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Tips to Increase Male Fertility | Diet, Lifestyle, Supplements, & Functional Medicine

One-third of infertility cases are due to factors that affect male fertility. And in many cases, simple dietary and lifestyle modifications can boost things like sperm count and testosterone levels, which lead to improved fertility for men. A holistic or integrative medicine approach takes into account all aspects of men's health and lifestyle to increase male fertility naturally, and with the help of your doctor. Let's dive deeper into the changes you can make starting today, plus diet recommendations, supplements for men's fertility, and what often leads to poor reproductive health in men.

Can men really increase fertility?

Most conversations surrounding infertility focus heavily on the female aspect of the equation. But this is a disservice to the fact that about a third of all infertility cases are due to issues affecting the male—including factors like low testosterone, poor sperm health, or a low libido (1). 

In addition, there are several diet and lifestyle factors that can negatively affect male fertility, including stress, nutritional deficiencies, smoking, alcohol intake, and even activity level.

Let's take a closer look at tips to boost male fertility, and how an integrative medicine approach can help resolve fertility issues in men.

Learn more about Integrative Men’s Health at CentreSpringMD

To improve male fertility, quit smoking and avoid excess alcohol

For many men, this goes without saying, but smoking and drinking to excess are not good for male fertility.

Cigarette smoking can lower sperm count and motility, and reduce overall sperm health. If you and your partner are trying to conceive and you're still smoking, now is the time to quit. Plus, secondhand smoke can also negatively impact your partner's fertility.

Studies also show that moderate drinking in men can temporarily increase testosterone levels, but that drinking alcohol to excess over time can actually lower them, thanks to the added stress it places on the liver (2).

So while men still have the green light to enjoy an occasional beverage, you'll want to avoid heavy alcohol consumption.

Related: Alcohol Impacts Your Chances of Conceiving

Reduce stress

Stress not only interferes with healthy testosterone production, but it can also tank your libido and affect sperm health (3). Your state of mind affects your body, and vice versa. A stressed-out mind only exacerbates the effects of a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle on your fertility and overall health.

If your work or home-life are causing you undo stress, lean into stress management techniques like working out or deep breathing, and re-evaluate your daily routine if necessary. Check out our Integrative Guide to Stress Management for more tips.

Add Antioxidants to Your Diet

Some of the most basic and beneficial ways to increase sperm count naturally come from eating a healthy diet packed with antioxidant-rich foods.

Various antioxidants, such as vitamin C and zinc, promote normal sperm count and support male fertility. Low zinc intake has also been associated with male infertility and reduced sperm health (4).

In addition, some research suggests that couples who eat a healthy diet are more likely to fall pregnant (5).

Want to level up your antioxidant status? Check out our IV drips (and our exclusive fertility drip for women!)

Want to learn more?

Exercise regularly

Men who stay active have on average a 73% higher sperm count than men who are considered sedentary (6).

A strength-training routine using weights with a mix of cardio exercises like jogging or swimming has been shown to improve sexual function, and support a healthy libido in men. This is likely due to exercise’s effect on mood-boosting hormones, as well as the increase in testosterone resulting from strenuous activity.

Getting exercise can help you get to or maintain a healthy weight, which also plays a role in fertility and a normal sperm count.

Read more: 6 Evidence-Based Ways to Increase Testosterone 

Get a preconception checkup

As future parents, it helps to be proactive about goals you’ve set to accomplish, and checking up on your fertility is no different. While trying to conceive, many men prefer to consult their doctor for a preconception checkup. During this visit, your doctor may:

  • Identify any health issues that may impact your fertility
  • Give you tips to improve sperm health
  • Test hormones like testosterone, LH, or insulin
  • Suggest testing to evaluate sperm parameters such as quality, quantity, and motility
  • Test for sexually transmitted infections

Your doctor may also refer you to a fertility specialist if he or she thinks it necessary.

You might also like: Is TRT Right for Me?

Is soy bad for male fertility?

The short answer is, no, No. Soy intake does not raise or lower a man’s testosterone levels.

Soy is primarily found in tofu, and is incorporated into many foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk. It can also be found in some supplements. There has been some concern that soy might “feminize” men—lowering testosterone levels and otherwise affect reproductive health.

This idea comes from one of the main phytonutrients naturally present in soy—isoflavones. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds that behave much like estrogens. 

Soy doesn’t actually mimic estrogen

Phytoestrogens may indeed bind to estrogen receptors in both men or women, but they have much weaker effects than true human estrogen. This may actually be beneficial in some cases, and most research suggests that soy has mostly a neutral or slightly beneficial effect overall.

The bottom line is that scientists have studied the effects of soy on testosterone levels for many years. In 2010, a meta-analysis published in Fertility and Sterility shared the results of more than 30 studies involving hundreds of men, and was later updated in 2020 in the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology, bringing the total to 41 studies reviewed. In both meta-analyses, the researchers concluded that “neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements alter measures of bioavailable T concentrations in men” (7).

Read: Here Are The Important Health Checks You Really Need in Your 40s

Vitamins and Supplements to Increase Sperm Count or Boost Fertility for Men

There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements that may help improve fertility in men. While these supplements aren’t guaranteed to help you conceive, they can address underlying nutritional deficiencies, antioxidant status, and support healthy testosterone levels and sperm health.

Browse men’s health supplements in the shop.

CoQ10

CoQ10 is a type of enzyme and antioxidant that has been shown to protect sperm against oxidative stresses. Interestingly, it appears that coQ10 can exist in seminal fluids and its presence may promote a healthy sperm count.

After 6 months of supplementing with CoQ10, men experienced increased sperm motility (movement), sperm count, and better sperm quality (4).

Zinc

Zinc is a key micronutrient in men’s health. Low zinc is associated with decreased fertility for men, as well as low reduced testosterone levels. A zinc deficiency has a direct correlation with a low fertility rate and poor sperm quality.

The good news is zinc is easily obtained from foods such as oysters, mussels, pumpkin seeds, liver and organ meats. Zinc supplements are also available.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Sperm with low motility have less omega-3 fats present in the outer membrane than those from fertile men. Higher levels of EPA and DHA in seminal plasma are also correlated with higher levels of antioxidant activity, which may protect sperm against certain abnormalities.

In one study, men who supplemented with EPA and DHA daily for 28 weeks had improved sperm counts, and were able to boost sperm quality and motility (4).

NAC + selenium

NAC and selenium and two factors that are incredibly important for regulating the body’s overall antioxidant function, which is also helpful to boost fertility. Both NAC and selenium increase natural production of glutathione, your body’s most powerful antioxidant. This can have a positive impact on testosterone, plus the production and function of sperm.

Supplementation with NAC plus selenium resulted in nearly a 16% increase in serum testosterone compared with placebo (4). After they stopped supplementing though, levels did return to pretreatment status after about 26 weeks.

Korean red ginseng

This type of ginseng has been a staple in traditional herbal medicine for years, used to promote vitality, virility, and energy in both men and women.

In one study, men with infertility due to varicocele or varicocelectomy experienced an almost 10 percent increase in sperm viability, as well as a notable improvement in concentration and motility (4).

Black cumin seed oil

Nigella sativa (black cumin) is a medicinal plant with antioxidant properties. In a study of 68 infertile men with abnormal semen parameters, a 2-month course of black cumin oil improved sperm count, motility, morphology, and semen volume compared to placebo (8).

Other ways to boost male fertility

Reduce environmental exposure to toxic chemicals. Endocrine disruptors are common in the environment, such as BPA from plastics, PFAS in non-stick pans and take-out containers, and herbicides in tap water. A high exposure to these substances increases your overall toxic load, and may interfere with hormone production.

Clean up your diet. If you have a sweet tooth that just can’t be satisfied and a penchant for junk food, it’s a good idea to focus on a more healthy diet. Try to limit sugars, processed meat and convenience foods, and focus more on whole foods like proteins, fruits and vegetables, and minimally processed grains and starches.

Read: The Integrative Medicine Guide to Infertility

Working with an integrative doctor to improve male fertility

If you’re a man looking to boost your fertility, an integrative approach is the best way to go. There are many things you can do to improve your chances of conceiving, from quitting smoking and drinking to excess, to improving your diet and reducing stress levels. You can also optimize factors for fertility like antioxidant status and testosterone production by repairing nutrient deficiencies and leveraging targeted dietary supplements.

Finally, don’t forget about lifestyle factors! Exercise regularly and aim for a healthy weight in order to maintain sperm health and function. Implementing these tips won’t necessarily guarantee you a baby, but they will help increase your chances of conception with a little bit of effort on your part.

Resources 

  1. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menshealth/conditioninfo/infertility
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504800/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6260894/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854092/ 
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/healthy-eating-can-boost-fertility/ 
  6. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/4/265 
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33383165/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24680621/ 

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