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 including these foods in your diet, lifestyle changes may also improve sperm count and quality:
- Avoiding foods packaged with bisphenol A (BPA)
- Avoiding trans fats
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding drugs and excessive alcohol consumption
- Managing stress
- Staying physically active
- Getting enough sleep and rest
- Staying hydrated
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:
- 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.
What causes low sperm count?
There are many potential causes of low sperm count, one of them being errors in lab testing. Other causes 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
- 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
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