This is probably the most common question that we are asked after surgery – is it possible to improve sperm counts? For possibly the first time in a man’s life, the amount of swimming sperm and how good they are becomes really important. Before this, when he fathered his children, he will not have known how fast they were or how many there sperm there were. All he will have known, is that the sperm he had did the job, they swam the course and created a child.
Therefore many men have no idea what their sperm count was but just know that it was sufficient. During the process of having a vasectomy reversal, often a google search for the number of sperm will bring them to the WHO recommended sperm count. This is what the World Health Organisation feel is the limit to what is required to classify a man as having normal fertility.
However, our experience is different. Because of the large number of men that have attended Mr Harriss’s clinic, we have sperm counts from thousands and we have noticed, regularly, that a sperm count may be classified as low or too slow but often a pregnancy results. This is heartening not just because these men wanted a vasectomy reversal to enable a child, but also because it appears that mens’ sperm counts in general are declining.
This could be because sperm counts can fluctuate and we have looked into easy ways for men to improve sperm counts.
We know that smoking doesn’t help the quantity of sperm. This association was first found after following 2542 healthy men. A 19% reduction in the amount of sperm was found in men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day. The men’s ages, recent illnesses and length of abstinence as well as diseases of their reproductive organs did not affect the outcome. It was found that adult smoking resulted in a moderate impairment of semen quality.
We also know that smoking doesn’t help the movement of sperm. Another large study of 1786 men also found that smoking was associated with a decrease in the amount of sperm, as well as the motility (movement ) of the sperm (16.6%) compared to non-smokers. This association was found in men who smoked 16 or more cigarettes a day.
Another study looked into the amount of cigarettes smoked and even those who smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day had adverse effects on their fertility.
The most interesting and conclusive results often come from the biggest studies. A meta- analysis, where many similar studies are examined together, looked at the results of over 29,000 men. Cigarette smoking had negative effects on the amount of sperm, the volume of sperm and the amount of sperm who could swim straight (progressive motility).
Zinc to improve sperm counts
Zinc is primarily known to improve sperm counts via the production of healthy sperm. It is the second most abundant trace element in humans and it is vital for male fertility.
We have talked about this before in our Pro-Sperm diet, to improve sperm count. As humans, we cannot make it so we depend upon consuming it within our diet. A lack of zinc slows down the production of sperm, contributes to sperm abnormalities and reduces the amount of testosterone. Zinc is considered
However, taking a supplement is not ideal as zinc, if taken in large quantities than is required can lead to copper deficiency amongst other things. Men need around 11mg a day and the best way is to eat foods rich in zinc. The richest source of zinc is oysters (32mg per 6 oysters) followed by red meat providing 4.8mg per 100g. Other shellfish include crab, shrimp and mussels.
Vegetarian options such as chickpeas and lentils do contain substantial amounts of zinc but they also contain phytates which prevent the absorption of zinc so you would need to increase your intake and consider fermentation to boost the amount of zinc within them.
Zinc is also found in seeds such as hemp, flax, pumpkin or squash. They are also high in fibre and contain other healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Nuts are also a very good source of zinc. Pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds all help to increase your daily intake. They can make great snacks (as long as they are not salted) and one portion, around 28g, around a 1/7th of a man’s daily requirement.
Dairy and eggs also provide a significant amount of the daily requirement of Zinc. A 100g portion of cheese can provide over a quarter of a man’s requirement. An egg provides around a 20th of a man’s zinc needs.
Men who smoke who had low levels of since had lower levels of sperm, reduced movement (motility) and increased abnormal morphology (construction). Men who smoked who had normal levels of zinc did not have the same decreased levels.
The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol which has receptors in the brain and in the testes.
Cannabis is used by many people of all different ages despite still being illegal in the UK. Whilst it is difficult to ascertain how many are users, studies have been conducted looking into the effects of cannabis on make fertility. A study in Denmark of men aged 18-28 found that smoking marijuana once a week was associated with a 28% lower sperm concentration. The use of majijuana more than once a week combined with the use of other drugs found a 52% reduction in sperm concentration.
Marijuana therefore does not improve sperm counts.
Many men and women consume alcohol. A large study investigated the impact of alcohol use and male fertility. Looking at 15 studies involving over 16,000 men, the main results showed that alcohol intake negatively affected the semen volume and the normal morphology. The biggest difference was when comparing occasional verses daily consumers, rather than never versus occasional suggesting that a moderate consumption did not adversely affect semen. This study advised to avoid heavy drinking to boost semen quality but did not define what was heavy or moderate. Other studies have looked at how the sperm change under the influence of alcohol and there is suggestion that alcohol can change the morphology (how the sperm is constructed) and suggest avoiding alcohol consumption three months prior to trying to father a child.
To improve sperm count, we would advise reducing alcohol intake.
The testes were designed to hang outside the body for a reason and this is because they need to be 2 degrees colder than the rest of the body to function optimally. Hot baths and hot-tubs have been recognised as not advisable when trying to father a child as they heat up the testes but often with no long term ill-effects.
Often, laptops are not considered as being a potential problem. Instead, they act as a direct heat source sometimes heating the testes to 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the body just after an hour of use. Additionally, when men sit with a laptop on their laps, they often sit with their legs closed and therefore heat is trapped. If men pursue activities that never allow their testes to cool down, then this could be harmful for their sperm.
Our advice to improve sperm count after a vasectomy reversal would be to keep the laptop on a table, off the lap to ensure that the testes can keep cool.
From our knowledge of repeat semen analysis, we know that mens’ semen results fluctuate. These suggestions here are easy ways for men to improve sperm counts and explain how making positive change can lead to a positive improvement in sperm count.