3 factors that affect men’s fertility

3 factors that affect men’s fertility

FullWell is determined to educate and optimize the fertility of every human, regardless of gender, sex, age, diagnosis, or even desire to procreate, because healthy fertility paints broad and important strokes into the landscape of whole health for both women and men. 

Alarmingly, male fertility and sperm health are on the decline overall. There are several factors that may contribute to this, most of them caused by a generally increasing toxic burden

The three most impactful factors that we will cover here (and work together to counteract!) are:

  1. Oxidative stress (which we have also discussed in relation to male fertility)
  2. Inflammation and other environmentally-based impacts from pollution, food, water, etc.
  3. Metabolic shifts

These factors may influence healthy sperm which impacts not just conception, but baby's outcomes and the future health of men who might not even be trying to conceive.

It is incredibly common for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant, breastfeeding, and/or simply aware of how their fertility represents their own personal health to seek information and take action in this regard. Culturally, it is less common for men to have that same awareness, simply because they usually haven’t been taught they need it. What’s more, the fertility education, support, and supplementation available to men who do seek it is far less impressive  and comprehensive compared to what is available for women. (Again, culture.)

That didn’t sit right with us. 

So we changed it.

We all know that sperm plays a critical role in reproduction. Healthy, motile sperm are needed to fertilize a woman’s egg to begin the process of creating a new life. But ever-growing research supports the fact that sperm is so much more than just a contributor of genetic material: it is a biomarker for future health.

Introducing our first supplement designed for men: FullWell’s Vitality + Virility, Optimal Nutrients for Men’s Reproductive and Sperm Health

The role of fertile, healthy sperm goes way beyond conception. Sperm quality, motility (movement), and morphology (shape and size) all contribute to an overall healthy pregnancy and the health of baby over the long term.

Our Vitality + Virility supplement is an evidenced-based formula designed to support optimal sperm production, hormone health, and overall male fertility. This golden combination of nutrients works together to:

  • optimize sperm motility, quality, and structure
  • support the body’s free radical defenses
  • optimize hormone levels
  • support energy, balance, and overall wellness

How does fertility extend beyond pregnancy planning and conception?

Men must focus on supporting their health in preconception the same way women do, as it will have lasting effects on the entire family.

Founder and functional medicine practitioner Ayla Barmmer, MS, RD, LDN, formulated FullWell’s Vitality + Virility supplement specifically to support sperm against those three pesky factors that hinder them from growing and thriving. These three root causes - oxidative stress, inflammation, and metabolism - should be top of mind for men looking to optimize their fertility and elevate overall health.

Let’s discuss these factors individually and brainstorm ways to combat their negative effects.

1. Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress ​is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body (1). Sperm are exceedingly sensitive to damage from oxidative stress, so consuming extra antioxidants through diet and supplementation will help support your body’s free radical defenses (2). It’s also important to fully address sources of oxidative stress in every aspect of life:

Ideal sperm quality (which, as we’ve covered, encompasses quantity, motility, and morphology) largely depends on a balance between the body’s antioxidant activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS). In nearly 40-50% of male factor infertility cases, there is an abnormality in sperm quality, and in many instances, elevated ROS is a contributing factor. 

In terms of what that means for overall health, low levels of ROS play a big role in immunity, sperm maturation, and fertilization. On the other hand, high levels of ROS may bring on that oxidative stress, which can promote inflammation (we’re getting there), increases risk of chronic disease, damages sperm DNA, and decrease the sperm’s potential to fertilize an egg and develop a healthy embryo. 

Fighting oxidative stress
The average person is exposed to triggers of oxidative stress (e.g. environmental chemicals, pesticides, and pollutants) now more than ever. Unfortunately, this means that the lifelong accumulation of chemicals to which we are exposed to, or our toxic burden, has increased proportionally over the years. It is virtually impossible for men to avoid triggering factors completely, but there are ways to minimize exposure and support natural detoxification efforts. Regular exercise, good quality and quantity of sleep, and avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and exposure to chemicals makes a big difference. 

An antioxidant-rich diet is also important for mitigating the effects of oxidation in the body and supporting fertility. However, when it comes to food, there are a few realities that are unfortunately out of our control. A general decline in the nutrient density of our food supply due to increasingly poor soil quality means that targeted nutritional support (read: supplements) are an important tool to help support the body’s natural detoxification process. 

FullWell’s Vitality + Virility for Men supplement contains familiar antioxidants like vitamin E, C, and selenium plus a unique antioxidant blend to offer more antioxidant support than the typical men’s multivitamin Beyond antioxidants, the nutrients included in our newest formula help support the very nutrient-intensive liver detoxification process, which in turn can encourage the healthy formation of sperm and the DNA contained within it.

2. Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural defense against injuries, infections, toxins and other stressors. This inflammation is completely normal and totally manageable for your body to deal with. When there is too much inflammation, it depletes important antioxidants, which leads to - you guessed it - oxidative stress (!) and depletion of key nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium. 

Additionally, inflammation has an impact on the general stress response system. Increased stress hormones can cause dysregulation in the production of pregnenolone, which is the foundational material in the production of testosterone, a key hormone in the sperm production process.

Fighting inflammation

A Mediterranean diet is often recommended as it focuses on foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids and can be helpful in managing chronic inflammation (3). Our Vitality + Virility supplement can also help replete and maintain key vitamins and minerals needed to support all bodily systems. Specifically, choline, vitamin B12, and folate can help support the body's resilience. 

3. Metabolism

Metabolism slows with age for a couple of reasons. 

  1. We often become less active as we get older, leading to a decrease in exercise and thermogenesis, or the body’s way of producing heat (which burns calories and keeps the metabolism on its toes). This slows metabolism substantially. 
  2. As we age, our cell’s mitochondria make less energy, which can impact fertility. Every system in our body requires energy and our mitochondria are responsible for producing more than 90% of it. 
Supporting metabolism

Mastering a balance of quality sleep (and enough of it), consuming enough  calories and protein, and adding resistance and/or high intensity interval training to your routine can help combat the negative effects of aging on metabolism. Getting your gut health in check can also be helpful, not to mention improve overall quality of life significantly.

From a nutritional standpoint, vitamin C, vitamin B12, zinc, and magnesium (all of which are found in FullWell’s Vitality + Virility for Men) can help protect mitochondrial function and support overall metabolic health. 

Now for the big questions.

What if I am trying to conceive? How does all of this play into the health of my baby?

As we know, a mother’s lifestyle, diet, and exposure to environmental factors in preconception or in utero, influences the development of baby and even future generations. But new studies have expanded our understanding of how similar factors from the father have a direct or indirect impact on fertilization, embryo development, pregnancy, and the long-term health of baby.  

LET’S TALK ABOUT: The male role in fertilization and embryo development

It is becoming more and more clear through emerging research that the impact of sperm on fertilization happens before an oocyte is even fertilized. In a study evaluating how semen interacts with a woman’s reproductive tract, researchers found that sperm were able to deliver signals, or essentially ‘persuade’ her immune system to allow fertilization to occur (4). Other studies show that the father’s genes help build a baby's placenta more than the mother’s (5) (6) (7). 

As you might expect, dad’s environmental exposure also plays a significant role in fertilization. In a study looking at couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers found that a father’s  exposure to phthalates influenced the early stage of embryo quality, potentially due to sperm DNA alterations (8) (9). 

LET’S TALK ABOUT: The male role in pregnancy

It is usually assumed that after conception, the mother is responsible for pregnancy outcomes, but new research now shows that the health of a father’s sperm is also responsible. Oxidation in semen and sperm DNA fragmentation (which can also be caused by oxidation) can increase the likelihood of pregnancy loss (10). Chemicals found in semen, like lead, can circulate in women before and even still during pregnancy (11). Sperm can also impact the mother’s inflammatory and immunological response, further impacting the uterine environment in which the embryo develops (12), which may impact blood glucose levels, blood pressure regulation, and fetal development.

LET’S TALK ABOUT: The male role in the long-term health of baby

Research points toward the significant part that genetics and lifestyle factors play not just in conception, but also in reprogramming the health of baby throughout their life. 

Men who smoke before conception, for example, increase the risk of their future offspring having asthma, even if smoking stopped five years beforehand (13). Other exposures, like herbicides, can also cause long-term health problems (14), and even a father’s diet can impact how their baby regulates fat metabolism or whether or not they have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (15). 

Beyond trying to conceive: how fertility impacts the long-term health of dad

Beyond fertility, male reproductive factors like low sperm count have been associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome (16). In the largest study to date evaluating semen quality, reproductive function, and metabolic risk, researchers discovered that men with low sperm counts had a higher risk of 

  • greater body fat
  • higher blood pressure
  • insulin sensitivity
  • imbalanced lipid levels (17

This and other recent studies have yielded more insight into how fertility status can act as a biomarker for future health.*

*Sidenote for both our male customers and our health practitioners: it is critical to be taking a broader look at the complex interrelationships between fertility and overall health moving forward. Gentlemen, take this knowledge into your appointments with you to collaborate with your provider. An informed appointment with an open dialogue is a productive appointment!

Final thoughts

As you can clearly see, the evidence for male fertility support is vast. Even for men who are not trying to conceive (even for men who are nowhere close to thinking about it!), there is no harm in planning ahead in regards to your nutrient intake, if for no other reason than to ensure your own optimal health for years to come. For men who are on the journey toward conception, by getting ahead of the game, you are looking out for not just yourself, but working toward a smooth, healthy pregnancy, and the absolute best future you can provide for your baby.

Family health is the responsibility of BOTH parents. Support the health of the entire family by making sure dad is covering all of his nutritional bases with FullWell’s Vitality + Virility for Men supplement.

The information provided on this website is provided for educational purposes only and should not be treated as medical advice. FullWell makes no guarantees regarding the information provided or how products may work for any individual. If you suffer from a health condition, you should consult your health care practitioner for medical advice and before introducing any new products into your health care regimen. For more information please read out terms and conditions.

REFERENCES

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  2. Alahmar, Ahmed. “Role of Oxidative Stress in Male Infertility: An Updated Review.” National Institutes of Health. Web. Published Jan 2019. Accessed Nov 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472207/.
  3. Lăcătușu, Cristina-Mihaela. Grigorescu, Elena-Daniela. Floria, Mariana. Onofriescu, Alina. Mihai, Bogdan-Mircea. “The Mediterranean Diet: From an Environment-Driven Food Culture to an Emerging Medical Prescription.” National Institutes of Health. Web. Published Mar 2019. Accessed Nov 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466433/.
  4. Schjenken, John E. Sharkey, David J. Green, Ella S. Chan, Hon Yeung. Matias, Ricky A. Moldenhauer, Lachlan M. Robertson, Sarah A. “Sperm modulate uterine immune parameters relevant to embryo implantation and reproductive success in mice.” Communications Biology. Web. Published May 2021. Accessed Nov 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-021-02038-9.
  5. Wang, Xu. Miller, Donald C. Harman, Rebecca. Antczak, Douglas F. Clark, Andrew G. “Paternally expressed genes predominate in the placenta.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Web. Published May 2013. Accessed Nov 2021. https://www.pnas.org/content/110/26/10705.
  6. E Angiolini, A Fowden, P Coan, I Sandovici, P Smith, W Dean, G Burton, B Tycko, W Reik, C Sibley, M Constância. “Regulation of placental efficiency for nutrient transport by imprinted genes.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published April 2006. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16503350/.
  7. Frost, Jennifer M. Moore, Gudrun E. “The importance of imprinting in the human placenta.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published July 2010. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20617174/.
  8. Wu, Haotian. Ashcraft, Lisa. Whitcomb, Brian W. Rahil, Tayyab. Tougias, Ellen. Sites, Cynthia K.Pilsner, J Richard. “Parental contributions to early embryo development: influences of urinary phthalate and phthalate alternatives among couples undergoing IVF treatment.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published Jan 2017. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27927842/.
  9. Wu, Haotian. Ashcraft, Lisa. Whitcomb, Brian W. Rahil, Tayyab. Tougias, Ellen. Sites, Cynthia K.Pilsner, J Richard. “Preconception urinary phthalate concentrations and sperm DNA methylation profiles among men undergoing IVF treatment: a cross-sectional study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published Nov 2017. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29024969/.
  10. Jayasena, Channa N. Radia, Utsav K. Figueiredo, Monica. Franklin Revill, Larissa. Dimakopoulou, Anastasia. Osagie, Maria. Vessey, Wayne. Regan, Lesley. Rai, Rajendra. Dhillo, Waljit S. “Reduced Testicular Steroidogenesis and Increased Semen Oxidative Stress in Male Partners as Novel Markers of Recurrent Miscarriage.” Oxford Academic Clinical Chemistry. Web. Published Jan 2019. Accessed Nov 2021. https://academic.oup.com/clinchem/article/65/1/161/5607916.
  11. Klemmt, Leah. Scialli, Anthony R. “The transport of chemicals in semen.” Wiley Online Library. Web. Published April 2005. Accessed Nov 2021. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bdrb.20031.
  12. Watkins, Adam J. Dias, Irundika. Tsuro, Heather. Allen, Danielle. Emes, Richard D. Moreton, Joanna. Wilson, Ray. Ingram, Richard J. M. Sinclair, Kevin, D. “Paternal diet programs offspring health through sperm- and seminal plasma-specific pathways in mice.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Web. Published Oct 2018. Accessed Nov 2021. https://www.pnas.org/content/115/40/10064.
  13. “Father's environment before conception and asthma risk in his children: a multi-generation analysis of the Respiratory Health In Northern Europe study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published Feb 2017. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27565179/.
  14. Zheng, Ruizhi. Zhang, Qian. Zhang, Qinghe. Yang, Linsheng. Zhang, Zhihua. Huang, Fen. “Occupational exposure to pentachlorophenol causing lymphoma and hematopoietic malignancy for two generations.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published April 2015. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23315091/.
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  16. Ferlin, Alberto. Garolla, Andrea. Ghezzi, Marco. Selice, Riccardo. Palego, Pierfrancesco. Caretta, Nicola. Di Mambro, Antonella. Valente, Umberto. Ponce, Maurizio De Rocco. Dipresa, Savina. Sartori, Leonardo. Plebani, Mario. Carlo Foresta, Carlo. “Sperm Count and Hypogonadism as Markers of General Male Health.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. Published Jan 2021. Accessed Nov 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31427194/.