~ by Dr. Jesse Hanley, MD and Jo Jordan
Each year, $206 million is spent on pregnancy tests in the United States1. Pregnancy is clearly on the minds of a large number of American citizens.
Unfortunately, the serious issue of infertility is also weighing heavily on the minds of many people. Everyone from congressmen to Hollywood filmmakers is calling attention to the infertility problems being faced by the world today.
So men and women are asking, how can they maximize and protect one of their most valuable assets…their fertility? Here are a few fertile facts.
Tips for Men: Sperm Specifics
Testicles like to live life loose and temperate; they try to maintain a temperature of one degree less than body temperature. With this in mind…
- Avoid hot baths and hot tubs. Life outside the body makes sperm highly susceptible to temperature extremes.
- Let sleeping laptops lie. All that heat on your lap will wilt sperm in its prime.
- Toss those tighty whitey underwear; they work to increase heat in the area, affecting sperm quality for its entire three-month cycle…Bring on the boxers!
- Put the brakes to pedaling. Bicycling can sabotage fertility, especially while wearing tight-fitting shorts. Research shows that cycling 100-plus kilometers (62.1 miles) a week puts male fertility at risk. In addition to raising scrotal temperature, critical arteries and nerves can be damaged by repeatedly banging the groin against the seat. Try the treadmill instead!
- Woo in winter. Sperm counts are higher in the cooler months. And while experts aren’t convinced that time of day really matters, sperm counts are higher in the morning.
What Else Can Men Do?
“An herbalist would look at whether the fellow in question was eating well, and his digestion was working well, so that he’s getting all the nutrients from his food,” says Stratford, Ontario medical herbalist Kerry Hackett, who also recommends herbs such as the traditional male tonic, Siberian ginseng, Panax ginseng, sarsaparilla, and saw palmetto to increase sperm count and sperm motility.2
- Increase folic acid intake by eating leafy greens, or with a multi-vitamin.
- Eat lots of deeply colored fruits and vegetables; they’re high in antioxidants and nutrients.
- Cooked red tomatoes! Lycopene – a powerful antioxidant derived from cooked tomatoes – is believed to increase sperm health.
- Make the most of multi-vitamins. Ensure you are taking a multi, preferably one with vitamins C and E, and selenium. These antioxidants protect sperm from free radical damage.
- Zinc and B-complex (which includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, pyridoxine, folic acid, inositol, and vitamin B12) are important in a multi, too. Zinc supports good testosterone metabolism, and B-complex improves digestion, and helps with stress.
- Skip the steroids. Street drugs and anabolic steroids are hazardous to sperm.
- Use it or lose it. Studies show that abstaining from sex for more than seven days can decrease a man’s fertility. Any gain in sperm counts from lack of use is cancelled out by the increased number of aged sperm cells with lower fertilization potential.3
- Take a break from unnecessary medications. Some – such as certain stomach-acid suppressing drugs – temporarily reduce your fertility.
- Avoid products containing estrogen mimics. They are found in personal care products containing phthalates and paraben, spermicides, pesticides, and some plastics. Also avoid food and personal care products containing the preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA).
- Wear a face mask and work in a well-ventilated area when working with chemicals, industrial byproducts, paints, and other home repair products.
Tips for Women:
Women Can Protect Their Fertility, Too
It is much more difficult to assess the quality and function of a woman’s reproductive system. Many environmental toxins, however, are known to be as harmful for women as they are for men, which has led experts to deduce that any chemical that negatively impacts a male’s fertility is likely to have a similar effect on women.
In addition, according to The Unofficial Guide to Having A Baby4, there are some very practical precautions women can take toward protecting their fertility, as well as increasing the likelihood of conceiving a healthy baby.
- Take folic acid. Incorporating at least 600 mcgs – but not exceeding 1000 – each day, two to three months prior to conceiving, reduces the risk of giving birth to a baby with a neural tube defect (spina bifida, for example) by fifty to seventy percent. Oranges and orange juice are both excellent sources of folic acid.
- Quit smoking. Smoking ten cigarettes a day reduces a woman’s likelihood of conceiving by fifty percent.
- Ask your care provider – or do a little research online – about any prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs you are currently taking. Some may be detrimental to fertility.
- Make your vaginal environment sperm-friendly. Avoid vaginal sprays and scented tampons, which can cause a pH imbalance in your vagina; artificial lubricants, vegetable oils, and glycerin – they can kill off sperm; saliva – it can also kill sperm; and douching – it alters the normal acidity of the vagina, can cause vaginal infections and/or pelvic inflammatory disease, and may wash away the cervical mucus needed to transport sperm.
- Avoid excessive exercise. It is a well-established fact that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol interfere with the rhythmic nature of communication between the pituitary gland and our testicles or ovaries. This can result in fertility problems such as irregular periods, anovulatory cycles (those in which ovulation does not occur), and luteal phase deficiencies (a problem that occurs when the second half of your cycle isn’t long enough to allow for the proper implantation of the fertilized egg).
- Get screened for diabetes. It’s important to have your fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin levels under control before you conceive. Women with poorly controlled insulin-dependent diabetes are four to six times more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects than non-diabetic women.
Good for the Goose (And for the Gander):
Vital Fertility Facts for Both Genders
The harmful effects of toxins such as cigarettes and alcohol – as well as that of pesticides, heavy metals, and the chemicals in solvents – affect men and women equally, and must be seriously considered by pregnant hopefuls…as well as everyone else on the planet.
- Stop micro-waving food in plastic containers. The toxins and endocrine disruptors contained in certain plastic are released when it is micro-waved. Ingesting this residue is extremely unhealthy.
- Switch to organic coffee. Copious amounts of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on non-organic coffee crops. These chemicals kill by interfering with insects’ reproductive systems…and chemicals can’t discriminative between beetles and homo sapiens!
- Remember, that whatever you rub on your skin is absorbed into your reproductive system, so make sure it’s something which has not undergone chemical processing to produce. Try grape seed oil, plain old-fashioned almond oil, or something organic.
Cleansing is an important part of preparing for pregnancy. All the toxins that you ingest, drink, breathe in, and absorb through your skin end up in your liver and gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If they are not expelled from your colon and liver as quickly as possibly, they can wreak havoc on your reproductive and other systems.
“I always recommend that both partners go through a detoxification program,” says Toronto naturopath, Rahim Habib. “Different chemicals affect the sperm and egg, and this can have an effect on the next generation. To detoxify, people need to make sure that the bowels and kidneys, and their ability to perspire, are functioning healthily.”5
Cleansing – as well as increased fiber intake – is a great way to improve your transit time, and foster three regular bowel movements a day. Regularity enables your body to become and continue to be healthier, more efficient, and – most importantly – more fertile.
It’s important for both men and women to control their weight. Fat stores toxins – fat is estrogenic, and it is responsible for storing the majority of the hormone disrupting toxins that are messing with our fertility.
In women, obesity can affect ovulation and menstruation, resulting in a failure to ovulate and menstrual dysfunction. The hormonal changes associated with weight gain can have a negative affect on sperm production; gross obesity in men can increase the temperature in the testes.
And finally, regular exercise – without overdoing it – is a good way to keep fit, while at the same time reducing stress levels, an important factor in conception.
Remember, focus on what you can do and don’t stress about what you may be unable to do at the moment. Make a few changes, and slowly start to incorporate them into your daily routines. Once you begin to tweak your regiman, everything will fall into place.
Implementing a healthy personal care regimen and lifestyle – including a proper diet, moderate exercise, multi-vitamins, cleansing, and creating as toxic-free an environment in which to conceive as possible – can protect both your fertility, and the fertility of your children.