Last month, The Huffington Post posted an article titled, Bacon Harms Male Fertility? Link found between processed meat and semen quality. Harvard University researchers analyzed sperm samples from 156 men and reviewed a detailed questionnaire about their diet. After adjusting the results for other factors, like age and health, they identified a link between men who consumed higher quantities of processed foods – like hamburgers, hot dogs, and bacon – and poor sperm quality. Of course, hot tubs – or, more specifically, testicles that are overheated for extended periods of time – have also been ixnayed for men who are trying to conceive.
The bottom line is that our diet and lifestyle choices have a direct effect on fertility rates. And, contrary to what experts believed a while back, men are just as susceptible to women when it comes to the foods they eat and the environmental toxins they’re exposed to.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts if you are a man who is working on starting a family.
DO: Eat antioxidants
A study published by the Cochrane Library back in 2011 found a direct correlation between free radicals (those same nasty entities that linked to cancer development) and male fertility. Oxidative stress does damage to sperm cells. Foods that are high in anti-oxidants work to keep your body liberated from free radicals! The best source of anti-oxidants come from legumes, fruits and vegetables. In her book, Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child, Dr. Laura Maizes states that most American men don’t come anywhere near the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Foods that are high in anti-oxidants include red beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, berries, apples, artichokes, plums, black beans, broccoli, spinach and carrots (high in carotenoids – an antioxidant). We could go on. The bottom line is, take the health expert’s advice and a rainbow’s worth of vegetables throughout the week to maximize your nutrient intake.
DON’T: Eat foods with pesticides
Pesticide exposure affects fertility rates for both men and women. While washing your produce does remove some of the chemical residue on the exterior of your fruits and veggies, research has shown that residual chemical levels are found under the skin and in the flesh. The bottom line is the produce we eat can absorb pesticides through their skin as well as the root system. The best way to avoid this is to buy certified organic produce, or shop at local farms, farmer’s markets, or join a local CSA so you can talk to farmers and make sure the produce you’re consuming is grown without the use of pesticides and other harmful commercial farming practices.
DO: Lose that extra weight
Multiple studies have confirmed a link between obesity and male infertility. Now, if you (or your mate) are a little bit plump, it’s probably not a concern and you can just focus on general health and well-being to increase your chances of fertility. Obesity is a more serious problem. In addition to affecting health sperm count and motility, obesity is also a factor in decreased libido and erectile function, both of which cause problems when a couple is trying to conceive. Talk to your doctor about a well-balanced diet and exercise program that will be successful in catalyzing your weight loss.
DON’T: Do drugs. Two of the leading causes of male infertility as the result of low sperm count involve the use of anabolic steroids and marijuana. Men who are trying to boost their sperm counts should discontinue all drug use. Heavy exposure to other chemical toxins, such as paint fumes, pesticides, and organic solvents is also bad for sperm production. Take proper precautions if your job or hobbies expose you to dangerous chemicals.
DO: Make an appointment with a fertility specialist. Please contact us if you are concerned that male fertility may be an issue for you. A consultation and physical exam can help you determine your next step.