Infertility (men)

What is Infertility?

Infertility (the inability to impregnate a woman) usually occurs in men for one of two reasons: production of too few sperm cells, or production of sperm cells that cannot "swim" vigorously or at all, a condition referred to as poor motility of sperm. Whether too few in numbers or too weak in vigor, the likelihood of fertilizing the female egg is reduced in these disorders. In couples having difficulty trying to conceive a child, male infertility is the cause about 40% of the time. To determine what kind of problem is preventing conception, you should consult a specialist in fertility. The evaluation in men usually begins with an examination of a sample of semen to check the sperm count and the vigor with which the sperm move. If, after such evaluation, your physician discovers you have a low sperm count or poor motility of sperm, are there specific nutrients that may help or worsen this problem of male infertility? Let's look.

InfertilityWhat helps Infertility?

• Supplementation of vitamin B12 helps both a low sperm count as well as the sluggish sperm with weak swimming motion. Recommendation: Take sublingual (under the tongue) vitamin B12 in a dose of 500 to 1000 micrograms weekly for 12 weeks to assess your response. Since these disorders are uncovered by a laboratory examination of a sperm sample—or by your spouse/partner's becoming pregnant—you may want to ask your personal physician to repeat the examination of your sperm sample to assess response.

•  Vitamin C, in its role as an antioxidant, helps to protect sperm from oxidative damage in the relatively hostile environment of the female reproductive tract. It also helps, by a means not entirely clear, to boost sperm counts and improve their vigor. In a 1987 study, 20 of 30 healthy but infertile men studied were treated with supplementation of vitamin C for 3 months, by which time all 20 (100% of the men who took the vitamin C) had impregnated their mates. None of the 10 untreated men had done so. Recommendation: Take 2000 to 6000 mg in divided doses daily for at least 3 months to assess response.

• Low levels of selenium in the semen seem to contribute to male infertility, perhaps, as one theory suggests, by reducing levels of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, which your body cannot make without a sufficient amount of selenium. Glutathione peroxidase helps to fend off the oxidative damage from the hostile environment of the female reproductive tract through which the sperm must travel. Research has shown that a deficiency in selenium leads to a reduced sperm count, and it has been linked to male sterility. Recommendation: Take selenium aspartate in a dose of 200 to 400 micrograms per day.

• Deficiency of zinc can contribute to infertility by reducing your sperm count, decreasing the motility of the sperm, and even by reducing your production of the male hormone, testosterone. Recommendation: Take a chelated form of zinc, such as zinc aspartate or zinc picolinate, in a dose of 50 mg once or twice a day. Foods high in zinc include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and brewer's yeast. Warning: Supplementation of zinc in its ionic form can create deficiencies of other minerals, such as copper, by competing with them for absorption from the intestine. Chelation of the minerals (see discussion on pages 30-31, Section we, on chelation) prevents this competition among minerals to get into the body, allowing you to fully absorb each of them.

•  Researchers have noted deficiency of l-arginine, one of the amino acid building blocks of protein, in some men with low sperm count and sperm motility problems. The researchers could cause men with normal sperm counts and normal sperm motility to develop sperm count and motility problems just by feeding them a diet low in l-arginine and could restore their counts and sperm motility to normal by adding the amino acid back into their diets. Recommendation: Take 4 grams of l-arginine daily for at least 3 months to assess your response.

•  Vitamin E carries oxygen to the sex organs. It also seems to improve the quality of sperm, improving its ability to impregnate. Recommendation: Supplement with 200 IU daily, and increase gradually to 400 to 1000 IU daily. Eat foods high in vitamin E, such as whole grains, uncooked nuts, and wheat germ.

•  Studies have shown that L-carnitine, in addition to being important for the heart muscle, also increases motility of sperm. Recommendation: Take 3000 mg of oral L-carnitine daily for 4 months and assess your response.


What makes Infertility worse?

•Alcohol is toxic to the male reproductive system. Chronic abuse of alcohol, or intermittent binges of high alcohol intake, can damage the system. The amount of damage wrought depends on the amount of alcohol you consume and the length of time you engage in abusing this substance. Recommendation: If you are infertile because of low sperm count or poor sperm motility, avoid alcohol. Abstinence from alcohol will improve your chances of recovering normal reproductive function. You should also refer to the listing on Alcoholism for more information on how nutrition can help you overcome dependence on this substance.

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