of the body; this is why your testicles are located outside of your body. Strenuous exercise, whirlpool baths, or tight underwear can increase the temperature of your scrotum, damaging and even killing your sperm. Be sure to avoid hot saunas and spas, and wear loose fitting underwear while you are trying to conceive.
Physical and emotional stress can also play a role in male factor infertility. Stress causes your body to release certain hormones. Continued stress can cause hormonal imbalance, which could effect your sperm production. While you are trying to conceive, it is important to find ways to lower your daily stress.