Lifestyle-related issues are increasingly being accounted for rising infertility among couples. As implied in a recent report by the International Institute of Population Sciences, infertility is high in the metro cities of India. Our country has 15-20 million reported cases, a large number considering that there are about 60-80 million couples suffering with infertility in the world. However, as opposed to the conventional perception that infertility is a women’s problem (in our society it is usually considered to be a social stigma as well); experts have noted that one-third of the cases involving infertility are concerning emerging problems with men.
In this scenario, experts are now further probing reproduction issues such as sperm quality. Many factors, including lifestyle stress factors such as obesity and poor diet affect the quality of sperm production. Likewise, a nutritious diet can have a positive impact on the sperm quality. A healthy diet can boost the sperm production both in terms of quality and count. Men should be made more aware of this fact. The society needs to come to terms with the fact that even though a woman carries a baby in her womb, the fathers have an equally pivotal role to play.
DIABETES AS A MAJOR FACTOR
One more lifestyle factor which affects men is diabetes. It is now categorised as a serious modern lifestyle disease. The number of diabetes patients is likely to reach 70 million by 2025 (as published by the International Diabetes Federation). Most of these numbers are affecting the young adult population in India, a prime age bracket for reproduction. The rise in type 2 diabetes patients in India has led to an increase in obesity and an increased chance of suffering from heart disease. Proper diet, exercise and timely dosage of insulin keeps patients in check. Defective sperm DNA also occurs as a result of type-2 diabetes.
According to few medical researchers, it has been concluded that diabetic men have fragmented sperm cells. Volume of semen is clearly affected with diabetes. Mitochondria, an organelle found in large numbers in most cells, in which the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur, was also found to be damaged (deletions of the DNA) in diabetics.
While the damage to the DNA in the sperm may adversely affect the male fertility and thus, the reproductive health condition; what’s more worrisome is the fact that even the capacity of the female egg to conceive or carry this sperm is restricted. As a result, increased fragmentation of the sperm will result in a necessary condition of embryonic failure and pregnancy loss. Fragmented or broken DNA may also lead to a higher incidence of miscarriage.
While diabetes is clearly one of the serious concerns which affect the DNA of the sperm, the bottom line remains that the infertility in men is measured by the sperm count, sperm quality, and the motility of the sperm. There can be other medical reasons too which stand strong for the cause, including ejaculation of semen, genital system cancer and as a result exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
According to medical experts, there are recognised treatments for the cause such as:
• Medical (hormones, multivitamins and antioxidants)
• Surgical (varicocle litigation in properly selected cases)
• IUI (intrauterine insemination)
• IVF (in vitro fertilisation)/ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection of eggs)
However, there are clinical experts who still recommend certain basic lifestyle changes to make an impact before you consult a fertility specialist. Lifestyle changes such as eating healthy can have a considerable impact on your sperm quality. Of course, we don’t discount the age factor, which affects the person’s ability of sperm to move. But, still a lot can be done to achieve the required improvement in the overall quality of the sperm.
HOW TO CORRECT THE SITUATION
• It is strongly recommended to follow a diet which is rich in sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants possess a high level of semen reactive oxygen which can play an important role in boosting the sperm quality. Sesame, tomatoes, oranges and green leafy vegetables are super food sources of antioxidants.
• Taking regular doses of multivitamins, minerals and antioxidants also minimises the cell damage that reduces the risk of cancer.
• Zinc is clinically recommended for sperm health as it is a biologically important building block of the sperm cell.
WHAT TO AVOID
Another crucial factor to consider is not to over-exercise as this may cause the temperature of the scrotum and testicles to rise, which can affect the quality of the sperm. Some experts have also advised to avoid rigorous cycling, too many sauna sessions, hot bathtub and even Jacuzzi. Even exposure to natural heat environments has to be monitored as excessive heat affects your body temperature.
Avoid smoking as even passive smoking has the potential to create abnormalities in the sperm cell, while causing damage to the sperm cell; avoid certain medications like steroids. Even excessive consumption of alcohol is considered harmful, and should be avoided.
Semen is considered to be optimally fertile when it contains more than 15 million sperms per milliliter. That count can get adversely affected because of the aforementioned points such as testicles getting too hot, or when you're stressed out. Stress, in turn, can be a killer of sperms. Stress hormones have the potential to block leydig cells, which are tasked with regulating testosterone production. If you are too stressed out, you experience the risk of sperm production coming to a halt altogether.
FOODS FOR IMPROVED SPERM COUNT AND OVERALL SEXUAL HEALTH
The vitamin C in the spring vegetable protects sperms from being damaged due to free radicals in the body.
The omega-3 fatty acids increase the sperm count and also makes the blood flow to the penis more lucid.
These tubers work wonders towards improving sperm motility and also increases the volume of semen per ejaculation.
They contain L-Arginine, an essential amino acid that improves semen volume and the intensity of orgasms
The vitamin A present in the roots helps improve sperm motility and sperm volume.