Women are usually the main focus of fertility treatment. This makes sense, in a way, as women have a monthly menstrual cycle which is not only complex but she may realize that there are issues with an aspect of the cycle (maybe late ovulation, or lack of clear signs of ovulation, or painful periods or PMS) because her body goes through changes each week of each month (typically). So when a couple has been trying to get pregnant she’s the first to be checked, or to seek treatment.
However, men make a large contribution to a healthy pregnancy – half the genetic material is coming from the man, and it is important that he be as healthy as possible to produce a healthy pregnancy and baby. If a couple has been trying for a while and not successful, they will both likely end up in the doctor’s office and go through routine examinations. Sometimes these tests result in specific findings about the man’s sperm, but other times the results are inconclusive or normal, with a diagnosis of unexplained fertility.
Over the last nine years, I have worked with a LOT of women who want to get pregnant as well as their husbands and boyfriends when I can. I work with women who may want only natural support for fertility to those who are seeking assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI or IVF. My job is to support the process that works for them – but I find that the women and men who are willing to focus on a healthy lifestyle get better results. This means cleaning up the diet – removing gluten, sugar and the unhealthy fats as well as processed foods, drinking fresh water daily, exercising, meditating, and eating a lot of vegetables and organic grass fed meat. Taking supplements and getting acupuncture also plays a big part in success. I believe all of these are important wether or not there has been a specific medical finding with a physician’s medical analysis. Don’t you want to have the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible?
Why do I believe men need treatment as well? Well a recent article in the New York Times reported results from a study showing a greater than 50% decline in male sperm counts since 1973. This is drastic news! And even more alarmingly, there’s not much information on why it is declining, other than the decline being a feature of westernized countries. One theory, which I agree with and find very interesting, is that the use of chemicals in westernized countries may play a part.
So what can men do to specifically to improve their fertility?
- As I mentioned above, change their diet to reduce inflammation. The Paleo Diet and The Whole 30 are great places to start. And remember, you don’t have to be perfect – but shoot for changing your diet at least by 80%. Remove soy from the diet as well, as it can affect male hormone balance, mimicking estrogen.
- Reduce toxins in their body and environment (which also affect hormones and can lead to imbalance). Some safe ways to do this include reducing/eliminating the amount of plastic used for food consumption and storage, drinking purified water, beginning a skin brushing practice, or using an infrared sauna or steam for short periods of time. Also, eating a lot of cruciferous veggies helps reduce toxins as those veggies are chock full of indole-3-carbinol which becomes Diindolylmethane (DIM) during digestion, a compound that is amazing at reducing excess estrogen in the body.
- Stop smoking cigarettes and marijuana, and reduce or eliminate alcohol. I don’t mean to be a party pooper but all of these have deleterious effects on sperm counts. The good news is that if you do quit smoking studies show that you will have improvements in sperm health.
- Add supplements to your daily regime including Vitamin E, Vitamin C, B-complex, Zinc and Selenium, as well as anti-oxidant supplements such as CoQ10 (I prefer Ubiquinol, the active form of CoQ10). Don’t buy low cost vitamins and supplements, no matter the temptation. You don’t have to spend a lot, but I do find that it is worth purchasing a quality product rather than one that is very inexpensive. Why? Because some supplements that are lower in cost are made from materials you really wouldn’t want in your body (some B vitamins are made from coal tar! Ick!) and other’s just don’t break down in the body well. So look for vitamins that are made from whole foods when you can. I also carry a few lines of supplements and vitamins and will work with you to find good quality products.
- I also recommend Chinese herbs and specific nutritional supplements (that enhance testicular health, most often) to my male patients who want to become fathers soon. Primarily these are tailored to that specific person, and focus on rebalancing and nourishing their body. To get your very own bottle, schedule an appointment and we can get started.
One of the most important fertility lessons I have learned after years of practice is the necessity for patience. Developing patience when working on fertility also has the beneficial side effect of invariably helping you become a better parent once that child does arrive in your life!