The role of the male in conception is sometimes understated but very important, it takes two to make a baby. New sperm is generated in the body approximately every 74 days, that’s just 3 months! Sperm production is dependent on a number of different factors from ensuring you consume nutrients that support sperm production (while also avoiding anti-nutrients) and adopting positive lifestyle behaviours are some the most effective ways to influence sperm quality.
Nutritionist Gaye Godkin looks at the dietary and lifestyle changes dads-to-be can make to help improve sperm quality and increase the chances of healthy conception.
Possibly the biggest anti-nutrient consumed is alcohol – it is detrimental to sperm health. Alcohol causes cellular damage to the body and increases oxidation and free radical production. Male sperm is particularly affected by the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcohol is rapidly converted to glucose in the blood and excess circulating glucose can damage sperm cells and cause weight gain. Furthermore, alcohol destroys a vital B vitamin called folate in the body, this vitamin is necessary for healthy DNA replication in sperm. For men trying to conceive aim to reduce your alcohol intake.
Being overweight decreases your chances of conception, so much so that some fertility clinics will not treat couples who are over-weight. They are advised to lose the weight before treatment can begin. Mid abdominal fat is lapped around the ovaries, uterus and male reproductive areas. These fat cells disrupt the functioning of the sex glands and interfere with hormonal harmony. To reduce tummy fat, reduce processed carbohydrates and aim to eliminate all sugars and foods containing processed fats.
STRESS & ADRENALINE
When stressed, the body produces greater amounts of adrenaline – a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Prolonged exposure to adrenaline is not conducive to conception. Unfortunately, excess adrenaline switches off all non-essential life processes (such as making a baby) and can inhibit conception. Caffeine increases the production of adrenaline so if possible it is recommended you limit or avoid while trying to conceive. What’s more, your adrenal glands can become burnt out from excess stress, give them some additional support them by taking vitamin C daily and foods or supplements high in magnesium.
Male and female hormones are made up of fats. Fats are hugely important raw materials that are components of both the sperm and all sex hormones. Cell membranes are made from the various fats and consumed in the diet. A diet high in processed fats known as trans-fats interfere with the delicate signalling that occurs on these membranes. These are artificial fats made from margarine or re-heating polyunsaturated fats. Aim to eliminate donuts, white bread, certain pizza, chips, deep fried foods, pastries, biscuits and cakes unless they are made from butter.
Sugar is ubiquitous – you’ll find it in virtually all processed foods and it is really difficult to completely eliminate it from your diet. Semen contains abundant fructose. Fructose gives the sperm vital fuel for it to swim. However, in excess, it causes damage to the cell membranes. Aim to reduce your consumption of sugar daily. It’s a good idea to aim to eliminate fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits and bars. Do however continue to eat 2 pieces of fruit per day as it contains good nutrients.
The good news is new sperm is generated in the body roughly every 74 days, that’s just 3 months. So it doesn’t take long for diet and lifestyle changes to influence sperm quality and quantity.