You are finally ready to start a family but after months of trying to conceive, you are still receiving negative pregnancy test results. Could you be suffering from infertility? The CDC defines infertility as not being able to conceive after 1 year of unprotected sex .
Unfortunately, infertility is a fairly common problem. The CDC reports that 19% of couples suffer from infertility . A couple's inability to conceive can be caused by a number of different factors related to either one or both the male partner or female partner.
There are a number of considerations to be taken into account when assessing why a couple may be unable to conceive.
Aging in both men and women contributes to decreased fertility but tends to affect women more. Statistics show that decreased fertility occurs in men over the age of 40 and women over 30 .
Some believe that issues of fertility have more to do with the woman than the man. However, this is untrue. The Cleveland Clinic reports that in 50% of infertility cases, the health of the man is the contributing cause .
For men to be healthy and fertile, a variety of factors must be true. The man must produce an adequate amount of sperm, sperm must be transferred to the semen after being produced, the sperm count in the semen must be sufficient, and sperm must be able to move properly in order to fertilize an egg .
In order for male infertility to be determined, semen is collected and various parameters are assessed. These semen parameters include total volume, pH, total sperm number, sperm concentration, total sperm motility (sperm movement), progressive sperm motility (the ability of sperm to swim efficiently in a forward direction), and percentage of live sperm (sperm vitality) .
Male infertility is diagnosed when sperm concentration, movement, and/or structure are found to be altered in at least one of two sperm analyses, collected between 1 to 4 weeks apart [5,6].
Currently, the why and how of male infertility is up for debate, but oxidative stress, hormonal disorders, genetic disorders, and physical issues are known to be common causes.
An accumulation of oxidative stress is a primary contributor to male infertility. Oxidative stress is the occurrence of a disproportionate amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in relation to antioxidants in the body .
ROS (also known as free radicals) are molecules that can cause damage to cells and tissues when they exist in high amounts. Oxidative stress is fairly common among men with higher amounts of ROS being present in the semen of 25% of infertile men .
Various environmental and lifestyle factors can advance the accumulation of oxidative stress and ultimately increase the risk of male infertility. These factors may include inflammation, obesity, smoking, chronic stress, excessive alcohol intake, electromagnetic radiation, high temperatures, trauma to reproductive organs, or exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, heat, or certain chemicals .
Certain hormonal disorders could be the cause of male infertility. These specific hormonal disorders occur when the pituitary gland in the brain fails to secrete gonadotropin hormones. The gonadotropin hormones include follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which are responsible for stimulating the testes and producing sperm .
When these hormones are not produced, a complete lack or low sperm production results. Fortunately, this hormonal disorder is extremely rare. This type of hormonal deficiency accounts for only 0.5% of factors known to cause male infertility .
According to the NIH, 2-8% of infertile men have a genetic disorder causing their infertility . The most common genetic disorder related to infertility is Klinefelter's syndrome, which is characterized by having an additional X chromosome. This extra chromosome causes a variety of reproductive health problems, such as reduced production of gonadotropin hormones and the inability to produce sperm cells .
Men with cystic fibrosis are very commonly infertile (97-98%) as well because they lack a sperm canal, which would normally allow sperm to pass from the testes after being produced . These men also have a lower volume of semen.
Varicocele is a physical disorder that is characterized by enlarged and twisted veins (varicose veins) in the scrotum and is known to cause male infertility issues . Varicoceles are associated with deformed sperm, lower sperm count, and reduced sperm motility . Fortunately, varicoceles are reversible. There are a variety of surgical and non-surgical procedures that are used to treat this problem.
Retrograde ejaculation is another physical issue that can contribute to male infertility. This issue occurs when semen enters the bladder rather than out of the penis during ejaculation. Those with diabetes or prior prostate cancer are at increased risk . It can be treated with medication.
Finally, a blockage preventing the sperm from traveling out of the testicle can cause male fertility issues. Injuries or infections can cause blockages to occur and prevent sperm from leaving the body .
Male Fertility Vitamins
As previously discussed, oxidative stress is one of the main contributors to issues involving male fertility . Managing oxidative stress in order to improve male fertility will be the focus of this particular article.
By consuming sufficient amounts of antioxidants, oxidative stress can be managed and reversed. Antioxidants are molecules within our bodies that fight off ROS and the damage they can cause to your cells.
Many naturally occurring vitamins act as powerful antioxidants. By focusing on these key antioxidant vitamins, semen quality, sperm health, and male fertility can improve.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that serves as an antioxidant, primarily found in cell membranes.
Sperm cell membranes are made of mostly fatty acids (lipids) and vitamin E protects the cell's lipids from the destruction caused by ROS. Vitamin E helps keep the sperm cell membrane healthy and prevents further production of ROS .
Among men with prior exposure to oxidative stress, vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve sperm cell number and motility. Additionally, sperm motility has been shown to improve when vitamin E is supplemented with the mineral selenium [12,13].
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant.
Interestingly, semen can contain a much higher concentration of vitamin C than blood. Thus, vitamin C is able to be very influential in protecting sperm quality by exhibiting its antioxidant properties against oxidative damage .
There is an association between low or deficient levels of vitamin C and low sperm motility, which can impact male fertility . In addition, when vitamin C works alongside vitamin E, further reduction of oxidative stress can occur . Consequently, this reduction works to improve male fertility.
Vitamin D is another fat-soluble vitamin and naturally occurring antioxidant.
Research has found that vitamin D levels in the blood are positively related to better sperm quality and sperm function . Additionally, low vitamin D levels have been labeled as a “risk factor for poor semen quality in infertile men” .
Vitamin D deficiency is common among men who are inactive and obese . These are two factors that cause increases in oxidative stress.
Male Fertility Minerals
In addition to the vitamins previously discussed, there are a variety of minerals that also possess antioxidant capabilities that improve male fertility.
Zinc is one of the most common minerals in our bodies. However, we must consume it through our diets as our bodies cannot create zinc on their own.
Zinc takes on many roles including strengthening our immune system and contributing to the healing process. It is greatly important in supporting male fertility as well. For example, it plays an essential role in the production of sperm cells and supporting healthy sperm function .
Men who suffer from a zinc deficiency can have a reduction in sperm cells, which may lead to further abnormalities in their semen quality. However, zinc supplementation has been shown to enhance sperm motility and density in infertile men and improve the likelihood of conception .
Copper is another essential mineral that is important to healthy male fertility. Copper plays a role in maintaining sperm quality, regulating the health of the testes, and producing gonadotropin hormones .
A copper deficiency can lead to issues with male fertility, including sperm irregularities and lack of proper production of gonadotropin hormones. However, similar effects occur on opposite sides of the spectrum - during a copper deficiency and overload. Therefore, it is important to properly assess your copper status before supplementing.
Selenium is another important mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant. More specifically, selenium has been found to prevent damage caused by oxidative stress at the DNA level of sperm .
Additionally, selenium has been found to be vital for its roles in maintaining the healthy development of the testes, sperm motility, production of sperm cells, and sperm functions . A deficiency in selenium has resulted in a dysregulation of the production of sperm cells, sperm motility, and sperm maturation .
Other Nutrients to Boost Male Fertility
There are other nutrients that are known to positively improve male fertility. These nutrients possess antioxidant properties similar to the vitamins and minerals previously discussed.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant and chemical substance, also known as a cofactor, that plays an important role in energy production .
Because CoQ10 is so vital to the production of energy, it is directly linked to the well-being of overall sperm health. Thus, CoQ10 has been one of the most widely used antioxidants for the treatment of male infertility caused by oxidative stress.
Men with a CoQ10 deficiency are at an increased risk of having a low sperm count and varicocele . Additionally, CoQ10 supplementation has been shown to improve sperm motility and overall semen quality .
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. They are considered essential fats because we need them to maintain our health, but our bodies are unable to produce them on their own. Therefore, they must be consumed through diet or supplementation.
The main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is the most commonly consumed omega-3 fatty acid because it is found in more diverse food sources.
Omega-3s are well known to produce antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Additionally, they exist in the structure of our body’s cell membranes . Sperm cells contain a higher amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids compared to other cells within our body.
Consuming and possessing healthy amounts of polyunsaturated fats, such as Omega-3s, is vital to maintaining the membrane of sperm cells . Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids or ingesting an omega-3 supplement has been shown to provide excellent benefits to men struggling with infertility. Omega-3 consumption has been linked to better semen quality, specifically by improving sperm count, structure, motility, and length of life .
Improving Reproductive Health
Improving male fertility can start with eating a diet rich in the nutrients previously discussed. Try out and get to know the foods that are rich in these nutrients.
Plant-based oils (wheat germ, sunflower, soybean, safflower oils), almonds, peanuts and peanut butter, sunflower seeds, spinach, beet greens, collard greens, asparagus, pumpkin, red bell pepper, avocado, and mango .
Oranges, kiwi, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bell peppers, and potatoes .
Salmon, swordfish, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil, beef liver, egg yolks, fortified foods (orange juice, milk and milk alternatives, whole grain cereals) .
Oysters, beef, shellfish, pork, chicken, beans, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, fortified foods (whole grain cereals) .
Organ meats, turkey, oysters, shellfish, salmon, tofu, beans, chocolate, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, millet, potatoes, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, apples, avocado, yogurt, and whole grains .
Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, sardines, shrimp, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, brown rice, whole grain bread, oats, beans, lentils, milk, yogurt, spinach .
Salmon, tuna, organ meats, and whole grains .
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and plant-based oils (flaxseed and canola oils) .
Getting a daily dose of physical activity and reducing sedentary time can also improve male fertility. According to one study, those who watched no or very little TV had a sperm count that was about 50% higher than men that watched more than 20 hours of TV per week .
A higher sperm count is also more strongly associated with men who exercised at a moderate to vigorous intensity for at least 15 hours per week compared with men who exercised less than 5 hours per week .
In addition, exercise can help with weight loss or weight maintenance efforts. Overweight and obesity among men produce oxidative stress, creating issues for male fertility as previously discussed .
If your goal is to improve your reproductive health, reducing or ceasing alcohol consumption could be a helpful step.
Chronic consumption of heavy alcohol use can lead to a decrease in gonadotropin hormones and sperm count . One study found that men who regularly consumed alcohol had worsened semen quality, including a lower sperm count and testosterone levels .
It is well documented that chronic smokers are at greater risk of having lower semen quality. Decreased sperm count and damaged sperm motility are all side effects associated with cigarette smoking .
Although less conclusive in the research, smoking cessation has been shown to improve sperm quality and libido . It is well known that smoking increases oxidative stress and reduces antioxidant action in the body . Thus, smoking cessation will likely reduce overall oxidative stress.
Excess stress and lack of stress management may play a part in male infertility as well. Persistent levels of stress have been linked to lower semen quality . Additionally, stress has been shown to reduce the production of gonadotropin hormones and testosterone, which can lead to a decreased sperm count .
Finding ways to manage your stress is a great step towards improved reproductive health. Take some time to practice deep breathing, take a walk outside, or spend undistracted time with loved ones.
Exposure to certain toxins in the environment may also lead to issues with oxidative stress and male infertility.
Researchers have proposed that exposure to toxins including pesticides, herbicides, phthalates, BP, heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium), and air pollution can cause a variety of male fertility issues that ultimately cause low semen quality . These issues include sperm DNA damage, decreased sperm count and motility, and decreased production of sperm cells.
Striving to reduce exposure to these toxins can be a great way to work towards improved fertility. You can store your food in glass containers and use bathroom products free of phthalates.
In order to avoid excess exposure to herbicides and pesticides, you can buy local and organic produce whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group releases a report and shopper’s guide each year that informs the public of which foods contain the highest concentrations of chemicals. These reports can help you prioritize certain fruits and vegetables when shopping organic. Other ways to reduce this type of exposure is to wash your produce thoroughly and consume a variety of fruits and vegetables.
How We Help
Rootine wants you to maximize your health in order to improve fertility. With a Rootine membership, you can accurately assess your needs and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Assess Your Risk with Rootine
You don't have to guess when it comes to your blood values and risk for male infertility. You can add any of the Rootine at-home lab tests to your membership, which will allow you to obtain accurate results about your health in the comfort of your home.
The Rootine blood vitamin at-home lab test can determine if you are lacking in any of the important fertility-boosting vitamins. This test measures your blood vitamin D, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, you will also get access to your vitamin B9 and B12 levels as well as hsCRP and homocysteine levels, which can indicate if you are experiencing inflammation.
You will now be able to consider if excess inflammation caused by oxidative stress and a lack of important vitamins are contributing to fertility issues. This test is conducted by extracting a small amount of blood from a finger prick at home and sending it into the Rootine labs for analysis. Results come in as soon as 3 days after receiving your kit.
The Rootine blood mineral at-home lab test can also test your blood for a lack of minerals critical to fertility. With this test, you can accurately see if you are deficient in zinc, copper, and selenium. In addition to these important minerals, you will also be able to see your cadmium and mercury levels. All these results can help determine how much you should be supplementing.
Just like the Rootine blood vitamin at-home lab test, the blood mineral test is also conducted through an at-home finger prick test. This process makes testing your blood values safe and easy.
The last way Rootine can properly assess your fertility issues is by providing you with a DNA test. This test is also self-administered in the comfort of your own home by conducting a quick cheek swab.
This test can help evaluate if you possess certain genes that prevent you from activating or absorbing important nutrients for fertility, such as vitamin D and CoQ10. This additional result will further advance the personalization of your care.
Personalized Male Fertility Supplement
There is no need to guess about your supplement needs anymore. Unlike other male fertility supplements, Rootine is able to provide you with a supplement that is personalized to your specific needs.
With access to your specific health data based on blood levels, genetic components, and lifestyle factors, you are able to get a male fertility supplement that provides you with an accurate, safe, and efficient dose of the most important vitamins and minerals to boost your health.
Additionally, with your Rootine supplement, you will be ingesting microbeads rather than pills or powders. The microbead technology involves a more costly and time-extensive production in order to provide you with the most effective supplement.
Microbeads allow your personalized dosage to be extremely specific, with the possibility of trillions of options. The microbeads technology slows the absorption of nutrients in your body, which allows for steady maintenance of nutrient levels each day.
Additionally they aren’t made with any unnecessary ingredients, including artificial colors and sweeteners. Being third party tested, clinically proven, and governed by the European Food Safety Authority, it is a supplement you can fully trust.
Get Started Today
Begin today accurately assessing your nutrient needs and investing in an effective, personalized Rootine supplement. Take the customization quiz to get started.