This one is for the men and women out there who are wanting to conceive but haven’t because of a low sperm count. If you aren’t sure whether your sperm are healthy then it is really easy. Talk to your doctor and ask to get tested – you can do this before you even start trying.

Results will come back with some important information that will let you know if your sperm health is in need of treatment.

We know that the western world specifically has lower sperm numbers. What used to be normal, 80-100 million sperm per ejaculate is now 15-30 million. Now this still seems like a lot of little fellas but low sperm count isn’t just about the total number as we will see.

The other factors being looked at in the test are:

Motility – can they swim and can they swim forward {progressive vs non-progressive} – {very important!} and how many cant swim at all {immotile}

Morphology – are the sperm normally shaped or are they mis-shapen and deformed

As with many other tests we have a minimum number that we know we need in order to be fertile and an optimum range. However, many men’s sperm are below the minimum and most people in the western world are not in an optimum range. Not being in optimum range can mean you are still fertile but as with anything being on the cusp can also be detrimental to your chances of conceiving.

As we know sperm are carriers of genetic material so even if your IVF clinic says you can try with the low numbers we want you to be cautious of this approach. There is a higher chance of genetic defects in abnormal sperm than in normal sperm, leading to increased miscarriage, something no woman would want to knowingly go into.

What you need to know is that:

a} we can in most cases improve sperm health before you conceive, but it takes between 3-6 months and you need to make a lot of changes

b} we don’t want the female partner to have to go through IVF with a lower chance of conceiving and miscarrying because of the sperm health

c} we want you to have a healthy baby carrying healthy genetic material

Now let’s look at why the western world has such low rates of sperm in the first place. Research shows there are many potential factors.

Chemical damage – Men who work in close proximity to potential harmful chemicals whether they be inhaled through the lungs or absorbed through the skin need to know that their sperm health is at a much higher risk. Having children earlier mitigates some of this risk but as with everything, age means a cumulative effect so the longer the exposure the more damage that is being done.

Heavy metal exposure – Are sperm the canary in the coalmine? We know that arsenic {treated wood}, mercury {amalgam fillings}, cadmium {cigarette smoking} and lead {paints & petrol} damages body cells. Research shows sperm are in fact damaged by heavy metals, so if you work with heavy metals or have a low sperm count, get a validated hair test to see what heavy metals are coming out of your body. Heavy metal exposure will be sure to go on to cause further damage to your own health later on in life.

Diet – Not only is the Western diet higher in overall calories, it is lower in nutrients. Nutrients protect the tissues and allow cells to work properly meaning if there are heavy metals around it can get rid of them faster. Research shows that many nutrients help protect sperm from damage particularly the antioxidant nutrients Vitamin A, C, E, B12, Folate, Selenium, and Molybdenum.

Plastics – Plastics are fat soluble compounds that when heated can break down. Plastic hardeners such as pthalates and bisphenol-a have been shown to affect the reproductive organs in mice. As they get banned, the plastic industry changes the shape of these molecules, then it is up to researchers again to find out if they are damaging our testicles – and guess what – they are. Pthalates come through our food from processed foods in plastic containers. The more takeaway food you eat the more your body has to metabolise. And on the way through you, the fat soluble sex hormones and tissues get affected. And added together more of these in your system are worse than some.

Preservatives – Parabens have come under fire for affecting male and female hormonal health but have recently been shown to affect sperm as well. Skin products contain many of these but so do processed foods contain many other preservatives that we do not know the health affects of.

Pollution – Air pollution is another cause of poor health outcomes. Bot not only this, indoor pollution from chemicals that leach from furniture and polyurethanes and paints as well as toxic glues and other products mean that our indoor environment is also polluted. Tobacco and Marijuana smoking also contribute to poor sperm health so this is an essential reason to quit altogether or cut down significantly.

Solutions:

  • Eat a diet that is full of antioxidants and nutrients plus low in fried fats, empty calories and sugar
  • Take a good men’s multi-vitamin and mineral tablets daily to give you the extra minerals and vitamins required. Ask at the Apothecary for one for your specific needs
  • Don’t eat, drink or buy food out of plastic containers
  • Use skin products made from natural materials and fragrances and using natural preservatives only
  • Get out of town and into the fresh air and bush as often as possible
  • Avoid smoking both tobacco and marijuana
  • Keep house plants to protect yourself from indoor pollution and go easy on the toxic products that you use in the house as well. Use natural alternatives that are safer and always use any aerosol with plenty of fresh air
  • Get a heavy metal hair test from the Apothecary if you suspect you have come into contact with harmful metals
  • Get your sperm health tested before you conceive or within 3 months if trying to conceive. Ask your dr
  • Get your sperm health treated at the Apothecary with nutrients and herbs that have been shown to improve sperm health
Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.