Are you hoping to start a family soon? If you’ve been having trouble in that department, your sperm health is one area you may be able to influence. And dropping some bad habits that you may not even realize are harming your sperm may well be the best place to start.
Not Eating Healthy
Your diet too may be impacting your semen quality. If you love your junk food or indulge in processed meats on a regular basis, this could cost you dearly. Multiple studies have found that high intake of processed meats, especially when it comes at the cost of adequate fresh vegetable and fruit intake, can negatively impact semen quality.3 As one study in Spain found, not having adequate antioxidant levels or not getting in nutrients like folate, lycopene, vitamin C, and fiber can mean your sperm health isn’t optimal. So tank up on those fresh fruits and veggies, and cut back a little on your processed meat and carb intake.4
Smoking cigarettes is a habit you’re constantly told is bad for you, but it isn’t easy to quit either. If starting a family is important to you, that could be the motivation you need. Research has found that cigarette smoking negatively impacts sperm density, sperm count, and the percentage of motile sperm in the ejaculate. In one study, the “normal” or healthy sperm form was much lower in test subjects who smoked than in those who did not.6 A separate bit of research showed that the sperm of smokers saw higher levels of DNA fragmentation. So unless you want to see the nuclear quality of your sperm and overal sperm health deteriorate, you may need to give smoking a complete rethink.
Not Having Enough Sex
Yes, abstinence may actually backfire. If you’re planning to “save up” in the hope that it will bump up your chances of conception, think again! As some researchers found, abstinence for a period ranging between 2 and 18 days impacted semen parameters. While semen volume itself increased, the normal morphology declined and motility took a hit. For those test subjects who abstained from having sex for over seven days, major changes (decline) in the quantum of normal sperm were recorded. Researchers concluded that long periods of abstinence could cause senescence or deterioration of sperm.8 So it may pay to keep up the roll in the hay for your sperm health.
You may think stress isn’t a habit with you, but it’s actually surprising how easily we all allow stress to rule our lives. If you break this cycle and overcome stress, do away with stress triggers, or find ways to relax and unwind, it can have a bigger effect than you may imagine. For one thing, you should see sperm quality improve. As one study showed, psychological stress hampers sperm quality, causing a decline in its ability to fertilize an egg. Researchers surmised that the release of glucocorticoids (a type of steroid hormone) interfered with the production of testosterone as well as sperm. They also suggested that the oxidative stress could have a negative impact on fertility and semen quality. The worse the stress, the lower the concentration of motile and morphologically “normal” sperm. Work stress surprisingly was not a problem; it is the stress in our personal lives and because of major life events that needs to be addressed.5 Either way, ensuring you get enough sleep and taking up yoga or meditation for relaxation may help.
Is One Drink Never Enough?
If you’re a teetotaler, you can skip this one. But if you enjoy your ice cold beer on a hot summer’s day, and find that it isn’t a celebration until you’ve poured a fine single malt, you may want to read on. If you know you’ve been drinking more than you should, or you can’t remember the last time you went without a drink for a day at a stretch, your alcohol consumption may be a little excessive. And that spells doom for your sperm health. In one particular case, a man with chronic alcohol intoxication had teratozoospermia or abnormal sperm morphology, which progressed to oligoasthenoteratospermia where density and movement were also impacted. Over time, as things worsened, sperm could only be isolated using a centrifuge because their volume was low in the ejaculate, a condition called cryptozoospermia. Ultimately, he developed azoospermia – the complete absence of any viable motile sperm at all in the ejaculate. With things this bad, it may seem like there would be no hope for someone in his situation. However, the benefits of kicking this bad habit began to show in just three months. In this instance, semen characteristics improved significantly in a short time with complete normalcy on all sperm and semen parameters in three months’ time. So if you’re a heavy drinker, you may want to cut back or go cold turkey and make your peace with a spritzer or lemonade for a while.
Showing Your Laptop (And Wi-Fi) Too Much Love
Are you someone who can’t do without the gadgets? If so, chances are you spend inordinately large amounts of time with your laptop perched on your lap as you check email, prepare presentations, or just upload images and posts. Worse yet, unless you’ve been living under a rock, Wi-Fi is probably a big part of your world too. We all hook up to the internet wherever we are through Wi-Fi. The bad news is, this combination of laptop usage with Wi-Fi link-up can actually cause your sperm motility to decline. It also causes the DNA of your sperm to fragment, affecting its viability. Researchers on one study that backs this claim say that the position of the laptop, in such close proximity to your testes, causes damage through a nonthermal effect. The radio frequency electromagnetic waves emitted are to blame. Using a laptop running on Wi-Fi caused radiation emissions thrice as much as when no Wi-Fi was used, and between 7 and 15 times more than when no laptop was present at all.1 So do yourself a favor and always work on your laptop at a table, keeping it as far away from your testes as possible. And difficult as it may seem, avoid the Wi-Fi, at least as long as you’re trying to conceive with your partner.