March 17, 2021
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If you and your partner are experiencing fertility issues, know that you’re not alone. Infertility is more common than you might think.
It affects about one in every six couples, and researchers estimate about one in every three cases is due to fertility problems in the male partner alone.
While infertility is not always treatable, there are some things you can do to boost your chances of conceiving. Fertility can sometimes be improved with a healthy diet, supplements, and other lifestyle strategies.
Here are some of the main lifestyle factors, foods, nutrients, and supplements that have been associated with improved fertility in men.
What is male infertility?
Fertility refers to people’s ability to reproduce without medical assistance.
Male infertility is when a man has a poor chance of making his female partner pregnant. It usually depends on the quality of his sperm cells.
Sometimes infertility is linked to sexual function, and other times it could be linked to semen quality. Here are some examples of each:
Infertility can have multiple causes and may depend on genetics, general health, fitness, diseases, and dietary contaminants.
Additionally, a healthy lifestyle and diet are important. Some foods and nutrients are associated with greater fertility benefits than others.
Here are 10 science-backed ways to boost sperm count and increase fertility in men.
1. Take D-aspartic acid supplements
D-aspartic acid (D-AA) is a form of aspartic acid, a type of amino acid that’s sold as a dietary supplement.
It should not be confused with L-aspartic acid, which makes up the structure of many proteins and is far more common than D-AA.
D-AA is mainly present in certain glands, such as the testicles, as well as in semen and sperm cells.
Researchers believe that D-AA is implicated in male fertility. In fact, D-AA levels are significantly lower in infertile men than fertile men.
This is supported by studies showing that D-AA supplements may increase levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone that plays an essential role in male fertility.
For example, a study in infertile men suggested that taking 2.7 grams of D-AA for 3 months increased their testosterone levels by 30–60% and sperm count and motility by 60–100%.
The number of pregnancies also increased among their partners.
Another controlled study in healthy men showed that taking 3 grams of D-AA supplements daily for 2 weeks increased testosterone levels by 42%.
However, the evidence is not consistent. Studies in athletes or strength-trained men with normal to high testosterone levels found that D-AA didn’t increase its levels further and even reduced them at high doses.
More research is needed to investigate the potential long-term risks and benefits of D-AA supplements in humans.
2. Exercise regularly
Besides being good for your general health, exercising regularly can boost testosterone levels and improve fertility.
Studies show that men who exercise regularly have higher testosterone levels and better semen quality than inactive men.
One 2017 study examined the benefits of performing a 16 week aerobic exercise program of at least three 50-minute sessions per week. The participants reached 50–65% of their peak heart rate. In the study, regular exercise increased sperm count and motility in 45 men with obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
However, you should avoid too much exercise, as it may have the opposite effect and potentially reduce testosterone levels. Getting the right amount of zinc can minimize this risk.
If you rarely exercise but want to improve your fertility, make becoming physically active one of your top priorities.
3. Get enough vitamin C
You’re probably familiar with vitamin C’s ability to boost the immune system.
Some evidence indicates that taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C, may improve fertility.
Oxidative stress is when levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) reach harmful levels in the body.
It happens when the body’s own antioxidant defenses are overwhelmed because of disease, old age, an unhealthy lifestyle, or environmental pollutants.
ROS are constantly being produced in the body, but their levels are kept in check in healthy people. High levels of ROS may promote tissue injury and inflammation, increasing the risk of chronic disease.
There’s also some evidence that oxidative stress and excessively high levels of ROS may lead to infertility in men.
Taking in enough antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may help counteract some of these harmful effects. There’s also some evidence that vitamin C supplements may improve semen quality.
A study in infertile men showed that taking 1,000-mg vitamin C supplements twice a day for up to 2 months increased sperm motility by 92% and sperm count by more than 100%. It also reduced the proportion of deformed sperm cells by 55%.
Another observational study in Indian industrial workers suggested that taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C five times a week for 3 months may protect against DNA damage caused by ROS in sperm cells.
Taken together, these findings suggest that vitamin C may help improve fertility in infertile men with oxidative stress.
However, controlled studies are needed before any definite claims can be made.
4. Relax and minimize stress
It’s hard to get in the mood when you’re feeling stressed, but there might be more to it than not feeling up for sex. Stress may reduce your sexual satisfaction and impair your fertility.
Researchers believe the hormone cortisol may partly explain these adverse effects of stress.
Prolonged stress raises levels of cortisol, which has strong negative effects on testosterone. When cortisol goes up, testosterone levels tend to go down.
While severe, unexplained anxiety is typically treated with medication, milder forms of stress can be reduced with relaxation techniques.
Stress management can be as simple as taking a walk in nature, meditating, exercising, or spending time with friends.
5. Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D can be important for male and female fertility. It’s another nutrient that may boost testosterone levels.
One observational study showed that vitamin-D-deficient men were more likely to have low testosterone levels.
A controlled study in 65 men with low testosterone levels and vitamin D deficiency supported these findings. Taking 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day for 1 year increased their testosterone levels by around 25%.
High vitamin D levels are linked to greater sperm motility, but the evidence is inconsistent.
6. Try tribulus terrestris
Tribulus terrestris, also known as puncture vine, is a medicinal herb frequently used to enhance male fertility.
One study in men with low sperm counts showed that taking 6 grams of tribulus root twice daily for 2 months improved erectile function and libido.
While Tribulus terrestris does not raise testosterone levels, research indicates that it may enhance the libido-promoting effects of testosterone.
However, further studies are needed to confirm its aphrodisiac properties and evaluate the long-term risks and benefits of supplementing with it.
7. Take fenugreek supplements
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a popular culinary and medicinal herb.
One study in 30 men who strength-trained four times a week analyzed the effects of taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract daily.
The men experienced significantly increased testosterone levels, strength, and fat loss, compared with a placebo.
Another study in 60 healthy men showed that taking 600 mg of a supplement made from fenugreek seed extract and minerals, daily for 6 weeks improved libido, sexual performance, and strength.
These findings were confirmed by another, larger study in 120 healthy men. Taking 600 mg of that supplement every day for 3 months improved self-reported erectile function and the frequency of sexual activity. Also, the supplement significantly increased testosterone levels.
Keep in mind that all of these studies examined fenugreek extracts. It’s unlikely that whole fenugreek, which is used in cooking and herbal tea, is as effective.
8. Get enough zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral found in high amounts in animal foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and shellfish.
Getting enough zinc is one of the cornerstones of male fertility.
Observational studies show that low zinc status or deficiency is associated with low testosterone levels, poor sperm quality, and an increased risk of male infertility.
Also, taking zinc supplements increases testosterone levels and sperm count in those who are low in zinc.
Furthermore, zinc supplements may reduce the decreased testosterone levels that are associated with excessive amounts of high-intensity exercise.
Controlled trials need to confirm these observational findings.
9. Consider ashwagandha
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a medicinal herb that’s been used in India since ancient times.
Studies suggest that ashwagandha may improve male fertility by boosting testosterone levels.
One study in men with low sperm cell counts showed that taking 675 mg of ashwagandha root extract per day for 3 months significantly improved fertility.
Specifically, it increased sperm counts by 167%, semen volume by 53%, and sperm motility by 57%, compared with levels at the start of the study. In comparison, minimal improvements were detected among those who got a placebo treatment.
Increased testosterone levels may be partly responsible for these benefits.
A study in 57 young men following a strength-training program showed that consuming 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily significantly increased testosterone levels, muscle mass, and strength, compared with a placebo.
These findings are supported by observational evidence indicating that ashwagandha supplements may improve sperm counts, sperm motility, antioxidant status, and testosterone levels.
10. Eat maca root
Taking maca root supplements may improve libido, as well as fertility and sexual performance.
Maca root is a popular plant food that originated in central Peru. Traditionally, it has been used for its ability to enhance libido and fertility.
Several studies in men showed that taking 1.5–3 grams of dried maca root for periods of up to 3 months improved self-reported sexual desire or libido.
Studies also suggest that maca root may improve sexual performance. In men with mild erectile dysfunction, taking 2.4 grams of dried maca root for 12 weeks slightly improved self-reported erectile function and sexual well-being.
Taking 1.75 grams of maca root powder every day for 3 months also increased sperm count and motility in healthy men.
These findings have been partly confirmed by reviews, but the researchers noted that the evidence is weak and more research is needed before definite claims can be made.
Additionally, maca root doesn’t seem to affect hormone levels. Taking 1.5–3 grams of maca root per day for 3 months had no effects on testosterone or other reproductive hormones in healthy, fertile men.
Many things can help boost fertility, but what works for you depends on the cause of your fertility issues.
Also, keep in mind that fertility and libido usually go hand in hand with your general health.
For this reason, anything that improves your overall health is likely to boost your fertility.
Here are the additional tips to boost fertility and sperm count/quality:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Infertility is fairly common and affects many men worldwide.
If you’re having fertility issues, one thing you can do is focus on improving your general health. Many of the tips mentioned above are key components of a healthy lifestyle.
There’s no guaranteed fix, but if nutrient deficiencies or low testosterone levels are contributing factors, chances are that these lifestyle tips may help.
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