What Causes Male Infertility and Can Nutrition Help?

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Fertility Leave a Comment

An antioxidant rich, nutrient dense diet can go a long way when it comes to male fertility! In fact, certain foods provide nutrients that can support men struggling with infertility. In this article I'm going to share key nutrients and foods to include in your diet, along with the best male fertility supplements to consider.

Check out the delicious super antioxidant filled smoothie recipe for future dads too!

Free Radicals & Male Infertility

Free radicals, which are produced by the body and encountered in our environment, cause destruction to the cells they encounter and are responsible for premature aging. Free radicals can be produced in response to natural metabolism that occurs in the body.

Free radicals lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when there are more free radical than antioxidants, which can lead to DNA damage.

Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals. The result when antioxidants are low in the body or there are more free radicals then the body can handle is oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is one of the most common causes of male infertility.

What Causes Oxidative Stress in Sperm?

It been estimated that between 30-80% of male infertility is due to oxidative stress.  Sperm are highly sensitive to oxidants that come from the outside environment as well as endogenously as part of normal cellular waste.  

It been estimated that between 30-80% of male infertility is due to oxidative stress. Click To Tweet

Oxidants have been shown to reduce sperm motility and increase DNA fragmentation.  DNA fragmentation is essentially a measure of the DNA damage of the sperm.  

Other Causes of DNA Damage in Sperm That Cause Male Infertility:

  • Varicocele
  • Exposure to Tobacco
  • Prescription Drugs, such as SSRI
  • Fevers
  • Chemotherapy
  • Recreational Drugs
  • Aging

Nutrition for Healthy Sperm

Many men have diets low in antioxidants. In my practice, I’ve found that simply increasing food based sources of antioxidants can have significantly increase sperm count and motility.

And research has shown there is also an association with increased live birth and pregnancy rates when dads are consuming ample antioxidants prior to conception. Another reason to eat more fruits and vegetables daily! 

One of the easiest ways to get highly absorbed antioxidants is through a daily smoothie. This is one of my most popular preconception smoothies that I prescribe.

Give this recipe a try and keep reading because there are more food is medicine tips I'm sharing!

Future Dad’s Antioxidant Smoothie

  • 1 large handful dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, spring mix)
  • 1 cup berries of choice
  • 2 TBSP pumpkin seeds
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1 lime, skin cut off
  • 1 cup or more of almond, coconut, hemp, rice or other milk
  • Optional: handful of ice cubes

Blend until creamy and enjoy

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⏰Male Fertility Time! Oh hello penis! 👋 You get so little attention on this IG account, but I want you to know I see you & I know how important you are in all this baby making talk we've been having. Testes, I see you too. 😉 Don't think we've forgotten about you. I know how awesome you are at making cells that swim & go the distance to find their soul mate in hopes she'll accept them & the two will become one amazing organism…baby!⁠ ⁠ We have been talking #fertility, pregnancy & postpartum this week & now it is time to bring the sperm talk into the convo. If you've missed these posts, go back now & read them!⁠ ⁠ I'm going to spare you the anatomy/ physiology tour of our male counterparts, although my nerdy self is struggling to hold back. And this image from @duvet_days has you covered. Instead, let's get in to what you need to know.⁠ . 7️⃣2️⃣‼️ . 72 days is the magic number for sperm maturation. Your eggs are 90 days. Do math & just have him start preconception care with you!⁠ ⁠ What's important?⁠ So glad you asked…there's an article for you two🙌 in my bio @drjolenebrighten👆. But let's be real, if you're a woman then you're gonna read for him & get him in the know. Yes, I know there are some special dudes out there 🦄 but mostly, it's women who get the men up to speed.⁠ ⁠ Antioxidants⁠, like I shared for healthy eggs yesterday, are also important for sperm quality. Go back & read that post to get a sense of what we are talking about. The health of the sperm is just as important as the health of your egg. In fact, there have been studies that link developmental issues back to dad's sperm. Nutrients that are important include: ✨Selenium ✨Vitamin C ✨Vitamin E ✨Zinc ✨Folate ✨B12 ✨Magnesium ✨And more! As I talk about in the article in my bio link (BTW, it'll only be there for 24 hours so get it now), herbs like Rhodiola & Saw Palmetto can also have benefits. If you saw my stories yesterday then you know I was out eating oysters & when you read the article you'll know exactly why that is an amazing fertility superfood! Check out the article to see what other foods support sperm health! #drjolenebrighten #fertilityjourney #beyondthepill ⁠ ⁠

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Fertility Diet For Men

Ensuring your diet is filled with fresh vegetables and fruits is one of the best ways to increase fertility supporting nutrients. In addition to the foods in the smoothie recipe above, consider adding these foods to your diet.

  1. Brazil Nuts are rich in selenium, which can support sperm health and is used to create glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects our cells.
  2. Red Bell Peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, another antioxidant that supports sperm health.
  3. Sunflower Seeds contain vitamin E, which can help with the morphology of sperm. Morphology refers to the size and shape, which matters when it comes to successfully conceiving.
  4. Wild Caught Salmon provides omega-3 fatty acids that help build better prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that allow the sperm to penetrate the egg. If you're trying to conceive, it may also be helpful to consider 1500-3,000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement.
  5. Oysters are often touted as an aphrodisiac, but did you know they can provide zinc that can improve sperm counts? Next time you see oysters on the menu, go ahead and order a round!

Male Fertility Supplements

Supplements can be a helpful addition to diet and lifestyle practices aimed at improving fertility. Here is a short list of supplements to consider.

  1. Adaptogenic Herbs. These are herbs that support optimal adrenal function. They help with balancing hormones and creating a better stress response. Rhodiola and other ginsengs have been long touted for their ability to support men's hormones. Adrenal Support is a formulation I use in my clinic at 2 caps with breakfast daily to provide adaptogenic herbs, plus additional nutrients that support sperm, like vitamin C.
  2. Saw Palmetto is an herb that when partnered with zinc can help create optimal testosterone levels. Saw Palmetto is typically dosed at 300-600 mg daily with zinc at about 10-30 mg. Check out my Saw Palmetto Plus if you're looking for a comprehensive formula to balance testosterone.
  3. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential for DNA synthesis. We often hear how important this is for women, but folate is equally important for the development of sperm. I recommend selecting for folate, methylfolate or a NatureFolate blend over folic acid. Not matter how you look at it, folic acid is a synthetic and cheaper version that is not as high quality as other forms. Taking folate as part of a B complex vitamin is one the best ways to ensure you're getting all the B's you need in one place. My B-Active Plus is a complete B complex vitamin using only the highest quality of each vitamin.

Using food based medicine, along with targeted nutritional supplementation and lifestyle medicine, I’ve helped many couples succeed in becoming pregnant and creating an amazing pregnancy experience.

The most optimal time to start is at least 3 months prior to conception since sperm takes about 72 days to mature. But of course, it's never too early to start getting your fertility health optimized!

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.