Preconception care, fertility diets and fertility concerns were once considered women’s issues. Well, men you are now part of the fertility picture! This of course makes sense given “it takes two to tango”!
The role of the man in conception is much more than just performing on the big day. It is also about the diet and lifestyle of the man leading up to conception, and therefore the consideration of preconception care is vital for men wanting to conceive a healthy baby.
Stress plays a significant role in your health and wellbeing, and it can impact on your fertility, so if you are feeling stressed but wanting to have a baby, now is the time to address the stresses in your life and improve your body’s ability to respond to or cope with stress.
Everyone experiences stress differently, however some common stressors include:
- External stressors such as your work, relationships, family or financial pressures.
- Internal stressors such as a diet high in processed foods, salt and sugar and low in essential nutrients; and lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol or a lack of exercise.
How does stress impact male fertility?
Just like women, when you are stressed your adrenal glands (triangle-shaped glands sitting just above your kidneys) produce and release a hormone called cortisol. It signals to the body that now is not the time to reproduce as there are more urgent matters to deal with, and cortisol does this by interrupting or changing the balance of hormones in the body.
Specifically for men, cortisol interacts with testosterone and can temporarily lower your testosterone levels while the stress threat is there.
Temporary changes to hormone levels during acute episodes of stress are not an issue as it allows your body to respond to the situation at hand (think fight or flight). The issue with cortisol arises when you are under prolonged stress as this can disrupt your hormonal balance, and can potentially impact your testosterone levels over a long period of time, which invariably might impact your chances of conception.
Internal stressors can negatively affect the development of healthy sperm. Sperm requires vital nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids (to name but a few) to protect them against DNA damage, toxin exposure and inflammation.
You need healthy sperm for fertility, and indicators for healthy sperm include; sperm motility (the way sperm moves) and morphology (sperm shape). You also need to have enough good quality sperm to successfully fertilise an egg. You need the right level of testosterone (not too high and not too low) and the right nutrients to ensure your semen parameters (the measurements of healthy sperm) are as good they can be, and considering it can take up to 80 days for mature sperm to be present in semen, planning for pregnancy is essential.
3 signs that stress may be affecting a man’s fertility
Low libido or sexual performance – low testosterone levels have often been discussed as the cause of, or contributing factor to, low libido in men.
Loss of motivation, confidence or changes in mood – this may be a sign that your testosterone levels are low and is a good place to start investigations; however this should always be considered in the context of a full health assessment.
An increase in body fat and a loss of muscle tone – low testosterone levels, or an imbalance of hormones can result in changes to your metabolism and body composition.
Boost your fertility by adopting these 3 stress-reducing practices:
Feed your body the right fuel for healthy testosterone levels
Healthy hormones require; zinc, vitamin C, omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B6….and the list goes on. So choose unprocessed wholefoods, colourful fruits and vegetables, and good quality meat and fish. Variety is the key to success so try to incorporate as much colour into your weekly meals as possible. Not only will the right fuel help your testosterone but it will also help you cope with the external stressors in your life.
Find a stress busting activity that works for you
Not everyone is ready to take up meditation, yoga or tai chi, so find a stress reducing activity that works well for you. This might be just sitting in a quiet spot in your house for 10 minutes with no phone, TV or other distraction; it might be going for a leisurely walk on your own; or you might find relaxing to some music helps you de-stress.
You may have to try a few different things before you find the technique that works well for you. If you are not sure where to start, try a guided relaxation session (a simple google or youtube search will bring up many options).
Keep active with regular moderate exercise
High intensity exercise is stressful to the body so too much can place your body under too much stress. So make sure you alternate high intensity exercise with more moderate exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming.
Do you need help to identify your stressors and improve your stress response?
If you’re not sure where to start with improving your stress levels, let me help you. I can make a thorough assessment of your diet and lifestyle, and provide appropriate nutritional and herbal treatments as well as diet and lifestyle suggestions.