Male fertility is dependent not only on sperm count but also on the quality and motility of sperm. Just as with female fertility, this is influenced by the complex endocrine system, which must keep hormones in balance. A number of nutrients have been seen to positively affect male hormones and subsequent sperm production. Conversely, a number of potential toxins and hazards have been identified as best avoided in the pre-conception period.
Nutrients to support male fertility
- Zinc supports the motility, count, health and function of sperm. Oysters are particularly high in zinc! Other seafood, red meat, poultry, beans and nuts also contain zinc.
- Selenium – a few brasil nuts a day could provide a fertility-enhancing selenium boost.
- Antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, have been seen to improve male fertility. Avoiding processed foods and choosing home-cooked and fresh whole foods is a good strategy for maximizing antioxidant intake. Colourful vegetables and fruits – especially berries – are good sources of antioxidants. A good supplement especially designed for male fertility or pre-conception will help keep your antioxidant status high.
Other useful nutrients for male fertility
- Vitamin D affects sperm motility and oestrogen signaling – oestrogen signaling is important in male fertility as well as in female fertility. Ask your doctor for a vitamin D test so that you can supplement if necessary.
- B vitamins can support hormone regulation. Try to get a variety of fresh animal and vegetable foods into your diet.
- Magnesium, calcium, copper and potassium can support sperm function. A varied diet is the best way to get these minerals and extra support can be found in a multivitamin and mineral supplement formulated for male reproductive health.
Toxins to avoid for male fertility
Many toxins can disrupt male hormonal balance and affect sperm. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic oestrogens and bind to oestrogen receptors in the body, altering their function. Consider how you can reduce your exposure to the following:
- Pollution, including indoor air quality
- Cleaning products
- Gardening or farming products – weedkillers and insecticides.
- Food – choose organic and unprocessed where possible. Choose wild fish and limit larger fish such as tuna and swordfish that may be exposed to higher mercury levels.
- Occupational toxins – paints, adhesives, lead, mercury, radiation, detergents, wood preservers, oils, plasticizers and other industrial or hobby-related toxins.
- Recreational drugs and smoking.
Other hazards to male fertility
- Heat adversely affects sperm production. Reduce exposure by avoiding saunas, hot tubs, tight clothing and any occupational heat sources. Avoid carrying your mobile in your pocket or using your laptop close to your crotch.
- Exercise is important, but avoid over-exercising during the pre-conception period to minimize stress and potential inflammation.
- Caffeine and alcohol can affect testosterone regulation and nutrient absorption.
- Excess body fat is associated with decreases in male fertility – see our article on losing weight for fertility.
Haeri, F., et al., 2021. The relationship between major dietary patterns and fertility status in iranian men: a case–control study. Scientific Reports 2021 11:1, 11(1), pp.1–9.
Lotti, F., Marchiani, S., Corona, G. and Maggi, M., 2021. Metabolic Syndrome and Reproduction. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2021, Vol. 22, Page 1988, 22(4), p.1988.
Mima, M., Greenwald, D. and Ohlander, S., 2018. Environmental Toxins and Male Fertility. Current urology reports, 19(7).
Skoracka, K., et al., 2020. Diet and Nutritional Factors in Male (In)fertility—Underestimated Factors. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 9(5).