Low sperm count, one of the leading causes of male infertility, is responsible for a lot of today’s couples’ inability to conceive. Sperm count refers to the amount of sperm per milliliter of semen. Measuring sperm count is usually part of a sperm analysis that also examines the shape of sperm and their motility. All these factors can play a role in a man’s fertility.
It only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg, but the higher your sperm count, the better your chances are of impregnating your partner, says Zaher Mehri, MD, OB-GYN and fertility expert at New Hope Fertility Center.
Millions of sperm are in one ejaculation, but only a few hundred will make it to the egg. Many sperm die in the acidic environment of the vagina before they migrate up to the uterus and into the fallopian tubes.
A normal sperm count is between 15 million and 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen. A sperm count less than that could result in difficulties conceiving.
What you eat, how often you exercise, and your overall lifestyle can have an impact on your sperm count.
Below, experts list six ways to increase your sperm count and boost your chances of conceiving.
1. Lose weight
Overweight men tend to have lower sperm counts than those in the normal weight range, Mehri says. This could be due to overheating, which can kill sperm. Excess body fat around the testicles could insulate them, causing them to get warmer.
Hormonal changes in overweight men can also negatively affect sperm production. Overweight men are more likely to have lower testosterone levels and higher estradiol levels, which can negatively impact sperm production.
If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher, losing even a small amount of weight can increase your sperm count.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Urology — an Iranian publication — examined the effects of weight loss on sperm count in 200 men with BMIs over 25. After a six-month intensive exercise program, the researchers observed significant increases in semen volume and sperm concentration among those in the weight loss group compared to the control group.
2. Start Exercising
The function of the reproductive system depends on the general health of the body, so when a man exercises regularly, the testicles function better and sperm count improves, Merhi says.
A 2014 study published in Human Reproduction examined 231 men seeking fertility treatment and their levels of physical activity. The researchers found that weight lifting, running, and jogging, were associated with higher sperm concentrations than other types of exercise like walking and aerobics.
While this study found that some types of exercise are better at improving sperm count than others, any exercise is better than none, says Temeka Zore, MD, OB-GYN, and reproductive endocrinologist at Spring Fertility. Because exercise reduces inflammation, which can improve sperm function.
Some studies have shown that certain types of exercise, like bicycling, could be associated with a reduction in sperm count, but more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions about what types of exercise are best, Zore says.
“Studies are limited and inconclusive on the exact type or amount of exercise that may improve sperm counts,” Zore says. “There are no high-quality studies that conclusively state one exercise is better than another.”
SEE ALSO: Fertility Experts Warn That Mobile Phones Are Cooking Sperm
3. Quit smoking
Smoking can negatively impact sperm count, so quitting can improve your sperm health. According to a 2007 analysis published in Human Reproduction, men who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day experience a 19% reduction in sperm concentration compared to nonsmokers.
The exact reason why smoking reduces sperm count isn’t entirely known, but a 2015 review published in the World Journal of Men’s Health found that smoking can lead to DNA damage in the sperm, which reduces fertility.
Even if you’ve smoked for years, stopping will make your sperm healthier, Mehri says. It takes about three months for the testicles to produce fresh sperm, so men who quit at least three months before conception will have healthier sperm and a better chance at fertilizing an egg.
4. Avoid substance abuse
Moderate alcohol consumption, which is about two drinks a day for men, doesn’t appear to have an adverse effect on sperm count, Mehri says. However, some studies suggest that heavy drinking, defined as 14 drinks or more a week, can reduce sperm quality and lower testosterone production.
Other drugs like opioids or marijuana can also negatively impact fertility. More research is needed to see if stopping substance abuse reverses the adverse effect it has on sperm health. But, in general, abstaining from substance use and developing healthy habits can improve your sperm count and fertility.
“If you are trying to conceive, we always recommend being the healthiest version of yourself, which means avoiding smoking and drugs and drinking alcohol in moderation if you choose to drink,”
5. Take a D-aspartic acid supplement
D-aspartic acid (D-AA) is an amino acid that aids in the formation of proteins in the body. It is found in high concentrations in the endocrine glands, such as the ovary and testes. Because sperm, like any cell in the body, contains protein, D-AA is important for sperm function, Mehri says.
Low concentrations of D-AA can contribute to lower sperm count and motility, so taking a D-AA supplement might help, Mehri says. A 2012 study published in Advances in Sexual Medicine examined 60 men with fertility problems and found that taking D-AA supplements for three months substantially increased their sperm counts and sperm motility.
It is important to note that those in the study were not healthy individuals as they already had sperm disorders. Therefore, there is no conclusive evidence that D-AA supplements would increase sperm count in healthy individuals.
D-AA supplements can be purchased online and the dose is usually 2,000 to 3,000 mg taken daily, but you should consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, Mehri says. D-AA can cause irritability and headaches if you take the wrong dose, and its long term effects are not yet known.
6. Eat a healthy diet
What you eat also affects your sperm count and overall health. Antioxidants in particular may improve fertility, Mehri says. Vitamin E and C have been shown to be good antioxidants for sperm function.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Medicinal food examined 13 men with fertility problems between the ages of 25 and 35. The men received 1,000mg of vitamin C supplements twice a day for two months. Their sperm count increased by more than 100% and their sperm mobility by 92%.
Foods rich in Vitamin C include:
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to improve sperm function, Zore says. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids our bodies cannot produce on their own, so we must consume them in our diets. Fatty acids are part of the sperm cell membrane, so adequate consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may improve sperm count and motility.
SEE ALSO: How Men Can Prevent Low Sperm Count & Other Fertility Problems | Physician, Peter Atangwho
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
The bottom line
Many factors can affect sperm count. Luckily, there are steps you can take that may increase your sperm count and boost your chances of conceiving. Exercising, eating well, and quitting smoking are all lifestyle changes you can make to improve your fertility and your overall health.
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Tags: Exercising, Men's health, Sperm count
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