What is the most commonly asked question in my male fertility practice:
“What can I do to improve my sperm count?”
“Treat your body like a temple; all things in moderation.”
I’m sure that this is a disappointing answer for many men, but it’s true. There are no tricks here. Here’s why: Unlike food or water, which we need to live from day to day and without which something will break down in our lives, sperm production is different.
The sperm making process, termed spermatogenesis, wants to run hard and fast—and all the time. The body is happiest making 1200 sperm/second in the normal healthy male. It would rather make sperm than not, given the chance. It is similar to the heart that wants to beat or to a self-winding watch.
So all one can really do is to try not to poison the sperm making process by unhealthy living. Fevers, illness, tobacco, hot tubs, obesity and poor eating habits are all examples of toxins or exposures that “sicken” the body and slow down sperm production. Stay healthy and sperm numbers should be just fine, thank you. A good reproductive body is a good healthy body.
Of course there are reasons to have low or no sperm counts that do not involve impaired sperm production, including vasectomy and lifelong or acquired blockages, but these are unusual. In addition, with infertility due to genetic causes, low sperm counts are likely the consequence of being handed fewer than normal numbers of testis stem cells, the cells that produce sperm. But even in cases of genetic infertility, the stem cells that are present are working their hardest to make as many sperm as possible. It just may not be enough sperm to get out of the testicle and into the ejaculate.
And yes, we have good ways of improving the sperm numbers in men with low sperm counts, but with these treatments we generally will not improve sperm counts to numbers that exceed those that the man would naturally have if he were healthy.
So, lifestyle and daily habits matter greatly for sperm production and fertility. I know it’s trite, but Michael Jackson was right: start with the man in the mirror.