MALE FERTILITY AND NUTRITION

It takes two to tango…

When a couple wishes to conceive, naturally improving their fertility (the health and function of your body and reproductive system) is often the next step. And whilst it’s great that people are generally now more aware of the impact of their health history, diet and lifestyle habits when looking at making a baby; it is far too common to see (and hear) male fertility being overlooked in the equation. In fact, male fertility issues have been found to account for 40-50% of couples having difficulty conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy*.

Sperm + Egg = Baby

Taking the whole realm of fertility back to basics for a minute, it’s really important to consider that a healthy baby is made, when a healthy sperm and a healthy egg meet… This is fertility 101. So let’s get down to what we’re here to talk about today; the nitty gritty of making healthy sperm…

It all comes down to stress, digestion and quality nutrition

The business of making top-notch swimmers and being fertile essentially ties back to 3 things; the impact of “stress” (physical, mental/emotional, environmental) on our physiology; how well we can digest, absorb and utilise the nutrients in our food; and whether or not we are adequately nourished from the foods we eat…

You could almost say that above all else, the number one key to healthy sperm and reproductive health is good nutrition!

Because, when the body has available to it all the raw materials it needs in order to establish and maintain cellular health and integrity, it means our entire physiology is then equipped with what it needs to keep good health, and function well. This includes the multitude of processes that are essential to our bodies on a daily basis, for example, in the regulation of the our organs and body systems, to produce energy, synthesise hormones, maintaining good brain chemistry, an effective immune response or acid/alkaline balance; as well as to bind and eliminate toxins adequately, and generally buffer our body against the impacts of stress, toxins and modern-day living…

These “raw materials” are the nutrients that come from our diet. That is, what we’re putting into our bodies on a daily basis. Which means our level of health, wellbeing, and fertility is directly related to the quality of food we eat, and the nutrients our body receives from our food -such as the vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids, amino acids, anti-oxidants and other health-boosting compounds (especially from plant-based food sources) that protect our cells (and DNA), organs and tissues from damage, keeping them in good health and working order.

However, all of this also relies upon good digestive function, and our body’s capacity to break down and metabolise the nutrients in our food to send to our tissues and cells.

A well-nourished body can protect against, and off-set the impact of stress, toxic load and other factors…

Did you know…

Nutritional and lifestyle interventions play a significant role in addressing the major causes of male infertility including*:

·         Low sperm count (when number of sperm produced is low),

·         Poor motility (sperm too unfit to swim),

·         Sperm agglutination (coagulating),

·         Impotence (unable to achieve or maintain an erection), and

·         Ejaculatory disorders (premature, delayed or absent ejaculation)

For good sperm health, there are some specific nutrient deficiencies to look out forincluding*:

·         B-complex vitamins (especially B12, which has been shown to improve sperm count and motility),

·         Omega 3 fatty acids (highly protective effect for sperm, and needed for integrity of sperm membrane and sperm motility),

·         Zinc (huge sperm-health nutrient, that has proven beneficial for male infertility, and is needed for optimum testosterone levels, sperm production and motility),

·         Vitamin C (is a potent antioxidant, which protects against oxidative DNA damage; helps prevent against sperm agglutination (sticking together or clumping), and has shown positive effects improving sperm viability and motility.

What’s “stressing” you…

It is equally important to address the impact “stress” has on our health, fertility and nutrient status; as stress rapidly uses up (and depletes!) nutrients in the system (that’s assuming we’re eating and digesting well to begin with, let alone if we’re not!).

Whether your stress registers in your awareness or is flying under the radar, some things to be mindful of, include:

·         Events, relationships, experiences, worries  and emotions;

·         How much stuff is “on your plate”?

·         How busy or rested you are; 

·         Your environment -what is (or has) your system being (or been) exposed to? For example, the quality of air in your home, or working environment;

·         Level of chemical exposure, from pesticides and additives in foods; toxins absorbed from personal products e.g. like your antiperspirant or body wash (our skin is our biggest organ of absorption);  

·         Exposure to heavy metals and common industrial chemicals found in seafood, petrol fumes, adhesives, paints and the like;

·         Radiation from mobile phones, flying, x-rays, digital televisions, wi-fi etc.

·         Lack of, or poor quality sleep;

·         Sedentary lifestyle;

·         Alcohol intake, smoking, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs (cigarette smoking has been implicated as a direct causative factor in poor sperm quality and quantity; alongside which, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, anti-depressants, antibiotics and steroids can also impact sperm health and quality)*.

·         Inflammation and infections;

·         Testicular temperature;

The biggest contributing factors to testosterone deficiency in men are: stress, lack of regular exercise, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, obesity, smoking and toxicity. These factors contribute to low production of testosterone in the gonads, which is essential for sperm production**.

Testosterone deficiency: typically characterised by symptoms such as low libido; mood disturbances, depression; erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation; fatigue; Adropause (yes, that’s right; the male equivalent of menopause. Men experience this as their natural levels of testosterone decrease); insomnia; increased visceral fat (fat deposits stored in abdomen, around organs); decreased muscle mass, weakness; loss of bone density; loss of facial, underarm and pubic hair; heat flushes; signs of premature ageing; testicular shrinkage, anaemia; increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. When testosterone levels decrease, risk of inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance and hypertension all increase.

Oestrogen excess which may be characterised in men by the development of breast tissue (colloquially referred to as “man boobs”); an enlarged prostate (also known as, benign prostatic hyperplasia -BPH), including symptoms such as difficulty urinating, urgency, urinary incontinence or waking during the night to urinate, urinary tract infections, bladder or kidney stones; and prostate cancer.  Too much oestrogen in the system can occur through an over-abundance of oestrogenic influences that disrupt the endocrine system; for example, from regular beer intake, xeno-oestrogens from plastics (especially those that are heated and leeching into our foods/body systems), and those from fish, soy products and fast foods common in the standard Western diet.

When addressing fertility, it’s necessary to consider the impact all of these things (“stresses”) have on our physiology; and the potential influence they have in either protecting, promoting, or compromising our health (and fertility) to various degrees –whether it be contributing to nutrient depletion/deficiency; glandular and hormonal disturbances; immune dysfunction; acidity and inflammation; they all affect the body’s overall health and ability to function well.   

It’s worth noting that the improvements we make to our nutrition, digestive function, and stressing less (see list above for potential hidden stressors in your life) can absolutely turn reproductive health and fertility around... The science of epigenetics (the influence of external modifications, such as diet, nutrition and stress have on the ability to turn certain genes on or off), and the study of nutrigenomics (how nutrients in our diet directly affect our genes, and the potential nutrition has in preventing, mitigating and even treating disease) are a testament to this.

Finally, a minimum of 4 - 6 months of corrective treatment before trying to conceive is advised*.

I am happy to help.

Shanna

 

Read more about Shanna.

Make an appointment to see Shanna.

 

 

References:

*Osiecki, H 2006, The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition 7th edn. Bio Concepts, QLD Australia.

**Metagenics, 2014, Female Hormonal Disorders, QLD Australia.

 

 

MALE IVF PREPARATION

Did you know that it is just as important for a man to prepare for IVF as it is for a woman?

Keep in mind that it is of the utmost importance to have healthy sperm, as this will be half of the genetic makeup of your child.  To some, this may seem obvious; of course half of the genetic makeup of a child comes from the male partner.  Why then, do we as natural healthcare practitioners see many more women for preparation for IVF than men?  

Let’s consider fertility assessments, semen analysis in particular. 

What does a semen analysis tell you? And what does a ‘normal’ sperm result mean?

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2010) published reference values, to work out how an individual semen analysis compares to a population of fertile men.

Amount and thickness of semen.  The typical ejaculate is 2-6 mL of semen (about ½ to 1 teaspoon).   An ejaculate that is greater than 1.5 mL falls within the normal reference range* as defined by the WHO.  Semen should be thick to start with, and become thinner 10-15 minutes after ejaculation.

Sperm concentration.  Also known as sperm count. This is the number of sperm in millions per millilitre of semen. Fifteen million or more sperm per mL is considered normal.

Sperm motility. This is the percentage of sperm that are moving well as an assessment of movement. One hour after ejaculation, at least 40% of sperm should be moving forward in a straight line.

Morphology. This is an analysis of the sperm shape and appearance. The number of ideally shaped sperm (referred to as “normal”) compared to the number of imperfectly shaped sperm (abnormal) should be greater than 4%.

So, if you fall within the “normal” reference range there’s no need to do anything right? Wrong!  A semen analysis that falls within the normal reference range does not guarantee that an individual man is fertile, but gives a guide as to whether he is likely to be fertile. 

It is also worth noting that the “normal” reference range for sperm morphology allows for 96% of sperm to be abnormally shaped! And “normal” sperm motility allows for 60% of sperm to not be forward moving, definitely room for improvement.

*Reference ranges (modified) from WHO Laboratory Manual of the Examination and Processing of Human Semen (5th Ed. WHO, 2010)

When and how to improve the quality of your sperm.

The sperm regeneration cycle takes about 74 days. Most men produce millions of new sperm everyday, but it takes 2.5 – 3 months for them to fully mature (immature sperm lack the ability to swim forward and fertilise an egg).

Sperm are living cells within the body and are subject to whatever conditions the rest of the body is exposed to throughout their maturation cycle. Extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, smoking, drug and alcohol use and poor diet can all impact the quality of sperm. 

It is important to remember that healthy sperm will not be not be ready to fertilise an egg until the new batch of sperm, that has developed under healthier conditions, is mature.  This means that after making lifestyle changes it is recommended to wait about 3 months before trying to conceive or undergoing IVF. 

Acupuncture can help

  Some clinical trials have indicated that acupuncture can improve sperm motility (Dieterle 2009), increase sperm     count (Siterman 2009, Siterman 2001), and improve sperm quality (Pei 2005; Gurfinkle 2003). 

  Acupuncture may help in the treatment of male infertility (Stener-Victorin 2010) by:

  • Lowering scrotal temperature 
  • Enhancing local microcirculation, by increasing diameter and blood flow velocity of peripheral arterioles 
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors 
  • By improving sperm maturation in the epididymis,
  • Increasing testosterone levels and reducing liquid peroxidation of sperm.  

Fertility is a journey for both partners and I am happy to help.

Sally

     

 

 

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

The Journey of Fertility

Ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive.

Having a period is not much fun at the best of times, and while you are trying to conceive it can be downright heartbreaking.  I have had many clients explain to me how with each menstrual period they feel a sense of loss, hopelessness or despair.  These feelings are often further compounded with unpleasant symptoms such as emotional volatility, pain and fatigue, none of which help during this sometimes difficult time.

fert.jpg

Instead of seeing each menstrual period as a setback on your path to parenthood, consider it as a time to take special care of yourself and prepare for the next chance at conception.  Ancient Chinese physicians called menstruation Tian Gui or ‘Heavenly water’ because they believed that menstrual blood was different from the blood that circulates through and nourishes the body.  During the menstrual period there is a loss of blood or ‘Heavenly Water’, but this loss is not simply a monthly discharge of discarded material from the uterus, it is Qi, the vital energy that is required for life.

It is for this very reason that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the menstrual period as a time when women need to take particular care of themselves.  As blood is discharged from the uterus during Heavenly Water, the body is in a state of qi and blood deficiency - as blood is lost so is qi. During this stage of the menstrual cycle, the body is more vulnerable to be influenced by external factors, such as cold.  In TCM theory, cold has the ability to obstruct qi and suppress healthy reproductive function.  This can result in cramping pain, irritability, bloating and cravings for sweet foods. Ingesting cold foods and drinks (this can mean food and drinks that are physically cold such as ice cream or chilled water, as well as salads, juices and raw foods) can allow cold to enter the body, as can standing on cold floors with bare feet, being under dressed for the weather and swimming during your period.

I wanted to share with you this egg soup recipe as it helps to increase circulation, nourish the body and keep it warm - enabling the smooth and free flow of qi and blood.  You can make this during your period to ease menstrual pain and to ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive. 

Egg Soup - Makes 1 serve                                                

1 cup water                                                                                                                                              

1 tablespoon raw sugar      

2 eggs                                                                                                                                                    

3 tablespoons rice wine (available from Asian grocers)

In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of water and dissolve raw cane sugar. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Crack 2 eggs into the boiling water and stir as it returns to the boil.  Add rice wine and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Remember to like and care for yourself.

Sally

 

 

Sally has a special interest in working with couples to overcome fertility challenges as well as continuing to support women throughout pregnancy and beyond. 

Sally has a Bachelor of Health Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Health Science in Eastern Massage therapy (Shiatsu and Tuina) from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

To find out more about acupuncture and how it can help with infertilityendometriosisstressanxietyback pain and throughout pregnancy please click on the links. 

Learn more about Sally
Make an appointment with Sally

 

FOLIC ACID - WHY IT CAN IMPROVE YOUR FERTILITY

Why all the fuss about folic acid? Well, recent research shows folic acid is a crucial safeguard to the health of an unborn baby as well as boosting fertility for both men and women.

 

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. The human body does not store folic acid, which is why it is important we consume it daily in order to get adequate amounts. Folic acid’s main job in the body is to help produce and maintain new cells, and it is especially important during cell division. Without folic acid, our bodies could not produce DNA (essential for making babies) and red blood cells.

 

What The Research Shows

For Women
A study of more than 18,000 women showed that women regularly taking a supplement containing folic acid had a 40% lower risk of suffering problems producing eggs – which is the second biggest cause of female infertility.

For Men
Men who consume high levels of folic acid (over 700 mcg/day) lower their risk of sperm abnormalities by 20-30%. The higher the quality of a man’s sperm, the lower the chances of chromosomal abnormalities that can lead to birth defects such as Down syndrome in babies.

For Babies
Folic acid decreases the risk of neural tube defects (NTD) like spina bifida as well as other congenital conditions such as congenital heart defects.

Because congenital conditions like NTDs occur in the first three to four weeks following fertilisation, it is crucial to start boosting your folic acid levels BEFORE falling pregnant as it takes a month for your body to reach adequate levels.

 

Is A Good Diet Enough?

Whilst folic acid is present in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale; most fruits, including avocado; bean; beetroot; chickpeas; and fortified cereals and breads it is very hard to get enough through diet alone. Therefore to make sure you are getting the levels your body requires its best to take a high quality supplement.

 

THE PRINCESS AND THE SPERM – PART 2

Now where were we…ah, yes we were discussing how to track the beautiful egg so the handsome sperm knew when to look for her. Let us now explore the story of how the sperm became strong enough to overcome all the obstacle between him and meeting his beautiful egg.

There are many factors that can affect the quality and/or quantity of sperm, most as simple as diet and lifestyle. Sometimes it can be difficult and take time to make sure the handsome sperm is up to the challenge of meeting his beautiful princess. It has been reported that more than 40% of couples who have difficulty or are unable to have children is because Mr Sperm may be having a few problems.

In order to ensure that Sperm Charming is fit, healthy and strong it is important to note the three main factors that threaten this daring sperm.

 

Sperm Count

Research has determined that to increase the chances of a woman falling pregnant, a man has to have at least 40 million sperm per ejaculation. About 6% of men aged between 15-50 struggles with infertility. If there is no underlying medical issue present to the cause of low sperm count, there are some things that may cause a temporary reduction in sperm numbers.

This can include heavy duty cycling, exposure to extreme heat, ill-fitting underwear, performance pressure, insomnia and emotional stress. However, there is a number of lifestyle changes that a man can do increase the sperm count including:

  • Studies show that sperm count can be improved through a combination of zinc, vitamin C and folic acid
  • Stop smoking as this significantly reduces sperm count
  • Prevent overheating of the scrotum, often caused by tight underwear and extended times in a sauna/spa
  • Prevent excessive stress and begin relaxation exercises such as breathing techniques or meditation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop using drugs, including alcohol
  • Stop steroids which may cause testicular shrinkage
  •  Do not overdo intense exercise as this causes high levels of the adrenal steroid hormone which can lead to testosterone deficiency
  • Stay away from environmental hazards as much as possible – i.e. pesticides, lead, paint, radiation, heavy metals
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, stay well hydrated and sleep well – Maca powder and goji berries have been shown to increase sperm count

This list may seem long and daunting, but as long as you try to reduce the risks as much as you can, you will increase your sperm count and therefore your fertility. By having vast numbers of Sperm Charmings, the success rate of pregnancy is increased as greater numbers provide more of a chance of winning fair maidens heart.

 

Sperm Motility

Sperm motility relates to the ability of the sperm being able to move properly towards the egg. As opposed to sperm count which is quantity, motility describes the quality of the sperm which is very important for successful pregnancy. Sperm which do not “swim” correctly will never make it to the egg and therefore, no fertilisation can occur. Studies suggest that diet low in carnitine (a type of protein) may cause problems with sperm motility. Red meat is a typical source of this protein. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can also affect sperm motility. Vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, folic acid and omega 3 fatty acids will assist in improving sperm motility.

So in order to get Mr Handsome Sperm in fighting fit and healthy order, it is important to provide him with the proper nutrients to succeed on his quest to reach the beautiful egg.

 

Sperm Morphology

Sperm morphology describes the number of normal shaped sperm. In order to fertilise the egg, sperm must be a particular shape. The normal shape of sperm is defined as having an oval-shaped head that is 5-6 micrometres in length and 3 micrometres in diameter. A cap covers 40-70% of the head and must be well defined. There should also be no visible defect on the sperm. However, it is important to take into consideration that research has determined that only 14% of sperm need to have a normal shape.

Low sperm morphology may be temporary and show improvement after lifestyle changes. However, it can also be due to testicular abnormality or injury.

The changes in lifestyle recommended for increased sperm count and motility are the same for improving morphology. A recent study at the University of Sheffield was conducted where participants reduced fatty foods, eliminated alcohol, smoking and drugs, and increased healthy, fresh foods. Smoothies made with fruit such as blueberries, mangoes and raspberries were also used. This high antioxidant diet showed significant improvement in the quantity and quality of sperm.

Now that we have explored how to increase the numbers and make Mr Sperm Charming strong and buff, it is time to put the theory into action. By following a regime of increased exercise, proper nutrition and decreasing all the nasties the handsome sperm now has a fighting chance at reaching and winning over the beautiful egg. Once he does that that all live happily ever after.

The end.

GUYS, SAY YES TO FRUIT & VEG!

Have you noticed that the men in your life (or that you as an individual if you are a male) tend to ignore the “2 fruit and 5 veg” message that’s been (perhaps rather unsuccessfully) sewn into our daily meal plan?

Researchers at both the University of Western Australia and Monash University may have found a new reason for men to get their daily fix of mother earth’s goodies, with a recent breakthrough suggesting that dietary antioxidants can help maintain male fertility.

Studies recently conducted have found that a combination of antioxidants is the best method for improving health for male reproduction, which neutralises highly reactive molecules known as free radicals.

The free radicals are actually waste-products of the cellular process which fuels the body’s activities. Without proper nourishment from antioxidants, these free radicals actually damage the body’s cells, which slow down the male’s reproductive workers.

Long story short, the study confirmed that those men that walk amongst us who obtain sufficient levels of antioxidents through their diet are much more likely to have successful swimmers than those who turn their nose up at their broccoli, peas and carrots.

So! When your male counterpart (or you, sir) next go for a snack, side-dish, or dessert, bear in mind its fruit and vegie content! Your little swimmers will be in Olympic-gold-medallist condition in no time!