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What Can Go Wrong With Male Fertility? Part 2 - Understanding The Risk Factors

In an earlier blog we looked at common causes for male infertility, and it's more common than you think! Researchers estimate about one in every three cases of infertility is due to problems with the male partner alone!

Today's blog post I'll deep dive into the common lifestyle, diet and health risk factors that contribute to these common causes.


Obesity can have extremely detrimental effects on male fertility and severely limit the chances of conception. Male obesity is associated with:

  • Lower sperm counts

  • Lower sperm concentrations

  • Poor sperm morphology

  • Poor sperm motility

  • Lowered testosterone levels are associated with higher BMI and especially central adiposity (fatty tissue)

  • Higher rates of miscarriage in assisted and natural cycles

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is often caused by every day life - work, family pressures, financial commitments etc., and it is over an extended period of time, whereby stress hormones are constantly being produced and circulating within the body.

This form of stress plays havoc with both genders. In women in can affect menstrual cycles, egg quality and ability to conceive. In men it can equally be disruptive, and when it becomes chronic, the effect can be long-term. Glucocorticoids (stress hormones) released in men can:

  • Weight gain

  • Mobilisation of amino acids

  • Stimulation fat breakdown

  • Decrease in production of gonadotropic releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, which directly affects sperm production

  • Inhibition of other sperm producing hormones released from the pituitary gland.

  • Reduction in sperm production in testis

Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is found in common plastics - cling wrap, plastic takeaway containers, drink bottles and even in the lining of some tin cans. BPA has been found to lower sperm concentration and count, and decrease sperm vitality and motility.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS): largely banned for use in day to day life, they are still present in hazardous materials and building supplies. They are extremely dangerous as they can be absorbed by humans via inhalation, skin exposure and orally. They are responsible for a wide range of toxicological effects, but in men they are associated with decreased:

  • Sperm count

  • Sperm motility

  • Sperm morphology

  • Sperm DNA integrity (higher fragmentation)

  • Circulating testosterone levels

Pesticides: In general, pesticides are like any other chemical and can have a toxicoligcal impact on all humans, and are common endocrine disruptors, whilst also being associated with sperm damage. Pesticides to specifically avoid are:

  • Dibromochloropropane

  • Ethylene dibromide

  • Organophosphorus

  • Alochlor metochlor,

  • Atrazene

Other toxins and chemicals to avoid

  • Alcohol: inhibits testosterone synthesis

  • Marijuana: inhibits pituitary function

  • Cigarettes including vaping: huge array of chemicals, tested and untested

  • Pollutants including fumes, and second hand smoke

  • Plastics

  • Exposure to heavy metals: this can be tricky, but common contributors are cheap saucepans. Look for stainless steel options.

  • Some herbs including St Johns Wort, Gingko and long termEchinacea use

  • Some prescription drugs. Please discuss with your doctor before making any changes.

Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF)

Many small studies demonstrate consistent results that exposure to EMF from mobile phones results in:

  • Decreased sperm motility, especially in men who carry theirs on their hip

  • Increased free radicals within the body, causing inflammation

  • Decreased sperm morphology in men with the highest mobile phone use

Okay, So How Can you Improve Your Chances of Conceiving Naturally?

Improving Your Diet

A Mediterranean based diet is best for optimal sperm health. A mediterranean diet is centred around fresh foods, and avoidance of processed foods.

  • High intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil - ideally organic where possible to avoid chemicals

  • Consumption of fish and seafood, specifically oily fish such as mackeral or salmon twice a week.

  • Low intake of dairy and poultry

  • Avoidance of processed food, fried food and snacks.

  • Avoiding trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, margarines, shelf stable foods.

  • In addition, exposure to Vitamin D - free from the sun.

  • Higher intakes of processed red meat is associated with poorer sperm morphology. Specifically, avoiding sausages, ham, corned beef, beef jerky, bacon and salamis.

mediterranean diet infertility male low sperm count

Specific Nutrients To Consider

Fish oil & Men: Fertile men have higher blood and spermatozoa levels of omega-3 fatty acids compared to infertile patients. In men with low sperm count, supplement of omega-3's have seen a positive correlation with increased sperm count, motility, and morphology.

Antioxidants: Diet high in antioxidants to combat oxidative stress from free radical damage. Key antioxidants to be mindful of are; Selenium, Zinc, Vitamins A, C, E and pycnogenol.

Ashwaganda: A herbal Ayurvedic supplement has seen some positive results in small trails. One study showed in 21 men with low sperm count, that taken a supplement for 90 days saw a 167% increase in sperm count (from 9.6 to 25 million), 53% increase in semen volume (from 1.7 to 2.76 ml), 57% increase in motility (from 18.6 to 29%).

Alongside the above, at The Natural Balance, we would look holistically at both diet, and lifestyle and wellbeing strategies.

Do you want support in your fertility and pregnancy journey? Book a free consultation with Gail to find out more.


Gail Madalena

Registered Nutritional Therapist


Gail Madalena is a registered nutritional therapist specialising in fertility, pregnancy and women’s health. Her expertise lies in hormonal imbalances, such as irregular cycles, debilitating PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid issues and sub-optimal fertility. Her goal is to reduce hormonal side effects and symptoms by addressing the root cause of the issue. Gail helps couples optimise your nutrition and lifestyle choices, supporting you on your journey to achieving a healthy pregnancy.

I am not attempting to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.


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