Naturopathic Care for Male Factor Fertility Issues
Around 15% of all couples are unable to conceive naturally, and male factor issues are thought to contribute to around half of these incidences. Whilst the only medical treatment for male factor infertility involves ICSI (IVF where an individual sperm is selected and injected into the egg to increase the chance of fertilisation), this is far from a solution for many couples. At the end of the day the only way to address poor semen parameters is to take a broader look at your overall health.
Sperm production takes a little under 3 months. They are some of the smallest cells in the human body, and sperm also have a very thin cell membrane (which is essential to help them to achieve their work of effective movement through the female reproductive tract and egg fertilization). These two factors combine to make them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of oxidative stress, which causes DNA damage. Unlike most other cells, they don’t have the capacity to repair their own DNA, so once the damage is done, a sperm is entirely useless.
Men produce thousands of sperm with every heartbeat, so that millions are released at each ejaculation. This way only a small proportion have to be any good to achieve pregnancy, but these days we’re seeing more and more semen analysis results that prove that this margin is often too slim. Even in a very good sample we would only expect 10% of sperm to look any good, but far too often we’re seeing 4% or even less. And the research shows us that this results in prolonged time to conception, increased miscarriage rates and poorer success with IVF and ICSI.
So, this all sounds like a disaster doesn’t it!? What are we going to do!? Sperm are pretty much useless, and all our men are going to die young!! Of course there’s something that can be done about it and that is to educate ourselves about things that directly effect fertility.
Let’s go through a few of these now…..
Diet & Nutrition
Consuming a junk food diet correlates with poorer male fertility. And unsurprisingly we can also prove that eating a diet high in fruits & vegetables, nuts & seeds, whole-grains, good fats and quality proteins also correlates with higher fertility. We work with our patients not just to improve their nutrition through diet, but also to identify and reverse any long-term deficiencies that may be playing a part. It’s easy to do, and it’s remarkably effective.
It’s impossible to discuss diet and nutrition without addressing the issue of supplementation. For example, zinc plays an integral role in all areas of testosterone and sperm production. To ensure safety and therapeutic benefit, supplementation should be thoroughly considered on an individual basis, and prescribed at appropriate dosages for correct lengths of time.
We believe the level of mercury allowed in fish oil supplements by the TGA is totally unacceptable, and these supplements can potentially create more harm than benefit. The naturopaths at Fertile Ground Health Group recommend only the highest quality and most effective supplements. Each prescription will differ, depending on the patient’s diet, test results and overall health.
Research shows us that sperm DNA damage is increased by smoking and substance abuse at any level, and by alcohol and caffeine consumption in excess. But what is excess? That’s something that needs to be decided on an individual basis, taking the whole person and health picture into account. Some exercises may be harmful, whilst others are beneficial to fertility, but this will again depend on individual requirements. We can help you to formulate a plan that will balance your lifestyle with your fertility outcomes.
Simply speaking, the greater a man’s waist measurement and body mass index, the greater the chance he and his partner will have trouble conceiving. Even with the use of IVF, and even when the semen analysis is shown to be normal, researches have shown that fertilization, embryo quality, pregnancy rates and the chance of miscarriage are all affected by a man’s weight. Of course weight loss is easier to discuss than it is to achieve, and we recognize that there are many varying factors that may contribute to an individuals weight loss challenges.
Many of the chemicals (including pesticides, plastics, fragrances & flame retardants) we are regularly exposed to (through diet, personal care products, cleaning products & furnishings) have an oestrogen like effect in the body, and therefore negatively affect a mans testosterone levels and sperm producing capability.
There is plenty that can be done to help to optimize male fertility, and it’s really not that difficult (and it’s certainly not invasive!). And the only side-effects you’ll likely encounter are noticeable improvements in energy, stress, sleep and overall health! We do our best to help to identify the likely causative factors in every man’s circumstances, and then tailor the treatment plan specifically to his individual needs.