Sperm are living cells that require 2.5 to 3 months to mature and are influenced by the environment in which they develop. Knowing what might hinder and what might enhance their growth helps to understand what should be avoided and what should be optimized in a man’s environment for strong healthy sperm.
Toxins such as PCB’s DDT and ethylendibromide can have detrimental affects on sperm motility (1) as can phtlates. Sources of these are found in household products and construction materials in older houses (2). In particular some pthalates can be hidden as fragrances and other ingredients in body care products and these chemicals can affect sperm counts, sperm motility and shape.
2. Cell phones
Several studies are finding correlations between cellphone and wireless internet use and negative sperm parameters such as sperm count and motility (3, 4).
Is a trace mineral, the second most abundant one found in the human body. It is found to concentrate in the testes during sperm development and lower levels are correlated with poor sperm motility (5). Zinc in general is required to facilitate the structure and thereby the function of proteins to maintain physiological balance. Of course it works in relationship with other trace minerals and cofactors but should be considered as a supplement if lower levels are suspect.
This amino acid helps your body generate energy from fat and protects cell membranes and DNA from oxidative damage (6). During sperm development and sperm function during fertilization, energy is required. Carnitine is found in higher concentrations in the epididymal fluid (the fluid that helps to carry sperm out of the testes) and sperm cells, and is thought to play a role in initiating sperm motility (6).
5. Maca- Lepidium meyenii
Is a vegetable found in Lema Peru used historically to enhance physical endurance, energy, vitality, sexual virility and fertility. One pilot study showed positive trends with respect to concentration and motility of sperm when given maca over a 12-week period as compared to men that didn’t (7). Hormone changes were not shown to have changed between the two groups however the study was for 12 weeks.
Now What? Here are some suggestions on moving forward with the information discussed above:
- Avoid / limit toxin exposure – check for molds, ingredients in household products and body care products that might contain harmful product. Check out http://www.ewg.org for more info.
- Stop any significant detoxification program for at least 5 months before wanting to conceive. Detoxification of metals / toxins requires they be liberated from stores and this might lead to absorption into sperm.
- Supplement with a good multi and perhaps augment with select nutriceuticals if they are right, and in discussion with your health care provider. The overzealous use of nutraceuticals especially in an isolated sense may cause imbalances elsewhere so make sure to keep things in check and work with your health care provider to determine adequate and appropriate supplementation strategies.
- Safe cell phone usage guide – http://www.ewg.org/research/cellphone-radiation
In conclusion, take care of yourself, eat well, exercise and keep your stress in check to optimize the environment in which your sperm develop.
Hope this has been helpful!
Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health. She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.
- Jurewicz J, Hanke W, Radwan M, Bonde JP. Environmental factors and semen quality. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2009;22(4):305-29. doi: 10.2478/v10001-009-0036-1
- Colagar AH, Marzony ET, Chaichi MJ. Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm quality in fertile and infertile men. Nutr Res. 2009;29:82–88. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2008.11.007.
- Zhou X, Liu F, Zhai S. et al. Effect of L-carnitine and/or L-acetyl-carnitine in nutrition treatment for male infertility: a systematic review. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16 Suppl 1:383-90.
- Melnikovova I Fait T2, Kolarova M3, Fernandez EC1, Milella LEffect of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on Semen Parameters and Serum Hormone Levels in Healthy Adult Men: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study. Epub 2015 Sep 1. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:324369. doi: 10.1155/2015/324369.