Sperm cells are often the forgotten half of the fertility equation! They are manufactured all the time and so are perhaps more influenced by lifestyle and nutrition than egg cells.
The environment in which they develop is very important as they can be damaged by free radicals that are present in or are by products of our diet.
Free radicals have unpaired electrons (a bit of a science lesson here!) and electrons don’t like to be alone. So, these solitary electrons steal another electron from the cells around them and hence damage the cell. This process is called oxidation.
Foods that minimise free-radical damage are therefore ones that contain plenty of anti-oxidants. These knights in shining armour are able to provide those electrons to the needy free radicals and hence slow down cell damage.
Amino acids, fatty acids and anti-oxidants are the three most important nutrients for sperm health: high-protein meat and fish, nuts and seeds and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are enough to cover all three bases.
How Long Will It Take?
It is best to start making nutritional changes at least three months before trying to conceive or before fertility treatment. This is because it takes that long for the maturation process of sperm cells to be completed. So, the sperm released today started to develop and mature three months ago and will have been influenced by their environment in that time.
Foods to avoid or have in moderation for healthy sperm cells
Avoid as much as possible:
- Trans-fats (chemically manufactured fats)which damage cell membranes,increase inflammation and disrupt blood sugar balance. Often found processed, fried, fast food.
- Alcohol – eliminate altogether, beginning 3 months before trying to conceive, this applies to both male and female.
- Fizzy drinks, including diet drinks, which contain refined sugars or sugar substitutes and sometimes caffeine.
- Refined carbohydrates, white bread, pasta, white rice, sugar
- Fish with high levels of mercury, such as those at the top of the food chain – swordfish, marlin and to some extent tuna.
- Foods with high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, such as margarine, sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, which can aggravate inflammation. While we do need some omega-6 fat, it is important not to affect the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats
- Low-fat/no-fat/sugar-free foods which replace these substances with artificial substitutes. Low fat dairy will be low in Vitamin D since it is found in the fat/cream.
Have in moderation:
- ham, bacon, processed meat.
- smoked foods.
- red meat (twice a week at most is advised.)
- white and milk chocolate – sorry! Small amounts of dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa) is ok
- caffeine, a grey area. If you can cut it out completely, or at least cut downto one a day.
If you’re wanting to add some supplements:
- Take a daily multivitamin starting at least 3 months before trying to conceive. Try to find one that contains methylfolate rather than synthetic folic acid.
- To reduce reduce sperm damage due to oxidation, CoQ10/Ubiquinol/Bio-Quinon, 200mg per day with breakfast.
- Fish Oil, to provide at least 900mg DHA (Nordic Naturals are a good brand)
- Alpha-lipoic acid, 200-300mg per day, on empty stomach or with breakfast.
- L-carnitine, 1000mg, with or without food.
- Include a wide variety of different coloured vegetables and fruits in the diet.
Check with your doctor before starting a supplement regime.
I’ve Got Your Back
I’ve been privileged to help many people along their fertility journeys over the last twelve years and in that time I’ve developed some great resources and treatments to provide the support you might need.
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