Sperm production is a complicated process, and diet and nutrition aren’t the only factors that affect sperm count. However, just like any other human organ, a man’s reproductive system requires vitamins and nutrients for it to function properly and can benefit from a healthy diet. Foods that can have a positive effect on sperm count include:
- Fruits rich in vitamin C
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Fatty fish
- Foods rich in vitamin D such as mushrooms and eggs
In addition to eating healthy foods, you should also avoid putting certain things in your body:
What nutrients do I need to increase my sperm count?
Eating a diet rich in nutrients and minerals may help increase sperm count.
- B-complex vitamins: B-complex vitamins are a group of 8 micronutrients that play important roles in the body. Folate (B9) and B12 have a significant impact on male fertility (cobalamin).
- Folate: Reduced sperm density and count have been linked to low folate levels. Thus, boosting folate consumption could help improve sperm health.
- Vitamin B12: Several studies have found that B12 can help improve sperm count and motility, as well as reduce sperm DNA damage.
- Coenzyme Q10 and Vitamins C and E: These are antioxidants that combat the negative effects of substances called reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can cause oxidative stress, which can harm cells, including sperm cells. It is thought that exposing sperm cells to oxidative stress contributes to male infertility.
- Zinc: Zinc is essential for regulating testosterone production.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that plays an important role in cell membranes throughout the body. Some male fertility research suggests that omega-3 supplements can improve sperm count, motility, and morphology (shape).
- D-aspartic acid: This amino acid helps regulate testosterone.
Other essential nutrients that can help enhance sperm include:
Some herbal supplements thought to help increase sperm count include:
- Tribulus terrestris
- Maca root
How can I increase my sperm count naturally?
For men struggling with infertility or low sperm count, making significant lifestyle changes is the most effective way to increase sperm count naturally. In addition to eating a healthy and nutritious diet and avoiding harmful ingredients, the following are important:
- Getting quality sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Managing stress
- Reducing exposure to chemicals, toxins, pesticides, pollutants, and bisphenol A (BPA, a common chemical in plastics)
- Avoiding excessive heat exposure (jacuzzis, saunas, hot tubs)
- Reducing frequency of sex
- Bathing in cold or lukewarm water
- Avoiding tight undergarments
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for male fertility, since no two men are the same. Although the steps above can help, sometimes clinical treatments and supplements are necessary. It’s important to be aware of the various options available, as well as their potential side effects.
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What causes low sperm count?
In general, the most common causes of low sperm count are overall health and lifestyle factors such as stress. A history of hormone imbalances, chemotherapy, radiation, tumors, or sexually transmitted infections may also influence the sperm count.
Sperm count may be impacted by many factors, which may include:
- Medical conditions:
- Infections and inflammations such as gonorrhea, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), orchitis, and epididymitis
- Varicocele (enlargement of the veins within the scrotum)
- Retrograde ejaculation (a condition in which the semen enters the bladder during an orgasm instead of coming out of the tip of the penis)
- Nerve diseases due to diabetes or spinal injuries
- Injury or surgery in the pelvic area
- Certain autoimmune diseases
- Radiation and chemotherapy
- Hormonal imbalances, including hypogonadism
- Celiac disease
- Anabolic steroids
- Certain antibiotics
- Anti-ulcer medications
- Developmental disorders:
- Undescended testes
- Abnormal tubules that transport sperm
- Genetic conditions:
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Kartagener syndrome
- Environmental causes:
- Heavy metals
- Industrial solvents and other chemicals
- Radiation exposure
- High temperature
What factors determine sperm health?
Normal sperm count is about 20-150 million sperm per milliliter of a semen sample, although there may be slight variations from lab to lab.
Some men may not have any sperm in their semen sample—a condition called azoospermia. However, while low sperm counts may reduce fertility, many men are still able to make their female partners pregnant despite this, because fertility usually depends on sperm cell quality.
Besides sperm count, other factors that determine sperm health include:
- Motility or movement: Sperm cells need to be mobile to swim through a woman’s reproductive tract, reach the egg (ovum), and fertilize it.
- Morphology or structure: The structure of the sperm needs to be normal, meaning that it should have an oval head and a long tail working together to propel it.
For a semen sample to be healthy at 60% of the sperm cells need to show good motility with normal morphology.
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