Understanding Male Infertility: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Understanding Male Infertility: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments


Are you trying to have children but finding it difficult? Although not many people openly talk about it, infertility is a common issue. Nearly one out of ten men experience the condition.

Male infertility can have multiple causes. Your doctor can help you identify some of the reasons you may be struggling to conceive. Depending on the cause of your fertility issues, there are multiple available treatments that may help, including hormone therapy, medication, surgery, and assisted reproductive technology.

What Is Male Infertility?

Pregnancy doesn’t always happen right away. However, when a couple has unprotected sexual intercourse on a regular basis for at least a year and they don’t conceive a child, experts say that they are infertile.

If your partner is under the age of 35 and you have been trying to achieve pregnancy for a year or more, it may be time to talk to a doctor. If your partner is 35 or older, you may want to see a doctor after six months of trying.

Infertility is often not accompanied by any other signs other than being unable to conceive a child. However, in some cases male infertility exists alongside other symptoms that may point to an underlying health condition. These may include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Problems with ejaculation
  • Pain or swelling in the testicles
  • Loss of smell
  • Gynecomastia (growth of breast tissue)
  • Loss of facial or body hair
  • Frequent respiratory infections

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may help your doctor understand which tests to run to determine the cause of your infertility.

Potential Causes of Infertility

Infertility can be affected by health problems that affect either person within a couple. About 20% of infertility cases are solely caused by health issues that affect men, while 30-40% of cases result from conditions in both partners.

There are several steps involved in creating a pregnancy. Sperm is made by the testicles and released into the vagina during sexual intercourse. This process may be disrupted if the testicles can’t produce enough sperm, the sperm cells aren’t healthy, or if there are problems releasing the sperm.

Underlying causes of male infertility include a variety of medical disorders and medications. The cause of infertility is unclear for about half of men.

Conditions That Affect the Testicles

Several disorders can prevent the testicles from making enough sperm, or can make the sperm appear abnormal. These include:

  • Varicocele, a condition that leads to enlarged veins in the testicle and is found in 40% of men with infertility
  • Testicle injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Certain autoimmune disorders
  • Infections such as tuberculosis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or fungal infections
  • Cystic fibrosis

Some medications and substances, including cancer treatments, alcohol, tobacco, cannabinoids, opioids, steroids, and illicit drugs, can also affect the function of the testicles. Additionally, exposure to chemicals like insecticides or pesticides may decrease sperm count.

Hormone Imbalances

The hypothalamus and pituitary glands make hormones such as prolactin that “tell” the testicles to make sperm. When these organs don’t work properly, hormone levels may become too high or too low and sperm counts may decrease.

Conditions that lead to hormone imbalances include Cushing syndrome, iron overload, head injuries, tumors, or genetic conditions like Prader Willi syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Your hormone levels may also change if you undergo radiation treatments or take testosterone supplements.

Genetic Conditions

Disorders that are caused by genes passed down through families can also lead to infertility. These conditions include Klinefelter’s syndrome, Kallman syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, and Y-chromosome microdeletion.

Infertility Risk Factors in Men

cigarettes and pills

Some men may be more likely to experience infertility than others. You are at greater risk for this condition if you:

  • Are at least 40 years old
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Drink heavily
  • Use drugs, including marijuana or opioids
  • Are overweight
  • Use medications containing testosterone or similar substances in order to treat health conditions or build muscle
  • Have used certain types of medications, such as diuretics (water pills) or ketoconazole (an antifungal medication)

How Are Male Infertility Issues Diagnosed?

If you are having problems with your fertility, your doctor may want to run several tests in order to diagnose or rule out different potential causes.

Your doctor will likely start with a basic physical examination, which may involve checking for problems such as swelling of the prostate (a gland located in the groin), a hernia, or a mass in the testicles. Your doctor may also ask you questions about potential related symptoms such as fevers, a low sex drive, or injuries to the groin.

It may also be a good idea to undergo hormone testing to measure the levels of hormones like testosterone, prolactin, or thyroid hormones that may be affecting your fertility. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend undergoing genetic testing or a testicular biopsy (removal of a small piece of testicle tissue for further examination).

A common part of diagnosing male infertility issues is semen analysis — testing to measure sperm health. Semen analysis involves measuring three key factors:

  • Concentration — How many sperm cells are found within a certain amount of semen
  • Motility — How well the sperm are able to move
  • Morphology — Whether the sperm cells are shaped normally

Semen analysis may also look at other factors, such as how much semen is being produced and how many white blood cells are found in the semen. These results can all help point to possible causes of infertility.

Male Infertility Treatments

The fertility treatments that work best for you depend on the underlying causes of your infertility, your partner’s age, how long you have been infertile as a couple, and your personal preferences.

In some cases, infertile couples can still get pregnant without treatment. Pregnancies happen in about 23% of infertile couples within two years, and 33% after four years. However, making lifestyle changes, taking medications, or undergoing procedures may increase your chances of conceiving.

Lifestyle Changes

man jogging
Whether or not you undergo other infertility treatments, building up or changing certain habits can improve your sexual health and may help relieve infertility problems. You may want to try:

  • Quitting smoking cigarettes or using tobacco products
  • Stopping using marijuana or other recreational drugs
  • Reducing how often you drink alcohol, or quitting drinking altogether
  • Avoiding coming into contact with chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals such as lead and mercury
  • Getting more physical activity
  • Eating a balanced diet that provides a wide range of nutrients
  • Taking antioxidant supplements
  • Maintaining a healthy weight (both obesity and low body weight may contribute to fertility problems)
  • Wearing boxers rather than tight-fitting underwear
  • Avoiding saunas, hot baths, or other things that may increase the temperature of the testicles

You may also want to ask your doctor about any other possible steps that might help improve your fertility. For example, certain medications that you are taking may have side effects that impact sexual health.

Hormone Therapy

Several different hormones produced by the body are important in the creation of new sperm cells. Taking medications that contain human hormones may help treat male infertility, although not all research agrees. Your doctor may recommend taking one or more hormones, such as:

  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Human menopausal gonadotropin (HMG), which is a combination of FSH and LH

Hormone treatments may work best for men experiencing infertility due to low hormone levels. It is less clear whether these therapies can boost fertility for men with normal hormone levels.

Medications for Infertility

Your doctor may also suggest using other medications that work in different ways to affect fertility:

  • Dopamine agonists can help treat tumors on the pituitary gland that lead to hormone imbalances.
  • Aromatase inhibitors increase levels of testosterone and reduce levels of estrogen in order to boost how much sperm the body makes.
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) restore healthy hormone levels that lead to optimal sperm production.
  • Antibiotics can treat infections such as prostatitis that may be impacting fertility.

Surgery for Infertility

Surgical procedures can help heal certain anatomical problems. Some surgeries, such as fixing a varicocele, may help the body produce more sperm. Surgery may also help sperm be more effectively delivered during ejaculation. For example, some men may need surgery to reverse a vasectomy or heal a blocked vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm out of the testicles).

Other types of surgery allow doctors to collect sperm directly from the testicles to be used in assisted reproductive technology procedures. This may be useful for men who produce very few healthy sperm or have a problem that prevents sperm cells from reaching the semen.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Human egg cell

ART consists of several different types of procedures that can assist with overcoming infertility problems. In the U.S., about one out of 50 babies born each year were conceived with ART. Common types of ART include intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves collecting a sperm sample and placing it directly into the uterus with a narrow tube. Couples who use IUI may have as much as a one in five chance of becoming pregnant during each cycle, although success rates can vary. IUI may be a good option for men with:

  • Low sperm counts
  • Reduced sperm mobility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Retrograde ejaculation (a condition that results in sperm being delivered backward into the bladder instead of out of the body through the penis)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a common form of ART that involves fertilizing egg cells outside of the body and then implanting them into the uterus. It may be helpful for men who have low numbers of healthy sperm or in cases where the sperm is not able to be ejaculated out of the body. IVF involves a couple of steps:

  • Ovarian stimulation — Medication is used in order to encourage the ovaries to produce multiple egg cells at a time.
  • Egg retrieval — A needle is used to collect eggs from the ovaries with the help of ultrasound imaging, which helps the doctor visualize where to place the needle.
  • Fertilization — Sperm cells from a semen sample are incubated with egg cells, or a single sperm cell is injected directly into an egg.
  • Embryo transfer — Fertilized embryos are delivered into the uterus via a long, thin tube.

Other ART options involve using a third party to get pregnant. For example, you may want to consider sperm donation if you don’t produce sperm or don’t want to pass on genes that may lead to a genetic disease. If you choose this option, your partner may be able to get pregnant with IUI or IVF using a sperm sample from another man.

If your partner doesn’t produce healthy eggs or can’t carry a pregnancy, other third-party-assisted ART procedures may help. You can choose to get an egg donation, in which your doctor can collect donated eggs from another woman, combine them with your sperm, and implant embryos in your partner’s uterus. Additionally, you can get a surrogate, in which another woman carries and gives birth to a pregnancy conceived via IUI or IVF with cells from you and your partner or from donors.

If you are interested in trying any ART options, talk to your doctor or to a fertility specialist. Whether ART is successful depends on multiple factors. The CDC lists success rates for ART procedures for fertility clinics across the country, and offers a calculator that can help estimate how helpful IVF may be based on the characteristics of you and your partner.

Addressing Male Fertility Issues

There are a lot of factors that can affect your fertility. If you and your partner are struggling to get pregnant, your doctor or fertility specialist can help uncover possible problems and recommend treatments that might work best for the needs of you and your partner. Infertility is a common problem, and there are multiple options that may help.

If you are experiencing male fertiliity issues and would like to discuss your personal issue with a physician, make an appointment with Dr. Brynna Connor.

Bone-Boosting Foods: Do They Prevent Osteoporosis?

Bone-Boosting Foods: Do They Prevent Osteoporosis?

woman with pomegranate
Weak bones are a growing concern as you get older. Your bone tissue naturally thins out and loses strength over time. Among adults over the age of 50, about one out of 20 men and one out of five women have osteoporosis or weakened bones.

There are several types of medications and lifestyle changes that can help strengthen bones or slow down bone loss. In particular, the things you eat have a major impact on the health of your skeleton. Good or poor diet choices may help determine whether you experience pain or falls due to bone loss.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to fragile bones and an increased risk of experiencing a bone fracture (broken bone). You may have this condition if you lose too much bone mineral density (the amount of minerals found in your bones). You may also be diagnosed with this condition if you have broken bones in the past, and your doctor thinks you are at risk for breaking another one.

How Do You Know If You Have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is often considered to be a “silent” disease — it doesn’t often cause symptoms. In some cases, people with osteoporosis may notice certain changes. Their height may shrink, they may not be able to stand up straight, or their spine may curve until it forms a rounded hump at the base of the neck.

Your doctor can measure your bone mineral density with a special X-ray scan that measures the thickness of your bones. Your bone density is compared to the density of an average healthy, young adult. The more different your bones are from a young adult’s, the lower your bone density and the higher your chances of breaking a bone.

You should start undergoing regular screening tests to measure your bone density starting at age 65. However, it may be a good idea to start undergoing testing at age 50 if you have certain risk factors, such as a parent who has previously broken their hip. Ask your doctor if bone mineral density testing might be helpful for you.

The Many Causes of Osteoporosis

Some people have a higher chance of developing this disease. Some risk factors include:

  • Being a woman
  • Being white or Asian
  • Older age
  • Having a low body weight
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Experiencing hormone imbalances such as low levels of estrogen or testosterone
  • Having certain medical conditions that cause inflammation or impact the kidney or liver
  • Using certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, glucocorticoids, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or cancer drugs

Diet also plays a large role in the health of your bones. Not getting enough of certain nutrients can cause bone loss. Additionally, the foods and drinks you consume can have an impact on other osteoporosis risk factors, such as hormone levels and inflammatory diseases.

The Best Nutrients for Preventing Osteoporosis

When you want to strengthen and protect your bones, it is a good idea to make changes to your diet. Several vitamins and minerals are important for maintaining the normal processes that help your body build up bone. Making sure that you are eating enough foods that contain these nutrients is an important part of maximizing your bone health.

In order to find out how much of each nutrient you are getting from your diet, check the Nutrition Facts labels on your foods and drinks.


super foods

Calcium is a mineral that supports healthy nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Without this substance, your cells and tissues wouldn’t be able to properly function. The body needs to keep calcium levels within a certain range in order to stay healthy.

The body can’t make its own calcium, and relies on the things you eat and drink in order to get the calcium it needs. As the body absorbs calcium from the diet, it stores extra calcium in the bones.

Calcium is part of a delicate balancing act called bone remodeling that helps the body maintain bone tissue. During this process, osteoclast cells break apart the old bone and the body reabsorbs and recycles any nutrients, such as calcium, that are released. Next, osteoblast cells will add new bone using collagen and various minerals. If you don’t eat enough calcium, the body will take it from the bones but won’t be able to replace it with new, strong bone tissue.

In order to keep up with the body’s calcium needs, experts recommend that adults get at least 1,000 mg of calcium each day. Older adults who have an increased risk of bone loss should get even more — women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 should aim for 1,200 mg daily.

Find calcium in foods and drinks like:

  • Milk
  • Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and ice cream
  • Canned, bone-in sardines and salmon
  • Green vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and bok choi
  • Chia seeds
  • Tofu
  • Canned pinto beans
  • Certain cereals
  • Drinks that have added calcium, such as fruit juice, almond milk, and soy milk

Calcium is also available in supplement form or as part of a multivitamin. Some supplements, including antacid tablets, contain calcium carbonate, which should be taken along with food for optimal absorption. Other supplements that have calcium citrate can be taken with or without food and may be more easily absorbed, especially by older adults.

Vitamin D

Although the body relies on the diet for its calcium needs, the digestive system doesn’t absorb this mineral very efficiently. Only about 15 to 20% of the calcium in your foods and drinks is taken up by the body. However, vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium.

Within the body, vitamin D becomes activated to form calcitriol, a hormone. Calcitriol interacts with cells in the intestines and kidneys to stimulate these organs to absorb more calcium for the body to use. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your body doesn’t absorb as much calcium and your bones may weaken.

Your skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. However, sun can also speed up aging of the skin, leading to wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and spider veins. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are also the main cause of skin cancer. Therefore, it’s best for your overall health to protect your skin from the sun and to rely on getting vitamin D from your diet instead.

Adults should aim to get 15 micrograms (mcg) or 600 international units (IU). Those who are in their 70’s or older should be getting 20 mcg or 800 IU in order to protect their bones and help prevent osteoporosis.

Vitamin D can be found in foods like:

  • Fatty or oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, or sardines
  • Cod liver oil
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Milk, which usually is usually supplemented with vitamin D
  • Other foods that contain added vitamin D, such as certain types of soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice

Vitamin D supplements can also help increase your intake of this nutrient. Your body can better absorb vitamin D supplements when it’s eaten along with foods that contain some fat.


Although calcium and vitamin D likely have the biggest impact on bone health, recent research has also started identifying other nutrients that can play a role in osteoporosis and bone loss.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that help neutralize molecules that cause damage within cells. They are important for keeping the eyes healthy and for protecting against conditions like cancer.

These molecules help encourage osteoblasts to create more bone, and prevent osteoclasts from removing bone. Studies show that people who eat high amounts of carotenoids are 46% less likely to experience a fracture.

There are a few different types of carotenoids that can help keep bones strong. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricot, and guava. It can also be found in other non-red foods such as parsley and asparagus. The carotenoid beta-carotene comes from yellow, orange, and green produce, including carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, spinach, and broccoli. Green vegetables, pistachios, and eggs also contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, additional carotenoids that help prevent bone loss.

woman with a salad and tape measure

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. It supports immune system health and helps the digestive system absorb iron. The body also uses this nutrient in order to help form new osteoblasts and osteoclasts and to produce collagen, a protein that provides structure for the skin, cartilage, and bones, and helps these tissues work properly.

Studies have found that vitamin C could help protect against osteoporosis. In particular, the more vitamin C men consume, the less bone loss they experience. Men who took vitamin C supplements were 69% less likely to break their hip in one study. Some studies have also found that this vitamin can help women maintain bone density as they get older.

You can get more vitamin C through supplements. It is also found in most multivitamins. Foods that contain higher levels of vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits, as well as juice from these fruits
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Bell peppers
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage
  • Baked potatoes

One of the best ways to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C is to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables each day. Experts recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day in order to support health, reduce risk of chronic health conditions, and live longer.

Vitamin B12

When older adults don’t get enough vitamin B12, they are more likely to have high homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a molecule that helps control bone remodeling. Too much homocysteine can increase risk of osteoporosis, so eating more vitamin B12 may be good for the bones. People who have low levels of vitamin B12 in the blood tend to have less bone density.

Adults need at least 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 each day for optimal health. You can find this nutrient in animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs. If you don’t eat much meat, you can also get vitamin B12 in foods like tempeh and cereal that has had this vitamin added in during the manufacturing process.


Some research has found that women who drink red wine may be more likely to have better bone health. Experts think that this effect might be because red wine has resveratrol, a substance that helps protect tissues from damage. Additionally, men who take resveratrol supplements are more likely to have greater bone density in the spine.

It is important to note that drinking too much alcohol can be bad for the bones, so you should drink wine in moderation. In addition to red wine, resveratrol can also be found in grapes and nuts.


Cutting Out Foods That Lead to Weak Bones

woman with a salad and tape measure
Some foods can make it harder for your body to keep calcium levels high. Eating too much protein or too much salt can trigger your kidneys into getting rid of calcium. It’s best to eat moderate amounts of protein and follow a low-salt diet if you are worried about your bone health, especially if you think you may not be getting enough calcium from your diet.Additionally, one study found that a diet high in processed foods was connected with lower bone mineral density. For this reason, it’s better to reach for: 

  • Whole grain products instead of refined grains
  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned ones
  • Whole chicken or fish rather than processed meats like sausage, bacon, and deli meat
  • Freshly-prepared meals rather than microwave meals or fast food

Putting It All Together

There are several nutrients that can help contribute to bone health, and many different food choices that can provide these vitamins and minerals. In general, eating a variety of different foods from all of the different food groups will be enough to give you all of the nutrients you need.

However, if you are worried about your bone health, talk to your doctor. You may be able to undergo blood tests that can identify any nutritional deficiencies and pinpoint any vitamins or minerals that you need more of. Additionally, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether you should undergo screening to measure your bone density, or make any other lifestyle changes that can help support the health of your bones. It is important to visit your doctor to discuss a plan for healthy bones. Make an appointment with Dr. Connor to find out what approaches are best for you.

90+ Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted (According to Experts in an Up Journey Article)

90+ Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted (According to Experts in an Up Journey Article)

90+ Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted (According to Experts)

Possible ways to cope with mental exhaustion include some obvious and some not-so-obvious steps one can take: take a break, exercise regularly, take care of basics, and be grateful.  Read the entire article in Up Journey and find out what Dr. Connor adds to the discussion.

To further discuss, make an appointment with Dr. Connor.

Restless Sleep man awake in bed
Superfoods for Super Sperm (Part 10 of my Superfoods series)

Superfoods for Super Sperm (Part 10 of my Superfoods series)

woman with pomegranate
Your diet can impact many aspects of well-being and it can be an important aspect in understanding male infertility. You may know that the things you eat affect your physical health and even your mental health, but do you understand how food can influence your sexual health?

Adding superfoods to your diet may be a good way to increase the health of your sperm and boost your fertility. While there’s no scientific definition of what makes up a “superfood,” this label is often given to foods and drinks that contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that boost health. While superfoods generally can’t cure conditions like fertility, they can be an important part of optimizing your sexual health to be the best it can be.

Why Is Sperm Health Important?

In order to naturally conceive a child, you need to have enough healthy sperm. Sperm are cells made by the testicles in the male reproductive system. They combine with egg cells made by the ovaries in the female reproductive system to result in an embryo. Multiple types of hormones, including testosterone, help control the production of sperm.

There are a few components to sperm health, including:

  • How many sperm cells your body makes, usually measured by how many sperm cells are found within a certain quantity of semen
  • The ability of sperm cells to move rapidly
  • The sperm cells’ shape and size

If your body doesn’t make enough sperm, or if your sperm cells are abnormal, you may have a hard time getting your partner pregnant. When a couple is unable to conceive after at least one year of regular sex, they are said to be infertile. Infertility has multiple causes that can affect men and women, and there are several possible medications, surgical procedures, and lifestyle changes that can help treat this condition.

Boosting Sperm Health Through Superfoods

Men who eat certain superfoods may produce healthier sperm cells and be less likely to experience medical conditions that impact fertility. The more health-boosting superfoods you can add to your diet, the more you can optimize your sexual health.


Oysters are a fantastic source of zinc. One serving of this seafood provides 673% of the recommended daily intake of this mineral. You can also find zinc in superfoods like pumpkin seeds, yogurt, chickpeas, and oatmeal.

Zinc is a very important nutrient for fertility in men. Tissue in the prostate gland as well as the fluid portion of semen contains high amounts of zinc. When zinc levels drop too low, your body may make less sperm, or the sperm may be shaped abnormally, die more quickly, or not work properly in order to fertilize an egg cell. Zinc also helps the body make hormones like testosterone. Some cases of male fertility problems have been linked to low levels of zinc within sperm cells.

Oily Fish

super foods
Oily or fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids — molecules that can help fight inflammation and cell damage. Eating more foods that contain this nutrient can help the cell membrane (outer layer) of sperm cells function properly and may boost sperm health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health in other ways, too, making them a popular choice among people looking to eat more superfoods. For example, these molecules can help boost heart and eye health, reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and may protect against conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, oily fish contain coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also called ubiquinone. This molecule is an antioxidant, helping neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) — chemicals that can cause damage within cells and tissues. CoQ10 can help prevent ROS from building up in the semen, which helps sperm live longer and stay healthier. CoQ10 may also help the body make additional antioxidants that protect sperm health.

Cod Fish

Cod is a type of whitefish. It’s not an oily or fatty fish that has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it does contain a lot of carnitine, an amino acid-like molecule that helps cells process fat to be used as fuel.

Sperm cells need a lot of energy in order to be able to swim around more effectively. Carnitine helps supply sperm with the fuel they need for proper movement. It also supports the growth and development of new sperm cells.

Carnitine is also present within animal products such as beef, but too much red meat can be detrimental to your sexual health. Supplements containing carnitine are also available.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts contain a lot of a nutrient called selenium. When your body doesn’t have enough selenium, you may be more likely to have problems with infertility. Like CoQ10, selenium is an antioxidant that gets rid of damaging ROS chemicals that can kill sperm.

Eating more Brazil nuts may help boost your sperm health. Just a one-ounce serving (about 6 to 8 nuts) provides nearly 1000% of your recommended daily intake of selenium! This nutrient can also be found in fish and seafood like tuna, halibut, sardines, and shrimp.

couple of clinical trials have tested how nuts can impact male fertility. These studies found that men who eat more nuts produce more sperm and have sperm cells that move around better, are shaped more normally, and live longer.


Oatmeal is a whole grain that provides a large helping of fiber — a type of carbohydrate that provides many beneficial effects for the body. Eating a lot of fiber may reduce levels of estrogen, a hormone that could prevent the body from producing enough sperm. Oats and other grains can lead to healthier sperm and increase the chances that an egg will implant in the uterus after being fertilized by sperm.


Your digestive system contains about 100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria that help you stay healthy and digest your food. Eating high-fat foods can feed the “bad” bacteria, leading to chronic inflammation, a higher risk of several health conditions, and problems producing healthy sperm.

On the other hand, you may be able to increase the number of “good” bacteria in your gut by eating foods that contain probiotics (live microorganisms), such as yogurt. These foods can help improve your digestive health, which in turn has wide-ranging impacts throughout the body. You can also find probiotics in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.

Organic Fruits and Vegetables

woman with a salad and tape measure
When you eat produce, it may be worthwhile to reach for organic options. Fruits and vegetables are often grown using pesticides and insecticides, and these chemicals can lessen the health of sperm cells.

Foods that are certified organic have to meet certain standards as they are grown and harvested. In particular, organic fruits and vegetables come from plants that have been grown without the use of certain synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Avoiding these chemicals may lead to higher-quality sperm. Look for the label “USDA Organic” while grocery shopping.

Fruits and vegetables also contain a lot of prebiotics — substances like fiber that can help feed the “good” bacteria in your intestines. Produce like leafy greens, onions, artichokes, and bananas may have particularly high levels of prebiotics.

Furthermore, produce generally contains a lot of antioxidants such as vitamin C, tocopherol, and lycopene that help prevent the early death of sperm cells. Overall, fruits and vegetables work on multiple fronts to help boost sexual health and sperm quality, especially if they are organic.

Diet Plans to Improve Sperm Health

Adding more individual superfoods to your diet may help improve your fertility. However, studies have also found that men who more closely stick to an overall pattern of healthy eating produce more sperm.

Men who follow the Mediterranean diet are more likely to have higher sperm counts and to produce sperm that can move more quickly. The Mediterranean diet is also well-known to provide other health benefits, including lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and a reduced risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. This diet emphasizes:

  • Using olive oil instead of other fats like butter
  • Eating more nuts, seeds, and beans
  • Consuming large amounts of fruits and vegetables
  • Choosing whole grains or whole wheat products over refined grains
  • Eating plenty of fish, moderate amounts of chicken, and very little red meat
  • Drinking moderate amounts of red wine

Another diet plan that has been studied in relation to sperm health is the Prudent diet. Following this diet can boost sperm counts and help the body produce higher-quality sperm. The Prudent diet is a modified version of the Mediterranean diet in which you eat more fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains.

Foods and Drinks To Avoid for Better Sperm Health

Studies show that some foods can lead to poor semen quality. In particular, a western diet can be detrimental to sexual health. Men who struggle with infertility are more likely to eat diets that are high in fat or calories.

In particular, you may want to limit or avoid:

  • Red meat like beef or lamb
  • Processed meat such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, and deli meat
  • Foods that contain a lot saturated fats or trans fats, including processed foods, fried foods, cheese, and sugary foods and drinks
  • Caffeine, found in coffee, black tea, and soda

Alcohol can lead to hormone imbalances, including reduced testosterone levels, that lead to lower sperm levels. Men who drink heavily may be especially more likely to experience fertility problems. Infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) also tend to be less successful when men drink in the week leading up to giving a sperm sample.Some people believe that soybeans and soy products such as tofu can negatively impact male fertility. This is because soy contains molecules called phytoestrogens that are similar to the estrogen hormone made by the body. High levels of estrogen can lead to lower sperm counts. However, studies have found that men who eat moderate amounts of soy aren’t more likely to have unhealthy sperm, low testosterone levels, or other infertility problems. In fact, at least one study has found that eating some soy can actually lead to higher-quality sperm, so there is no reason for men to avoid soy-based foods.

Lifestyle Changes for Sperm Health

woman with a salad and tape measure
In addition to following a diet that provides your body with a wide range of nutrients, you can make other lifestyle changes that can boost your sexual health.

Some studies have found that physical activity can help boost sperm counts and sperm health. Likewise, men who spend more time watching television and those who lead sedentary lifestyles are more likely to produce less sperm.

Smoking cigarettes can also reduce sperm health, so quitting tobacco products may help improve infertility problems. Additionally, marijuana and other recreational drugs can prevent the body from making healthy sperm and can impact sexual health.

Changing your daily routine by eating more superfoods or creating other health-building habits can increase your sperm health. However, if you continue to struggle with infertility, your doctor can help you learn more about potential causes and recommend treatments that may increase your chances of conceiving.

If you are planning a family and would like to consult with Dr. Connor, please make an appointment.

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