For about 30 percent of couples struggling with infertility, the cause has something to do with the male’s health, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Even if your guy’s semen analysis results come back normal, there are still things that could be affecting your chances of getting pregnant.
Not only that, but healthy sperm makes for healthy babies. A study in The Journal of Neuroscience found that children born to men who had experienced stress had a reduced response to stress, something that’s linked to anxiety and depression.
Here, are 12 ways your guy can boost his fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
1. Nix the junk food.
Inflammation in the body from eating processed, packaged and fast foods can affect fertility. When you’re not eating a whole food, your body can’t recognize it, so it has to use stored nutrients to process it, according to Bridgit Danner, a licensed acupuncturist and fertility specialist at Blue Sky Wellness Studio in Portland, Oregon and author of “Making Super Sperm.”
“It takes away nutrients you could be using to make sperm,” she said. So load up on plenty of fruits and vegetables— organic and in-season produce is ideal— whole foods that have low glycemic index values, and cut down on sugar and salt.
2. Pop some pomegranate.
According to Dr. Patrick Fratellone, an integrative physician and an herbalist in New York City, instead of taking testosterone to boost the hormone, pomegranate seeds are a better alternative because they’re a natural aromatase inhibitor, which prevents testosterone from being converted into estrogen.
“Testosterone has bad side effects and it’s not for everyone,” Fratellone said.
3. Get to the gym.
“Exercise raises your testosterone and that helps you make sperm,” Danner said. Yet excessive exercise or overtraining can deplete vitamins and stored hormones. What’s more, too much time on a bike or in Spinning class can put excessive pressure on the testicles, so consider taking a break for a while.
4. Cut down on plastic.
Men who are exposed to phthalates, a group of chemicals found in plastic containers and hair products, took 20 percent longer to get their partners pregnant, a study in Fertility and Sterility found. Try to choose glass over plastic and check the Environmental Working Group’s website for safe products.
5. Eat nuts and seeds.
Almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts are great choices, as are most nuts and seeds, because they’re filled with selenium, zinc and copper which help sperm count. In fact, a study in the journal Biology of Reproduction found that men who ate about 2.5 ounces of walnuts a day improved their sperm vitality, motility and morphology. Ancient grains like millet, amaranth and quinoa are good choices too.
6. Make mushrooms.
Reishi mushrooms strengthen the immune system, are anti-inflammatory and can prevent and treat candida yeast growth in the colon which can make it hard for sperm to function, Fratellone said. You have to eat a lot of them to reap the benefits so ask your doctor about taking a capsule instead. Shiitake and cordyceps are also good choices and can be eaten whole.
7. Take amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which are important to make healthy sperm. L-arginine and l-carnitine are two that have been used to reverse male infertility. They’re available in many food sources and in capsule form but be sure to ask an integrative physician, naturopathic or herbalist for the right dosage before taking it.
8. Choose sunscreen wisely.
A recent National Institutes of Health study found that men who had high levels of exposure to two UV filters—BP-2 and 4OH-BP— found in sunscreen and other personal care products had a 30 percent reduction in fertility. These ingredients may not be listed on the label so hit the shower after a day in the sun and cut down on other products with UV filters.
9. Stop smoking.
If you need one more excuse to quit, here it is. Smoking cigarettes and marijuana can cause oxidative stress and damage your sperm. What’s more, a recent study in the journal Human Reproduction found that smoking marijuana can change the size and shape of the sperm as well.
10. Try herbs.
Some herbs like American ginseng, rosemary, green tea, turmeric, resveratrol, and saw palmetto can help sperm production. Tribulus is also well known to help testosterone, increase sperm count and aid the motility of the sperm. It can also help couples who have anti-sperm antibodies.
11. Go commando.
Loose fitting cotton underwear or even no underwear at all occasionally can help sperm production.
If you’re constantly stressed out or not getting enough sleep, it can take a toll on your adrenal glands, which affects sperm production. Make time to relax, sleep an extra hour and have fun with your buddies and your spouse.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.