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Men’s health

What Your Semen Analysis Really Means & How to Get the Results You Want

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A Brief History of the Mighty & Motile

The World Health Organization has the very influential job of determining the reference ranges for semen analysis. These reference ranges were overhauled in 2010 from the previous 1999 ranges, which were much higher. There is no doubt that sperm quality has declined over the past 50 years. Some may argue that it’s due to emerging standards of scientific evidence, but in my opinion the strongest evidence is the western lifestyle: poor diet, toxic exposure, xenoestrogens, electromagnetic frequencies, obesity, sedentary habits, the list is endless.

The 2010 standards are based on the semen of fertile men who fathered children within the 12 months preceding the study. The ranges represent the lowest 5th percentile of these men. Meaning:

1) 95% of men should have higher sperm parameters than the reference range

2) Values deemed “normal” are in fact suboptimal for natural conception

 

The 5 Ws of Semen Analysis

Who: All men wanting to conceive

What: You ejaculate into a cup. It’s not comfortable, but it’s important. You need to abstain from ejaculation 2 days prior to collecting your sample, but you need to have ejaculated at least 5 days before your sample. This is to prevent DNA fragmentation and death of the sperm, if they sit around for too long they actually kill themselves…

When: Your doctor may advise you to try for a year before going for a semen analysis. This doctor says 6 months is enough waiting, especially if you’re over 35 (it’s not just women who age you know!) Once you’ve completed one semen analysis, repeat testing is recommended in two weeks. Semen is ever changing and one snapshot is not enough.

Where: Most likely in a private room at a fertility clinic (bring your own “motivation”), but you may be given the option of home. If you’re obtaining your sample at home you essentially have to sprint like Road Runner to the lab afterwards because the sperm do not survive long outside of body temperature. It’s not recommended.

Why: To determine if you have sperm (in your semen) capable of natural conception, or if they’re going to need a little help getting to their destination.

 

The Numbers At a Glance

 

Parameters WHO 2010 Criteria – 5% percentile What if you want sperm that’s 50% better than your friends?
Volume of semen (ml) 1.5 3.7
Concentration of sperm (per 1ml of semen) 15 million 73 million
Progressive motility *forward moving sperm 32% 55%
Morphology

*normal sperm forms

4% 15%

 

Other Important Tests For Your Semen

  1. Liquefaction – Your semen should liquefy within 15 minutes so that the sperm can be free to swim
  2. Colour – Semen is grey and opaque. The more translucent it is the less sperm is in it.
  3. pH – Semen has a basic pH of 7-10, this is to help the sperm survive upon ejaculation.
  4. DNA Fragmentation – This is a measure of damaged sperm DNA. A value > 50% is very poor DNA integrity and is linked to poor conception and miscarriage.
  5. Sperm antibodies – These are antibodies the sperm develops against itself. Antibodies affect the sperm’s ability to bind to the egg and for the embryo to develop normally.

 

Beyond Semen: Tests for Whole Body Health

Sperm health depends on whole body health. Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, liver health, and weight are all contributing factors to sperm health.

 

What do the Numbers Mean?

If you score lower than the 5th percentile, the next step is hormone testing and a referral to a urologist to determine the root cause. The most common causes of low sperm counts include:

  • Retrograde ejaculation – semen enters bladder instead of urethra
  • Hypospadias – opening of urethra on underside of penis
  • Cryptorchidism – undescended testes
  • Absent vas deferens – congenital condition
  • Klinefelter syndrome – extra X chromosome without symptoms
  • Varicocele – testicular swelling and block of blood flow
  • STI – chlamydia, gonorrhea
  • Endocrine dysfunction – hypogonadism
  • Metabolic dysfunction – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
  • Lifestyle factors – smoking, alcohol, medications, poor diet, sedentary etc.
  • Age – semen parameters decline around age 35-38

 

What Are Your More Invasive Treatment Options?

Based on sperm concentration:

  • IUI – between 5 and 10 million/ml
  • IVF – less than 5 million/ml
  • Hormone therapy – less than 5 million/ml
  • TESE (testicular sperm extraction) – undetectable sperm but normal testosterone

 

What Are Your Less Invasive Treatment Options?

It takes 90 days for sperm to mature. Lifestyle has the potential to change EVERYTHING

 

Lifestyle: YESSES

  • Ejaculate often – every 3 days to prevent DNA fragmentation. Your semen volume may decrease but your sperm concentration will not
  • Wear protection…when playing sports – injury causes the production of sperm antibodies
  • Brush your teeth – periodontal disease is linked to poor sperm quality
  • Sleep well – melatonin is an essential antioxidant for sperm protection
  • Buy organic & filter your tap water – pesticides and chemicals distrust hormones
  • Use a sperm friendly lubricant, like: Yes Baby, Astroglide TTC, and Pre-Seed
  • Foods to incorporate on a daily basis for sperm production & protection: pumpkin seeds, eggs, olive oil, garlic, POM juice, oats, barley, walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts

 

Lifestyle: NOT SO MUCH

  • Chemical sunscreens – contain benzophenones, which are harmful to your testes
  • Direct Wi-Fi – the frequencies and heat from your laptop are damaging, turn your laptop into a standing desk
  • Extreme heat- the scrotum likes a breeze! Avoid seat warmers, hot tubs, long stretches of sitting, skinny jeans, tighty-whities, long distance biking etc.
  • Extremely strenuous exercise – don’t decide to compete in an Iron Man or train for your first marathon while trying to conceive
  • Smoking – including marijuana, it impairs sperm count and motility
  • Alcohol – no more than 3 drinks a week
  • Coffee – no more than 200mg daily (that’s 1 small Starbucks/ Tim’s)
  • Processed meats – they’re full of crap, need I say more

 

Naturopathic Strategies

Book an appointment with me. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I use herbs, supplements, nutrition, and acupuncture to help you produce more sperm and optimize the sperm you already have.

  • Your sperm needs fuel just like any other cell in your body and sometimes it needs a little supplemental support
  • Your sperm also needs anti-oxidants and vitamins to protect it from damage
  • Herbs and acupuncture can improve your libido and decrease erectile dysfunction
  • Most of all, I can answer all of your questions and support you through the conception process. Simple solutions can make all the difference

5 Ways to Keep Your Testicles (and everything they stand for) in Tip-Top Shape

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Although I’m not an owner of testicles, testicular health is of the utmost importance to me and it should be to you too. I’ve learned over time from the men in my life that testicles are the sole representation of manhood.

  • If you have a pair it means you are courageous and strong and everyone else should grow some exactly like yours
  • If you have a pair it means you have a strong opinion on boxers, briefs, and of course the aptly named boxer brief
  • If you have a pair it means you’re the master of secret (or not so secret) adjustments
  • If you have a pair it means you can create life even once you’re over the hill
  • And if you have a pair you protect them like your life depends on it because even though they make you strong they can be oddly fragile

So if you own a pair of balls, or even just one, I want to help you keep them healthy. This blog post is dedicated to the health of your nuts and the future spawn they may contain. Here are five ways to keep your testicles in tip-top shape:

 

  1. Ejaculate often. Very often

    Tell your partner (or yourself) that I said so. If you want genetically healthy sperm, the more you ejaculate the better the sperm DNA will be. Periods of abstinence, even as short as 3 days, increase the amount of DNA in the sperm that is fragmented or broken. The longer the sperm hangs out in the epididymis the more likely it is for the sperm to become damaged. I’m only talking about DNA quality here, if you’re concerned about the quantity of semen you have, you should ejaculate less and save some for later.

  2. Give your scrotum a well-deserved breeze

    Cosmo Kramer wasn’t messing around when he switched from briefs to boxers. Your precious balls maintain a very specific temperature, 35 degrees Celsius to be exact, to manufacture the highest quality semen. You already know that the scrotum moves depending on temperature, you can thank the cremaster muscle for that. When you’re in the pool the scrotum rises closer to the body to maintain its temperature, and we all understand the consequent phenomenon of shrinkage! But it’s not just water that changes scrotal temperature; sitting for long periods of time at a desk, wearing the latest skinny jeans, placing your laptop on your groin, and putting your cell phone in your pocket all compromise your scrotal temperature. There’s only so much hanging your balls can do to escape the heat of these activities before the sperm starting committing suicide- a process known as oxidative stress mediated apoptosis.

  3. Wear protection… when playing sports

    I don’t now how painful it is to be kicked in the groin but judging by the reactions I’ve seen I’m lead to believe that it’s worse than childbirth. You already know that a jockstrap is your friend, but the damage from a testicular injury lasts much longer than the pain you experience. When the vasculature in the testicle is compromised, i.e. when blood vessels are broken, your body can mount an immune response against your sperm and create antibodies that kill it! Frequent genital infections, and a condition known as varicocele, can also lead to the creation of anti-sperm antibodies.

  4. Let your testicles tan

    What I mean to say is, think twice before you load up on sunscreen. Even though your testicles live in a place where the sun don’t shine, applying sunscreen that contains benzophenones to any place on your body can affect the health of your boys. You can still use sunscreen when you’re on a tropical nude beach, just opt for one without benzophenones.

  5. Brush your teeth and sleep well

    Good oral hygiene isn’t just for real men, it’s for everyone. Believe it or not, but healthy testicles start in the mouth. That’s not a pun. Research is noticing associations between periodontal disease and semen quality. After you brush your teeth, you should get a good night’s rest because the hormone melatonin that you produce while sleeping is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are important for testicular cancer prevention, and all cancers for that matter.

    I hope you use these five simple strategies to take care of your testicles AND your manhood. The next time you tell someone to grow a pair, think about how you’re treating your own!

    Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner HERE. Learn about her healthy conception program HERE

 

References:

 

Bozhedomov, V. A., Nikolaeva, M. A., Ushakova, I. V., Lipatova, N. A., Bozhedomova, G. E.,   & Sukhikh, G. T. (2015). Functional deficit of sperm and fertility impairment in men with        antisperm antibodies. Journal of reproductive immunology, 112, 95-101.

Buck Louis GM, Kannan K, Sapra KJ, Maisog J, Sundaram R. Urinary concentrations of             benzophenone-type ultraviolet radiation filters and couples’ fecundity. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Dec 15;180(12):1168-75.

Klinger A, Hain B, Yaffe H, Schonberger O. Periodontal status of males attending an in vitro         fertilization clinic. J Clin Periodontol. 2011 Jun;38(6):542-6

Moore, C. R., & Quick, W. J. (1924). The scrotum as a temperature regulator for the         testes. American Journal of Physiology–Legacy Content, 68(1), 70-79.

Pons, I., Cercas, R., Villas, C., Braña, C., & Fernández-Shaw, S. (2013). One abstinence day         decreases sperm DNA fragmentation in 90% of selected patients. Journal of assisted r eproduction and genetics, 30(9), 1211-1218.

Good Wood: 8 Foods You Should Be Eating To Keep It Up & Running

By | Men's health | No Comments

Think of your penis as a heart in your pants…it’s just an extension of your vascular system. Anything that affects your cardiovascular system also affects your penis, this means cardiovascular concerns like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol also affect your ability to get an erection and maintain a full stream of urine. Eating foods that lower cholesterol and blood pressure will do wonders for your genital health for years to come! But that’s not all that affects the function of the penis; you also need a healthy amount of testosterone for optimal penile health. Testosterone is not only important for your manly functions, but also for preventing cardiovascular disease.

Let’s share a little background information on the hormone testosterone:

  • Testosterone is secreted by the leydig cells in the testes
  • There’s also a small amount of testosterone that comes from your adrenal glands
  • Its main purpose is to support spermatogenesis (the making of sperm!)
  • Testosterone is responsible for things that make you manly (muscle, hair growth, deep voice, bone density etc.)
  • There are TWO forms of testosterone in your body: there’s testosterone and there’s dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is much more potent than regular testosterone and binds to receptors like super glue. DHT is mostly bad news. It’s the main culprit in male pattern baldness and an enlarged prostate. It’s all well and good to have DHT in puberty, but after that it’s not so helpful. But don’t worry, there’s food for reducing DHT too!

  • Eating foods that support testosterone production are just as important as foods that support vascular health. Luckily, there are plenty of foods to incorporate in your diet that will do both!

  1. Pumpkin Seeds
    As a fantastic source of zinc; they can increase your testosterone, reduce DHT, and promote sperm count and motility. You can grind them in a smoothie or eat them as a snack.
  2. Eggs
    Everyone raves about eggs having a complete amino acid profile (which is true), but it’s also true that an egg or three a day can keep “bad” cholesterol away. No need to skip the yolk, the yolk has all the best nutrients and pro-penis-properties.
  3. Soy Beans/ Milk
    The component we’re looking at in soy is beta-sitosterol, which has been shown to lower prostate cancer risk, decrease DHT, increase urinary flow, and inhibit estrogen production. If you’re afraid of soy (there’s no need to be worried when it’s organic and non-GMO) you can opt for rice bran or wheat germ as they have beta-sitosterols too.
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    It’s part of a wonderful Mediterranean diet and two tablespoons a day can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and make a sweet salad dressing! Drizzle it on everything you eat for more flavour and health.
  5. Garlic
    Two to five cloves a day can lower your blood pressure while preventing erectile dysfunction… just make sure you brush your teeth after you eat!
  6. Pomegranate Juice
    Not the sugary stuff, the real POM juice. It’s a powerful anti-hypertensive and powerful anti-oxidant, which means a more powerful cardiovascular system!
  7. Oats
    Apple crisp, oatmeal cookies, overnight oats- they all have beta-glucan which can lower cholesterol and keep your blood flowing right into your penis.
  8. Barley
    Also a source of beta-glucan to prevent arteriosclerosis and cook a fantastic stir-fry.

Making the right dietary choices will keep your whole body healthy, including your heart and penis. If you stay clear of processed foods and added sugar and always keep moving, then you won’t have to worry about your vascular health!

References:

Naumann, E., VaN Rees, A. B., Önning, G., Öste, R., Wydra, M., & Mensink, R. P. (2006). β-Glucan incorporated into a fruit drink effectively lowers serum LDL-cholesterol concentrations. The American journal of clinical nutrition83(3), 601-605.

Mutungi, G., Ratliff, J., Puglisi, M., Torres-Gonzalez, M., Vaishnav, U., Leite, J. O., … & Fernandez, M. L. (2008). Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet. The Journal of nutrition138(2), 272-276.

Stowe, C. B. (2011). The effects of pomegranate juice consumption on blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Complementary therapies in clinical practice17(2), 113-115.

Xiong, X. J., Wang, P. Q., Li, S. J., Li, X. K., Zhang, Y. Q., & Wang, J. (2015). Garlic for hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytomedicine22(3), 352-361.

Moreno-Luna, R., Muñoz-Hernandez, R., Miranda, M. L., Costa, A. F., Jimenez-Jimenez, L., Vallejo-Vaz, A. J., … & Stiefel, P. (2012). Olive oil polyphenols decrease blood pressure and improve endothelial function in young women with mild hypertension. American journal of hypertension25(12), 1299-1304.

Hussain, M., Banerjee, M., Sarkar, F. H., Djuric, Z., Pollak, M. N., Doerge, D., … & Wood, D. P. (2003). Soy isoflavones in the treatment of prostate cancer. Nutrition and cancer47(2), 111-117.

CHIA, S. E., ONG, C. N., CHUA, L. H., HO, L. M., & TAY, S. K. (2000). Comparison of zinc concentrations in blood and seminal plasma and the various sperm parameters between fertile and infertile men. Journal of andrology21(1), 53-57.