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5 Ways to Improve Your Sperm Health: Common Myths Debunked

Does wearing tight underwear really decrease your sperm count?

5 Ways to Improve Your Sperm Health: Common Myths Debunked

Did you know that the average sperm count in men has dropped by over 50% in the past four decades? This concerning trend has left many wondering about the possible causes behind the decline. Many factors—from your blood sugar to the tightness of your underwear—affect sperm health. Let’s look at the science, and explore ways to improve your reproductive health.

What is male infertility?

Infertility, defined as the inability to conceive, affects 1 in 5 couples in the United States. Various factors affect fertility, including genetics, diet, hormone levels, and fitness. Contrary to common belief, infertility is absolutely not exclusive to women. Both male and female factors contribute to infertility.

When it comes to male fertility, sexual function and semen quality are essential factors. Erectile dysfunction (inability to maintain an erection) and low libido (low sex drive) can limit your ability to have sex. A semen analysis looks at sperm count and sperm motility. Sperm count is the concentration of sperm cells in semen. Sperm motility is the number of swimming sperm cells in semen. Decreased sperm count and motility can reduce chances of successfully conceiving.

There are various theories about the decline in sperm count over the past four decades. Potential factors include environmental pollutants, lifestyle changes, and diet. Understanding what causes low sperm count and mobility can help you make informed choices regarding reproductive health. 

First, Let’s Debunk 3 Common Myths

MYTH: Wearing briefs decreases sperm count

FACT: The data is inconsistent, so wear whatever you’re comfortable with.

In a 2018 study involving 656 men who were seeking fertility treatment, researchers found that men who wore boxers had slightly higher sperm concentrations, more total sperm, and better-moving sperm. However, wearing tight underwear has been shown to prompt the body to increase sperm-making hormones in order to compensate for reduced sperm production. In other words, it all evens out in the end. But, if you’re trying to conceive, it might be worth wearing looser clothing below the waist. 

MYTH: Men have fertile sperm their entire life

FACT: The risk of genetic mutations when conceiving increases each year of life

In a study conducted in 2016, researchers discovered that men at an advanced age face a higher risk of genetic mutations during conception. This means that older men are more likely to pass on genetic mutations to their children, which can lead to various health issues and birth defects. The study suggests that when evaluating the chances of genetic disorders in children, you should take into account the age of both genetic parents.

MYTH: Lifestyle choices don’t affect sperm health

FACT: Research shows that unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and stress can negatively impact sperm health. 

While there may not be a direct link, these factors can contribute to sperm dysfunction. It's important for men to adopt healthy lifestyle habits to improve their reproductive health overall.

5 ways to improve your sperm health

1. Stick to a Low-Glycemic Diet

A low-glycemic diet involves cutting out sugary foods and refined carbs, and instead incorporating good fats and lean proteins. High-glycemic foods, such as sugary sodas and simple carbs, cause insulin levels to rise in the body. 

The modern diet can overwhelm our insulin response, leading to weight gain around the belly, inflammation, insulin resistance, and various health issues—including fertility problems. 

2. Take the Right Supplements

Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to decreased sperm production. Antioxidants directly fight the oxidative stress caused by inflammation, and antioxidant use has been shown to increase pregnancy rates by 400%.

Examples of antioxidants include:

  • Carnitine  
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium
  • Carotenoids
  • Glutathione
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Zinc
  • folic acid
  • Coenzyme Q10 

Other beneficial supplements are vitamin D, fish oil, B vitamins, fenugreek, and maca root.

3. Exercise Regularly

If exercise came in pill form, everyone would be taking it. The benefits of exercise are endless—and can even improve fertility.

Dr. Larry Lipshultz from Baylor College of Medicine recommends exercise for men who are concerned about fertility. It not only boosts well-being but also helps reduce fat and limit testosterone converting to estrogen. 

Ideal exercises involve weight resistance or cardiovascular workouts. Be careful with activities like competitive cycling and triathlons, as these can come with potential fertility issues. Simple protective measures like wearing an athletic cup during contact sports and choosing a fertility-friendly bicycle seat can aid in maintaining reproductive health.

4. Manage Your Stress

Managing stress is crucial for maintaining optimal sperm health. Chronic stress can lead to the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which may negatively impact the delicate balance of reproductive hormones. Elevated stress levels have been associated with decreased sperm quality—i.e. lower sperm concentration and motility. 

By adopting stress management techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation, you can positively influence your hormonal balance. Prioritizing stress reduction not only contributes to overall well-being, but also supports reproductive health and fertility.

5. Avoid Smoking

Smoking has severe consequences for your overall health—including sperm health and fertility. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes cause oxidative stress and inflammation in reproductive organs, which often leads to damaged sperm DNA, reduced motility, and lower sperm count. 

Smoking also disrupts hormonal balance, affecting the production and maturation of sperm. Quitting smoking is a vital measure to improve sperm health, increasing the chances of a successful and healthy pregnancy.

Fertility is a Shared Responsibility

The decline in sperm count over the past four decades highlights the importance of dispelling myths and adopting healthy lifestyle changes. Remember, fertility is a shared responsibility, and both men and women play vital roles. By debunking common misconceptions, embracing a healthy lifestyle, and making informed choices, individuals can enhance their reproductive well-being. Whether you're on a journey to parenthood or simply prioritizing your health, you're empowered to cultivate healthier and more informed reproductive futures.

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