What supplement(s) can I take to improve male fertility? We turned to Nutritional Therapist Sue Bedford for the answer
Before I go into the supplements that I would recommend to support male fertility, I first want to explain that sperm can be easily affected by free radical damage due to oxidative stress and so it is important to ensure that there is minimal exposure to factors that may increase this from occurring. There are many factors that may affect sperm morphology, motility and count including poor nutrition, stress, exposure to environmental toxins, pollution, medications and smoking to name a few.
We are all biochemically different and in terms of nutrition we call this biochemical individuality – in other words – one size does not fit all, but as a general rule, many people are nutrient depleted in some way – but it is only by working with the individual and by undertaking certain tests such as vitamin and mineral profile tests /hair mineral analysis or individual nutrient tests, that we would know for sure that individual’s requirements.
Supplements should not be taken in place of a balanced diet, however, some may be required if there is a deficiency in a particular nutrient
A good quality multi vitamin and mineral for men is often a good idea for health and fertility and to cover the basics, but it is important to be cautious as taking too much of certain nutrients may be harmful and be contraindicated with certain medications (always check with your G.P, Qualified Nutritional Therapist or Dietician to see what is suitable for you and your individual needs).
It is a good idea to prepare your body and get it into the best place possible nutrition wise, ideally six months before conception or three months before at the very least.
This is because it takes around three months for sperm cells to be produced and mature in a process called Spermatogenesis and so it is important to make sure it as healthy as it possibly can be in order to fertilise an egg.
There is increasing scientific evidence to suggest that certain nutritional supplements may help to improve male fertility.
So what supplements are considered beneficial when it comes to male fertility (always check with your healthcare provider before taking)?
Vitamin D has several important roles in the body, including improving muscle function, regulating the immune system and is important in bone health. It is also important in male reproduction particularly in helping improve sperm motility and in testosterone status.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in sperm formation, cell motility and testosterone levels. It is one of the most important minerals for male fertility.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and has been linked in studies to helping improve sperm concentration and morphology.
L-Carnitine as it aids the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria and increase energy levels of the sperm aiding sperm motility.
L-arginine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein. The head of the sperm contains a lot of L-arginine and it is important regarding sperm quality and motility.
Antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene as antioxidants protect sperm DNA (antioxidants help to counteract those free radicals which can cause damage to sperm DNA due to oxidative stress ). If you smoke, stop. Smoking reduces the amount of vitamin C in the body (just one reason of many to give up). Vitamin C helps to reduce the number of sperm that clump together (agglutination).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that the body produces naturally. Your cells use CoQ10 for growth and maintenance. Levels of CoQ10 in your body decrease as you age. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has been linked to improved aging, exercise performance, heart health, diabetes, fertility and migraines. Studies on it regarding male fertility indicate that it may help to improve sperm quality and motility.
Methylfolate is a B vitamin – it has an important role in sperm formation and DNA synthesis.
Omega 3 fatty acids – important for improving sperm quality and improving hormone levels. The western diet often does not include enough omega 3 fatty acids.
How long will it take before my body starts to feel the difference?
Again – it depends on the individual, their diet and lifestyle, the nutrient, how deficient the person was to start with, the reason as to why the individual was low in a particular nutrient in the first place and so on. The time it takes for the intake of vitamins to work can be within hours or weeks, depending how deficient an individual is in that particular supplement. For example, if you are dehydrated, then an electrolyte supplement will work within minutes. However, if you have bone density issues, calcium will take 6 weeks to make a difference, and calcium needs a lot of other things for your body to truly absorb and reap the benefits.
in order, these are supplements that are most easily absorbed by the body:
In summary, we are all unique individuals, with unique dietary requirements but there are many things we commonly need to maintain health and improve fertility. You may need additional supplements but the best way to find out is contact your G.P, Qualified Nutritional Therapist or Dietician to help diagnose any deficiencies and ensure that the supplements are right for you.
An informed decision on what, if any, supplements to take will help put you in the best possible place re your fertility
If you would like to get in touch with Sue Bedford, MSc (Nut Th), BSc (Hons), PGCE, mBANT, CNHC is a Nutritional Therapist, click here
If you would like to have a browse through our male supplements section within the IVF babble shop, click here