Functional medicine is a cost-effective way to optimize male fertility and sperm quality. Functional medicine can include lifestyle changes, nutritional advice, nutritional and herbal supplements, and acupuncture. Studies have shown that male factor infertility is responsible for 33% of fertility issues. The female factor is responsible for 33% and the remainder is unknown or a combination of male and female fertility factors.
With the invention of ICSI and in vitro fertilization (IVF) less emphasis has been placed on improving male fertility since it can help to bypass many problems with suboptimal sperm. However, the cost of ICSI and IVF to have just one healthy baby can be quite costly. Especially if couples need to complete more than one round of retrieval and transfer.
Functional medicine care is a fraction of this cost. Many men who have had workups with reproductive urologists and have been given the diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” can successfully improve their sperm quality by making simple lifestyle changes.
New research has been emerging that the quality of sperm matters in a way that we never thought of before. For example, did you know that female partners of men who have problematic sperm DNA fragmentation tests also have a higher risk of miscarriage?
Research also shows that men who have unexplained infertility are at risk for developing chronic health issues later in life. Using functional medicine to deal with these issues now not only helps your sperm quality but may even prevent disease in the future and lengthen your lifespan.
There are many simple lifestyle changes that you can make that have a dramatic effect on your personal health and your sperm quality. Smoking cigarettes, heavy marijuana, and alcohol use have been shown to damage sperm DNA. Abstaining from activities that add heat to the testicles such as hot tub use, sauna, and cycling can also help to improve sperm quality.
We also know that if you are under any kind of stress the body will prioritize its survival and overall health over the production of sperm. Stress can include physical overwork and overwork that involves long hours, high stress, and sleep deprivation. One study that was done on men doing high-intensity training showed that their sperm quality decreased almost half of normal during periods of extreme exercise. Functional medicine can’t help you get more sleep and rest but it can help to bring stress hormones back to normal faster after periods of extreme overwork.
Oxidative stress is another kind of stress that wreaks havoc on sperm quality and the DNA quality that provides the blueprint for your children’s future DNA. Excessive oxidative stress can use up our body’s valuable antioxidants. If oxidative stress is unchecked it can result in poor sperm quality, quantity and errors in DNA replication. In functional medicine, we seek to uncover the root causes of oxidative stress. This can include digestion, environmental health and detoxification processes, and more.
Another way to reduce oxidative stress is to consume antioxidant supplements. Functional medicine testing can help to uncover which antioxidants and dosages are best for you. Antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, and glutathione.
Micronutrient testing can also reveal more about your body’s specific micronutrient needs. For example, B Vitamins are very important in the production of cellular energy (ATP) and detoxification. Folate (B9) plays a key role in the methylation step of DNA expression and transcription. Methylation determines which genes in the embryo are turned on and off and is essential for the survival of the embryo and future child.
Acupuncture treatments can also improve sperm quality, quantity, and motility. Acupuncture treatment is associated with fewer structural defects in the sperm and an increase in the number of normal sperm in the ejaculate.
In summary, there are many effective ways to improve sperm health and your chances of conceiving a healthy child. Lifestyle changes, Functional medicine, and acupuncture are all low-risk ways to improve your odds of conception and improve the odds of the birth of a healthy baby.
Haddock, Lesley, et al. “Sperm DNA fragmentation is a novel biomarker for early pregnancy loss.” Reproductive BioMedicine Online 42.1 (2021): 175-184.
Shin, Daniel H., Emily S. Christensen, and Paul J. Turek. “MP74-19 A Prospective Study of Natural Pregnancy Rates in Cleared Male Factor Couples.” The Journal of Urology 193.4S (2015): e946-e946.
Safarinejad, Mohammad Reza, Kamran Azma, and Ali Asgar Kolahi. “The effects of intensive, long-term treadmill running on reproductive hormones, hypothalamus-pituitary-testis axis, and semen quality: a randomized controlled study.” Journal of Endocrinology 200.3 (2009): 259.