Male fertility has dropped by up to 60 per cent in the last 40 years. So, if you and your partner are trying for a baby, preconception health is just as important for men as it is for women.
Although men produce millions of sperm a day, they aren’t particularly hardy and can easily be damaged. Sperm takes around 10–12 weeks to be developed and during this time, it’s quality can be improved by making simple changes to your lifestyle. Here are 6 surprising things that could be affecting your fertility and what you can do about it.
Many recent studies have suggested that common painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol and indomethacin affect the production of sperm by reducing the amount of testosterone produced. So, wherever possible, avoid taking painkillers. Try treating pain naturally with acupuncture or lotions such as tiger balm.
Overheating your testicles
A man’s testicles are outside the body for one simple reason – to keep them cooler for optimal sperm production. Elevated temperatures impair sperm production and its function. So, make sure they don’t get overheated – here are some ways to do this:
- Avoid sitting in hot water – that means no hot tubs, saunas or hot baths. Instead, have a shower.
- Make sure your underwear is made of breathable fabric such as cotton and make sure it isn’t too tight.
- Avoid eating chilli and other hot spices as these internally heat up your body.
- When using your laptop, make sure it is on a table or a desk. Don’t sit with it on your lap as the heat from the computer can cause higher than normal scrotal temperatures. Also, sitting with your legs tightly together to support the laptop, can also create excess heat.
- Don’t sit for long periods of time as this, again, can increase the scrotum temperature.
Electromagnetic waves (EMWs)
In today’s modern world, we are constantly being bombarded with electromagnetic waves which come from Wi-Fi, 4G and the new 5G and this can have a detrimental effect on fertility.
Recent studies have shown that men who use a laptop connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi for more than four hours a day can have significant problems with their sperm. This applies to working, as well as surfing the net and gaming. Of course, many of us can’t avoid using a laptop for work but we can try to reduce the hours we’re on the net in our free time. It is also advisable to turn off your Wi-Fi off at night.
Research has shown that exposure to certain heavy metals can increase the number of free radicals in the body, which, in turn, damage sperm and cause problems with implantation. And, it has been suggested that at least half the cases of unknown male infertility may be caused by the exposure to various heavy metals.
Here are some key ones that are thought to affect fertility – it is best to avoid exposure to them wherever you can:
- Mercury (Hg) – this is found in fish such as tuna, swordfish, king mackerel, lobster, Spanish mackerel, marlin, grouper and shark. High levels of mercury reduce the absorption of zinc, which can affect sperm production.
- Lead (Pb) – this is found the air, soil, water and even inside our homes in a wide variety of different products, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, toys, batteries, ammunition and even cosmetics. Much of our exposure comes from human activities including the burning of fossil fuels, leaded petrol and some types of industrial facilities.
- Cadmium (Cd) – created by the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of nickel-cadmium batteries. Cadmium is also found in cigarette smoke and oysters.
We have all heard about the terrible effects of plastics on the environment, but it less well-known that plastics can act like oestrogens which cause problems for male fertility. Plastics are everywhere and, unfortunately, most men are overdosing on their exposure to them, thereby increasing their levels of oestrogens.
Products containing BPA or phthalates are particularly harmful as they disrupt hormones and can negatively impact the quality of sperm. Although it is impossible to completely avoid plastics, there are some simple ways to limit your exposure to them:
- Buy foods that are not prepacked in plastic and use paper bags to pack loose fruit and vegetables
- Store food in ceramic, glass or stainless-steel containers – so, no plastic containers
- Cover and wrap your food in wax or parchment paper – don’t use cling film
- Don’t reuse clear plastic water and soft drink bottles
- Don’t cook or put hot food into polystyrene (this includes disposable foam plates and cups)
- Don’t heat foods in plastic containers and keep plastic containers out of the sun as heat can cause the chemicals in them to be released into your food and drinks
Research into air pollution is now showing the harmful effects it can have on fertility. Exposure to fine particles, known as PM2.5 are thought to be particularly harmful. They come from heavy industry, car exhaust emissions – especially diesel and the burning of fossil fuel.
Try to limit your exposure to air pollution by not walking next to busy roads, standing at junctions, using the underground system or breathing in any type of combustion smoke such as cigarettes, BBQs and fires. If you live in a big city, avoiding air pollution is not that easy. However, there are three things you can do to protect yourself:
Wear an air pollution mask
Change your car to one that doesn’t have a diesel engine and that has some form of electric propulsion
Take high doses of B vitamins – B9 (2.5mg), B6 (50mg) and B12 (1mg). This is thought to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution upon the body.
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Advice by Dr (TCM) Attilio D’Alberto, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in London and author of My Fertility Guide: How to get pregnant naturally, out now, priced £13.49. Also available in Kindle and as an audiobook. For more info see www.attiliodalberto.com