Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Factors
It is important to remember that any dietary and lifestyle changes, including the addition of vitamins and minerals takes around 4 months to have a full effect upon sperm and egg health. Sperm development takes a minimum of 90 days before it is considered mature enough and ready for ejaculation.
In her book ‘Natural Solutions to Infertility’ Marilyn Glenville PhD recommends the following:
• Eating a healthy diet
• Checking and correcting your nutritional status
• Adopting a healthy lifestyle
• Being screened for infections
• Avoiding environmental hazards
• Timing your infertility investigations
Male Factors and Advice
Fruit and Vegetables
It is advisable to try and move towards organic fruit and vegetables in order to avoid the damaging effects of pesticides on sperm production and morphology and egg health.
Increasing consumption to 5-6 portions a day will ensure a diet rich in anti-oxidants. Include whole grains, nuts and seeds in the diet including the following:
• Pumpkin Seeds
• Sunflower Seeds
• Brazil Nuts
Try cutting down on red meat consumption and include more deep sea fish (not farmed) and organic poultry. If it is difficult to avoid red meat it is best to try and ensure that is this is organically reared.
Stress unfortunately has a major impact upon male fertility health, affecting sperm production, morphology and motility, as well as all the other well known detrimental effects. Please take the time to read the research information on stress and the impact on fertility.
It is best to avoid heavy, strenuous exercise. Bicycling is one activity that may affect sperm counts. The constant bumping of the testes, combined with the added heat generated from sweating in the scrotal area may contribute to diminished sperm counts. If the man’s sperm analysis is fine, then by all means enjoy the daily bike rides. But if the sperm count is marginal, it’s one you may benefit from avoiding.
It is therefore advisable to try the following:
• Brisk walking
• T’ai Chi
The testicles are designed to be outside of the body to ensure that they are 1.0 degree lower than normal body temperature. This is the perfect temperature for efficient and healthy sperm production
Try to avoid
• Hot baths
• Saunas and steam rooms
• Heated car seats
• Wearing Boxer shorts
It is suggested that until you achieve the pregnancy you desire you may want to avoid anything that causes the sperm to get too hot. And remember that it may take 2-3 months after reducing such exposure for a new generation of healthy sperm to mature.
Whilst there is conflicting research on the implications of caffeine and how it affects the sperm (please refer to research ‘What are the effects of caffeine with regards fertility’), caffeine may unfortunately have a detrimental effect on sperm motility and their ability to move, and in extreme cases it may cause complete immobilisation of sperm, therefore it is advisable to avoid if possible. Caffeine is not only found in coffee, tea, chocolate and fizzy drinks, but it is often hidden in many other substances
It is suggested to gradually reduce this from the diet in order to avoid toxic withdrawal headaches
This is the most socially acceptable ‘drug’ and is used more and more to manage stress levels in today’s society. Yet it is possible it may have a devastating impact upon sperm morphology and motility
It is therefore beneficial to reduce intake to 4-5 units per week, ideally of red wine and avoiding beer altogether. Beer tends to be contaminated with chemicals that may be detrimental to sperm health
Men who smoke often have lower sperm counts, poor motility and higher numbers of malformed sperm. Nicotine may also interfere with absorption of vitamins and minerals, causing increased free-radicals, which is damaging to the developing sperm cells and therefore may increase the likelihood of DNA fragmentation
Laptops Computers/Mobile Phones
The radiation and heat transmitted by mobile phones is known to interfere with sperm production. It is best to ensure that you are not carrying a mobile phone in your trouser pocket or working with a laptop computer on the lap
Many of the above prescribed medications may interfere with the production of healthy, functioning sperm. Therefore if you have to take prescribed drugs it is always advisable to refer back to your GP.
St John’s Wort/Echinacea/Gingko Biloba
All of the above may affect sperm quality and their ability to penetrate the egg and so are best avoided if there are fertility difficulties
Male Vitamin/Mineral Recommendations
Recommended: Solgar or Lamberts
• Multi-Vitamin – StrongStart for Men (please be aware of the dosage before supplementing with the following – for example Zinc dosage in the Lamberts StrongStart is 15mg, therefore an additional Zinc supplement of 15mg is recommended)
• B vitamins – B6 50mg / B12 50mg (studies have shown that males with low sperm count were given vitamin B12 each day and over a quarter of them improved by more than 5 times)
• Zinc – 30mg (studies carried out that zinc deficiency in men causes a temporary but reversible reduction in sperm count and a reduced testosterone level, giving zinc to males with low testosterone raises the hormone level and increases sperm count)
• Vitamin E – 400iu (findings suggest that the antioxidant activity for vitamin E may make sperm more fertile)
• Vitamin C – 1000mg (studies have established at vitamin C enhances sperm quality)
• L-Arginine – 1000mg (research has shown that sperm counts doubled after supplementation and there was also an increase in the number of pregnancies (Warning: Men that have herpes attacks (either cold sores or genital herpes) should not supplement arginine as it stimulates the virus)
• L-Canitine – 100mg (supplementing over a four month period may help to increase the number of normal sperm in men with a high percentage of abnormal forms)
These doses are therapeutic rather than maintenance
It is important to remember that everything a man does on his own will probably not be reflected in the ejaculate for 3 to 4 months as it takes time for newly created sperm to reach maturity.
Female Factors and Advice
Fruit/Vegetables and Water
In order to ensure your fertility health is at its optimum and your chances of miscarriage are reduced it makes sense that your diet is providing the best nutrition
Eating 5-6 portions of fruit and vegetables each day is a sensible approach – a good idea are soups packed with vegetables as an easy way of consuming them. Smoothies are great too particularly if using the whole fruit.
Try to cut down on red meat consumption and include more deep sea fish (not farmed) and organic poultry. If it is difficult to avoid red meat it is best to try and ensure that it is organically reared.
Increasing your intake of water in the second half of your cycle is extremely beneficial. The endometrium requires good blood flow, which will be difficult if you are dehydrated. It is usually recommended taking smaller amounts of water, hourly, to ensure constant hydration
Stress has a major impact upon the menstrual cycle, causing irregularities and in extreme circumstances cessation of ovulation. It can cause enormous difficulties with conception and is thought to be a contributory factor in miscarriage, once again please take the time to read the research information on stress
If we are not experiencing restorative sleep it will impact upon the ability to produce health sperm, and thriving eggs. Additionally poor sleep has been shown to cause hormonal disruptions whereby disturbing the menstrual cycle.
Many women now spend considerable amounts of time at the gym, or running, too much exercise may have an impact upon fertility and ovulation.
It is best to avoid or reduce the following:
• Running – Strenuous
• Gym – Excessive
Why not try:
• Brisk walking for 30 minutes several times a week
• T’ai Chi
Caffeine is thought to be linked to chromosomal abnormalities and miscarriage and may lengthen the amount of time it takes to conceive. It is not only in coffee, tea, chocolate and fizzy drinks but also hidden in many other substances (please refer to research ‘What are the effects of caffeine with regards fertility’),
It is suggested to gradually reduce this from the diet in order to avoid toxic withdrawal headaches
The effects of alcohol upon pregnancy and the developing baby are very well documented, and may increase the chances of still-births, miscarriages and abnormalities. There is a possibility it may also have a direct impact upon the quality of the egg
It is therefore advisable to reduce to the occasional glass of wine, preferably organic if possible.
Nicotine as well as being highly toxic is thought to reduce blood flow and these two things in themselves are often a good enough reason to stop smoking. Alongside which it may have a direct impact upon fertility and increase the chances of miscarriage, still births and abnormalities
Low level radiation is not something we want to expose delicate developing cells too. It makes sense to keep exposure to a minimum, taking regular breaks if working at a computer every day, avoiding micro-waved food and keeping mobile phones in handbags and not trouser or skirt pockets
Many prescribed medications interfere with female fertility. Therefore if you have to take prescribed drugs it is always advisable to refer back to your GP.
Female Vitamin/Mineral Recommendations
As with male supplementation it is important to ensure that all vitamins/minerals are of the best quality (please be aware of the dosage before supplementing with the following – for example Zinc dosage in the Lamberts StrongStart is 15mg, therefore an additional Zinc supplement of 15mg is recommended)
• Multi-vitamin – Lamberts StrongStart for females
• Vitamin B – B6 50mg (one study has shown that a group of women who had stopped having periods due to hormonal balance were given this vitamin for 3 / 4 months. Some of the women started to have regular periods again, and in another study 12 out of 14 women who had been trying for up to 7 years conceived after taking this vitamin daily over 6 months) B12 50mg
• Zinc – 30mg (zinc is necessary for the body to attract and hold the reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone)
• Selenium – 100mg (selenium can help to prevent chromosome breakage, which is a known cause of birth defects and miscarriage)
• Vitamin C – 1000mg (it would appear that if vitamin C is taken alongside a medicated cycle such as Clomid that it can help to trigger ovulation however, I would suggest that high levels should only be taken during the preconception stage)
• Vitamin D – 1000 IU (please read the research on vitamin D, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in women with ovulatory problems such as PCOS. It has also been associated with IVF failure, particularly at implantation stage, as well as with miscarriage – again such a high dosage is recommended for a short period and only during the preconception stage)
• Vitamin E – 300-400mg (vitamin E prevents abnormal blood clotting, for women that have suffered a miscarriage this vitamin is therefore recommend – women over the age of 35, if it has been suggested that fertility problems may be due to age the taking of this vitamin would also be beneficial)
• Folic Acid – 400mg (when trying to get pregnant you should be aware that deficiency is common in woman with conditions such as Coeliac and Crohn’s disease)
• She-Oak – Dosage 7 drops morning and evening. Add Flannel Flower after 6 months if not pregnant
She-Oak is an Australian Bush Remedy and the founder Ian White carried out some research with women with unexplained infertility using She-Oak. Of 25 women, 23 conceived within a 6 month period of taking the remedy. It works on the deep seated emotional reasons that are so much a part of fertility issues and therefore is often recommended to clients
In the case of women that have experienced a miscarriage taking a Vitamin C supplement may also be beneficial.
Details on She-Oak
She-Oak is an essence which is very beneficial in overcoming imbalances and bringing about a sense of wellbeing in females. It will benefit women who feel distressed about infertility. It removes those personal blocks that prevent conception. She-Oak can also be used in conjunction with Flannel Flower which will help remove karmic patterns hindering conception. The fruit of this tree is very similar in size to a woman’s ovary. This Essence was made from the female tree of the species Negative Condition: • female imbalance • inability to conceive for non-physical reasons
Positive Outcome: • emotionally open to conceive • female balance
Stockists: http://www.nearlsyeardremedies.com Tel: 0845 262 3145 – £8.96 + VAT
Angus Castus (Vitex)
This herb is extremely beneficial for women that have a shortened Luteal Phase (temperatures not remaining elevated during the second half of the cycle) and high prolactin levels. During one study 48 women diagnosed with infertility took Vitex daily for 3 months, during that time 7 of them became pregnant and 25 of them regained normal progesterone levels. Vitex is a wonderful hormonal balancer and is therefore recommended when there are hormone deficits as well as excesses:
• helps to regulate periods
• helps restart periods which have stopped
• helps with heavy bleeds
• helps with too-frequent periods
• helps with painful periods
• helps to increase the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen by balancing excess oestrogen
Elevated FSH levels (follicle stimulating hormone) can indicate a pre-menopausal condition, IVF is not advised for women with high FSH levels, the use of Vitex can often help to bring down the FSH level (a combination of other herbs may be required)
Warning: it is advised that Vitex should only be taken during the preconception stage.
Tincture is recommended details of stockists as below:
100ml £12.95 product code: O02-100
As a practitioner I am only able to advise on supplements and nutrition, if there is a medical condition and daily medication has been prescribed as a result, I must stress that you check with your GP before taking any supplements suggested.
Strong healthy sperm can survive for at least 3 days and sometimes up to 7 days, in good fertile cervical mucus. Clients are advised to ‘make love’ at three times in the week leading up to ovulation, this should be more than sufficient to ensure that sperm are ‘in situ’ and ready to fertilise the ovum once it has been released. This helps to alleviate the pressure of timed love-making and help to put back some of the ‘magic’ that should be associated with creating this new and wonderful life
However, I would advise that in situations where the male has issues with sperm to ensure that ejaculations are kept to a maximum frequency of every 48 hours. For men with marginal counts this may be all that is necessary to bring it up to normal.
Positions during intercourse
Although no definitive studies appear to have been done, there is considerable speculation that it if the man has a marginal sperm count, the best position for intercourse is the traditional missionary position. This allows for deepest penetration, and will thus deposit the sperm closest to the cervix. Some clinicians also believe that if your cervical fluid is not that fertile, or the sperm quality marginal, it may be advantageous for you to remain lying down for up to half an hour in the basic position in which you had intercourse. The theory is that this will help assure the sperm has time to travel up.
Low levels of Vitamin D can also have an impact on the outcome of IVF; Vitamin D boosts levels of progesterone and oestrogen, thus improving the likelihood of a successful conception.
It is suggested you have your levels of Vitamin D checked at the Zita West clinic, details of which can be found on their website, please follow link. Zita West is also able to carry out AMH testing (egg reserve testing).