I see it happen all the time: A new female patient comes to my acupuncture clinic for fertility treatments. But upon evaluation, she reveals that her fertility isn't actually compromised — it's her partner's.
The conversation goes something like this:
Me: If your partner is having sperm problems, why are you seeking treatment instead of him?
Patient: I figured if I did everything I could, it would improve our chances anyway.
Me: Would your partner be open to holistic treatment as well?
Patient: Um, maaaayybeee ...?
This all-too-familiar scenario is a reflection of the dynamic I see daily. We tend to think of fertility as something that only concerns women. And despite the fact that 30 to 50 percent of fertility challenges are related to the male partner, we rarely talk about what men can do to improve their fertility health.
The good news is that sperm is always being made. And it can be significantly improved by good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and holistic medicine, like acupuncture and targeted supplements. In my clinic, I see it happen all the time. Guys show up with less than stellar averages and leave as the champs they were born to be.
If you’re a dude who would like to naturally improve your fertility picture, take note. There are plenty of easy things you can do to help your swimmers win the race:
1. Eat a pro-sperm diet.
A recent study in the Journal of Fertility and Sterility demonstrated that the more processed meats a man consumes — think hot dogs, deli meats and sausages — the less healthy his sperm tends to be. On the contrary, the study found that eating poultry might actually improve sperm health. The research didn’t show why Oscar Meyer wieners might be taking a toll on yours, but I’d put nitrates and preservatives at the top of my list of guesses.
Here are a few more tips I recommend my clients do to clean up their grub:
Choose a plant-based diet.
This is plain and simple. If it’s processed junk from a box or a fast-food restaurant, chuck it. Research has shown that men who eat a diet higher in fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, and legumes tend to have healthier sperm than those who follow a typical Western diet.
Aim for organic.
Although this is often disregarded because of the increase to our food budgets, going organic is actually really important. A recent Harvard study found that men who ate fruits and veggies with high levels of pesticides had a lower sperm count than those who ate produce with fewer pesticides.
Going organic may be more expensive, but it's cheaper than fertility treatments, right? At the very least, choose organic for the Dirty Dozen list of produce with the most pesticides, such as apples and spinach.
Eat for "Jing."
What’s Jing? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it's a concept that can be roughly equated with DNA and genes. It’s a "substance" that we inherit from both our parents at the moment of conception, and our job is to nurture and nourish it all our lives, through healthy lifestyles, happiness, and good nutrition.
Sperm is made from pure Jing, so it's believed that eating foods to nourish it will go a long way toward improving sperm parameters. Jing foods include eggs, oysters, liver (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!), bone broth, and bone marrow. Try to incorporate some of these foods into your daily diet.
2. Detox your body and home.
The unfortunate truth is that our environment is inundated with toxins. From household cleaners to food and drink containers, to grooming and hygiene products, chemicals abound. And while we all tend to recognize the harm they do to the natural environment, we often like to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to their impact on our inner terrain.
A 2014 study found that chemicals in common products like toothpaste, soap, and plastic toys have a direct impact on sperm and could cause male infertility.
Here are some simple ways to detoxify your body and surroundings:
- Clean up your cleaning products. Replace chemical cleaning supplies and laundry detergents with their green counterparts.
- Use natural toiletries. Ditch the Old Spice and treat your pits to a chemical-free deodorant.
- Avoid plastic. Plastic in water bottles and food containers can disrupt hormone function in your body, so opt for glass or stainless steel instead.
- Stop smoking. Men who smoke tend to have lower sperm counts, and even secondhand smoke seems to affect male fertility.
3. Consider acupuncture.
If you're open to bigger health moves, consider seeing an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility. They can offer advice on nutrition, herbs, supplements, and treatments that improve sperm health.
Acupuncture treatments place very fine, single-use needles in strategic points along the body, points that exist along channels, which intersect with all our body’s structures. Stimulating these points can lead to health benefits like increased circulation, reduced inflammation, and overall balance. Most importantly, research has shown that acupuncture can improve sperm motility in men.
4. Pay a visit to the doctor.
I recommend getting the boys checked out by a urologist, and having your sperm analyzed. Finding out about a structural problem or seriously compromised sperm is a major bummer, but it's considerably worse finding out months or years into trying to conceive.
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