There is SO much talk about the WOMAN when it comes to fertility health as well as infertility health. So much so that it can sometimes feel like it’s all on us, right? Well, the reality is that it takes two to tango so there’s an equal probability of an issue with the man. In fact, according to Veronica Tilden, DO in her article “Restoring Male Fertility” in the Winter 2016 Wise Traditions magazine,
“When couples undergo medical workups, 40 percent of the time the problem can be attributed to the woman, 40 percent of the time to the man, 10 percent of the time to both and the other 10 percent no specific problem can be identified.”
It takes two people to make a healthy baby, so let’s explore two key nutrients necessary for sperm health.
When most people hear zinc, they think first to things like helping to kick a cold. While this is totally valid, it has some other important roles too. Zinc is a necessary part of being able to produce stomach acid. We’ve talked about digestion and the importance of having enough stomach acid before, but it’s so crucial for digestion and being able to snag all those glorious nutrients, like the ones necessary for reproduction and sperm production.
Another role of zinc is to boost sperm motility and increase volume! This study shows that zinc “was found to significantly increase the semen volume, sperm motility and the percentage of normal sperm morphology.” It’s been shown that infertile males have a much lower concentration of seminal plasma zinc. This is an important mineral to help ensure he can provide enough healthy swimmers.
Food sources of zinc
- Grass-fed beef
- Pumpkin seeds
Vitamin C, a water soluble vitamin, is another one that people turn to for colds as it is a powerful antioxidant. In terms of sperm health, it is not one to skimp out on because it keeps sperm healthy! A big topic that’s not talked about enough is the fact that there’s a maturation process for sperm, just like for eggs, and nutrition makes a difference. Sperm can become damaged through oxidative stress, often caused by damaged rancid oils in the diet. This is a big deal because that damage is in the form of DNA damage, which can lead to either miscarriage or contribute to birth defects. While it’s better to avoid those oils as much as possible, getting enough vitamin C can help ward off the damage.
This nutrient goes beyond just sperm health too. It is an important part of the whole process. Veronica Tilden, DO also states in the same article listed above,
”The vitamin C complex is a cofactors in many enzymatic reactions, including collagen synthesis. Collagen plays a key role in a man being able to maintain an erection.”
Before you run to the supplement aisle at Target to stock up on all the vitamin C, it’s important to know there’s a difference between synthetic and whole food vitamin C. The synthetic form of vitamin C is often in the form of just ascorbic acid. I think the best way to think about this is if true vitamin C is a car, ascorbic acid is the steering wheel. It’s just one small part of the whole complex. Aside from that, it’s often derived from GMO corn syrup. If you feel a supplement is necessary, go for a food based supplement. Food based supplements are literally made from foods. I recommend this one or this one.
Food sources of vitamin C
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Acerola cherries
A Word on Supplementation
We live in a society where we want quick fixes and easy pathways. Part of this, in my opinion, is solely relying on supplements to get specific nutrients into the system. This can end up causing problems because vitamins and minerals need to be in balance with other vitamins and minerals. So when you take any supplement in isolation, you run the risk of 1) taking more than you need, and 2) throwing off the balance of some other nutrient. For example, vitamin C works in synergy with vitamin E, and has an impact on the absorption of copper. Too much zinc, on the other hand, can impact calcium absorption.
I recommend relying on food as the first option for most nutrients. Nature has a way of pairing nutrients together that work together in the body. Supplements can have a place in filling the gaps, but it shouldn’t be the main intake, so aim for whole foods first.
Overall health of the man can have an impact on sperm health, but zinc and vitamin C are two important parts of creating healthy sperm.