Dear Dr G,

I have been reading with frustration the recent articles in male infertility and ART (Artificial Reproductive Technology).

I really think human reproduction is a natural way of creating babies, therefore isn’t having natural ways to enhance sperm count the best?

We are living in Asia, where there is a long track record of natural complementary medicine to help with many conditions. I am hoping to put Dr. G on the spot and shed some light on research that is available to supplement male fertility.

I am in my mid-thirties. My wife and I have been married for more than six years.

We have been to the doctors many times and realise the fertility problems have always been my poor sperm counts.

We have been dreading Chinese New Year, as the well-intended yet insensitive relatives have been putting pressure on us about not having any offspring yet.

Many also continue to suggest test-tube babies as a quick fix solution.

My wife and I have been trying for a baby but despite the advancement in science, we are really against a non-natural method of creating the next generation.

Apart from worrying about the future health of the baby, I am equally worried about the risks my wife must take with all the medication to induce ovulation.

First, what constitutes a low sperm count?

Can you outline some supplements that can help, and how much to take?

What plant-based supplements can help to boost male sperm counts?

Lastly what lifestyle changes can I consider enhancing the sperm production?

We are optimistic about a tiger baby this year; we are just not so keen on a shortcut!


Natural Nathan

One in 20 men are affected by decreased fertility, and low sperm count is a common source of such “short coming”. The World Health Organisation estimated that one in six couples have difficulties conceiving despite having regular intercourse with no contraception, and one in three cases is due to male-factor fertility problems.

Oligospermia is a scientific term referring to semen with low concentration of sperm. However, other factors such as poor morphology and motility, can also result in difficulties in conception. The “goal posts” for this “numbers game” have shifted in the last few years. For many decades, the low counts were defined as concentrations less than 20 million sperms /ml of ejaculate. The World Health Organisation had reassessed the criteria and established a lower reference point of 15 million sperms/ ml, consistent with the 5th percentile of ejaculates for normal men.

The severity of oligospermia can also be further classified as mild, moderate and severe, ranging from 10 to 20 million, 5 to 10 million and less than 5 millions, respectively. The severity of oligospermia helps clinicians determine the mode of treatment, varied from lifestyle changes, taking supplements and test tube babies. The causes of male fertility can stem from genetic causes, childhood mumps and general state of health. While male fertility is not always treatable, many natural means can definitely boost the chances of having a baby. These include healthy lifestyle, supplements and plant-based remedies.

The most familiar supplements that can help with fertility are perhaps Vitamins C, D and Zinc. Vitamin C is well-known to enhance immunity. However, the antioxidant quality of the supplement can also boost sperm quality. One study revealed that infertile men taking 1g of Vitamin C supplement twice a day for up to two months can reduce sperm DNA damage and increase the sperm motility by 92% and counts by 100%. On the other hand, the observation that men with Vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have low testosterone has sparked some studies in fertility enhancement. One study revealed that 65 men taking daily 3,000IU of vitamin D3 increases the sperm count and testosterone by 25%.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in shellfish, eggs, and meat. Observational studies revealed zinc supplements can reverse the low sperm counts in men with zinc deficiencies. Another supplement that may be useful in boosting sperm count is D-aspartic Acid (D-AA). Taking 2.7g of D-AA for three months can increase the testosterone levels by 60% and sperm counts and motility by up to 100%.

Other natural supplements can include plant-based extracts. Tribulus Terrestris also known as puncture vine, is a medical herb used in enhancing male fertility. Six grams of such roots for two months can improve sperm quality. Popular culinary ingredient, Fenugreek herb also has a similar impact on sperm counts. Lastly, Ashwagandha, a medicinal herb used in Ancient Indian tradition is known to improve male fertility by boosting testosterone. Although the use of supplements and plant-based remedies have scientific backings of evidence-based research, the studies usually have small numbers of participants and short follow-up. Besides, the variable ingredients also make the interpretation of the studies difficult.

Living a healthy lifestyle is the real key for better fertility for both men and women. Eating a balanced diet and adequate hydration can ensure all the necessary nutrients are available for spermatogenesis. In addition, regular exercise and a less stressful lifestyle can also allow the body to repair itself and enhance sperm counts. One that note, Happy CNY to everyone, and hopefully a fruitful and fertile Tiger Year for some!

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