WHAT IS MALE INFERTILITY
Male infertility is defined as any condition which adversely affects the chances of initiating a pregnancy with his female partner. Most commonly, those problems arise if unable to produce or deliver fully-functioning sperm, and problems with the production and development of sperm are the most common problems of male infertility. Sperm may be underdeveloped, abnormally shaped or unable to move properly. Otherwise, normal sperm may be produced in abnormally low numbers (oligospermia) or seemingly not at all (azoospermia).
Problems with male fertility can be caused by a number of health issues and medical treatments. Some of these include:
- Varicocele. A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle, and result in reduced quality of sperm.
- Infection. Some infections can interfere with sperm production or sperm health or can cause scarring that blocks the passage of sperm. These include inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis) or testicles (orchitis) and some sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea or HIV.
- Antibodies that attack sperm. Anti-sperm antibodies are immune system cells that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and attempt to eliminate them.
- Tumors. Cancers and non-malignant tumors can affect the male reproductive organs directly, through the glands that release hormones related to reproduction, such as the pituitary gland, or through unknown causes. In some cases, surgery, radiation or chemotherapy to treat tumors can affect male fertility.
- Undescended testicles. In some males, during fetal development one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the sac that normally contains the testicles (scrotum). Decreased fertility is more likely in men who have had this condition.
- Hormone imbalances. Infertility can result from disorders of the testicles themselves or an abnormality affecting other hormonal systems including the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. Low testosterone (male hypogonadism) and other hormonal problems have a number of possible underlying causes.
- Defects of tubules that transport sperm. Many different tubes carry sperm. They can be blocked due to various causes, including inadvertent injury from surgery, prior infections, trauma or abnormal development, such as with cystic fibrosis or similar inherited conditions.
- Chromosome defects. Inherited disorders such as Klinefelter’s syndrome — in which a male is born with two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (instead of one X and one Y) — cause abnormal development of the male reproductive organs. Other genetic syndromes associated with infertility include cystic fibrosis, Kallmann’s syndrome and Kartagener’s syndrome.
- Celiac disease. A digestive disorder caused by sensitivity to gluten, celiac disease can cause male infertility. Fertility may improve after adopting a gluten-free diet.
- Certain medications. Testosterone replacement therapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), certain antifungal medications, some ulcer drugs, and certain other medications can impair sperm production and decrease male fertility.
Overexposure to certain environmental elements such as heat, toxins and chemicals can reduce sperm production or sperm function. Specific causes include:
- Industrial chemicals. Extended exposure to benzenes, toluene, xylene, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, painting materials and lead may contribute to low sperm counts.
- Heavy metal exposure. Exposure to lead or other heavy metals also may cause infertility.
Radiation or X-rays. Exposure to radiation can reduce sperm production. With high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced.
- Overheating the testicles. Elevated temperatures impair sperm production and function. Frequent use of saunas or hot tubs may temporarily impair your sperm count.
Sitting for long periods, wearing tight clothing or working on a laptop computer for long stretches of time also may increase the temperature in your scrotum and may slightly reduce sperm production.
HEALTH, LIFESTYLE & OTHER CAUSES
Some other causes of male infertility include:
- Drug use. Anabolic steroids taken to stimulate muscle strength and growth can cause the testicles to shrink and sperm production to decrease. Use of cocaine or marijuana may temporarily reduce the number and quality of your sperm as well.
- Alcohol use. Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction and decrease sperm production. Liver disease caused by excessive drinking also may lead to fertility problems.
Smoking. Men who smoke may have a lower sperm count than do those who don’t smoke. Second-hand smoke also may affect male fertility.
- Stress. Stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm. Severe or prolonged emotional stress, including problems with fertility, can affect your sperm count.
- Depression. Research shows that the likelihood of pregnancy may be lower if a male partner has severe depression. In addition, depression in men may cause sexual dysfunction due to reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, or delayed or inhibited ejaculation.
- Weight. Obesity can impair fertility in several ways, including directly impacting sperm themselves as well as by causing hormone changes that reduce male fertility.
- Nutritional deficiencies. A decrease in certain important vitamins and minerals such as zinc, Vit C, Vit E, selenium, etc may also affect sperm health.
HOW CAN NATURAL MEDICINE HELP?
A Detox Can Help!
A comprehensive integrated detoxification program is a good starting point to help improve male fertility. A detox will help reduce the toxic load and improve liver clearance of heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, drugs, hormones, etc that may be affecting sperm health.
At Melbourne Naturopathy we specialise in detoxification programs that may help clear these toxins that are impacting on sperm health and overall well being.
OPTIMISING NUTRITIONAL STATUS
As mentioned previously, there are certain nutritional deficiencies that can affect sperm health. Ensuring you have optimal levels of these specific vitamins and minerals will help improve sperm health. There are also many herbal remedies that will help improve sperm health, as well as optimising overall health and decreasing stress.
At Melbourne Naturopathy we recommend nutritional supplements and herbal remedies to support male nutritional status.
The impact of stress on infertility cannot be underestimated, both as a cause and as a consequence of not conceiving. Stress impacts the reproductive system on all levels. Stress can interfere with certain hormones needed to produce sperm.
There are various vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, dietary and lifestyle change that can be recommended to help improve overall stress and well being, which may help improve overall male fertility.
So if you are experiencing problems with male fertility, don’t hesitate to contact Melbourne Naturopathy today for an appointment.