Nuts for your nuts! How to improve sperm health
13th December 2019
Most men produce millions of sperm each day. Then it takes these guys about two and half to three months to mature, and get ready for game time. The cool part is that this reserve of sperm then regenerates every two to three months. Given the typical inclination of male egos (mine included!) we’re pretty proud of this natural feat we can accomplish!
Unfortunately, size is not everything in this department. The volume of sperm is just one factor, and the reality is a lot of those guys are never ready for game time. Think about it a bit like all the sports players that never make it to the pros. For example, a large percentage of our sperm at any given time either doesn’t doesn’t know how to swim in the right direction to fertilize an egg or don’t swim fast enough. So, sorry to burst the bubble but before you get all psyched about the millions and millions of sperm on your team, think about quality over quantity. Remember, it takes just one, so do you want a LeBron James on your team, or a bunch of amateurs?
Sperm and Eggs
This process is different to women who start with a certain number of eggs (their ovarian reserve). This doesn’t regenerate or increase over time. Women can, of course, influence the health of their eggs and other factors that contribute to fertility health. But the egg count remains fixed. So when couples think about fertility, it is important to tackle any factors you can influence. Sperm health is a key one.
Nuts and sperm health
This is where the nuts come in! Recent studies have shown that increasing antioxidant intake can help with sperm health. In couples where the cause of subfertility is a male factor (such as low sperm count), 30% to 80% of cases are thought to be due to the damaging effects of oxidative stress on sperm. In theory, this is when molecules containing reactive oxygen (called reactive oxygen species) overcome the semen’s “natural antioxidant defences” to cause cell damage. Increased levels of these molecules are thought to be caused by several factors including pesticides, pollution, alcohol, smoking and poor diet.
A recent study found antioxidants can reduce oxidative damage. They found that couples where the men took oral antioxidants had a significant increase in live birth rate compared with couples where the men took control pills. They also found that in couples where men took antioxidants, they had a significant increase in pregnancy rate.
As discussed in this study by Carlsen et al. there are a few key killer nuts, and a range of helpful ones. Walnuts hold a lot of antioxidants. Pecans, chestnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and sunflower seeds are rich in total antioxidants. Hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, pine kernels, cashew nuts, flax seeds, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds can also help as they contain significant amounts of total antioxidants.
Male fertility supplements
You can also take supplements to boost antioxidants and increase other nutrients that help improve sperm health. I personally took Proxeed, (proven to improve sperm health in clinical trials) when taken three months before conception. There are tons out there so its worth doing the research. Given the variety of factors that go into making sperm healthy and fertile, you want to make sure key nutrients are covered. So, whatever supplements you use, look out for zinc, folic acid, vitamin B12, and Acetyl-L-carnitine. These help improve sperm health and motility (the ability of sperm to swim properly).
Male infertility tests
What gets measured is easier to manage. As a starting point, test your sperm! Whether you’re already trying to conceive, or thinking about kids in the future, you need to know where you stand. Then, based on your results, you can take steps like increasing your nut or antioxidant intake. You can then retest in a couple months to see the effect.
Even if you’re not immediately trying to conceive, it is empowering to know you can effect change and get game-ready. Remember, athletes don’t get to the pros overnight and neither will your sperm!
So – grab your test, and get a grip on where you stand now.
Male infertility treatment
If your sperm test results remain stubbornly poor after that second test a few months after you’ve made changes then it might be time to explore clinical help. Clinics can perform tests such as a scrotal ultrasound. This can help your doctor see if there is a varicocele, (enlargement of veins on your testicles that can reduce sperm volume, or other problems in your testicles and supporting structures). Treating poor sperm health might involve antibiotic treatments to address infections or surgery (e.g. to correct varicoceles). Treatment paths might also explore hormone replacement or medications when infertility is caused by high or low levels of certain hormones.
Finally, even if these measures don’t work you’ll be able to also explore assisted reproductive technology treatments. These methods essentially try to get the best sperm possible, by inserting directly in the female genital tract, or intra–cytoplasmic sperm injection.
Start with tests and nuts 🥜
At Adia we always recommend the below based on the science:
- Test and get the data to know where you stand – so in this case get a sperm test
- Explore how you can support your body in doing its thing – in this case that’s increasing your antioxidants through nutrition (eat those nuts!) or other means.
At any point though, we also recommend you talk to a fertility expert to understand your situation and get personalised advice. The data, and understanding of your lifestyle habits as discussed above can empower you to make the best of those discussions.
I hope this helps you understand some simple ways to improve your sperm health and the key steps you can take to understand where you stand and start getting your sperm ready for game time.