THE QUESTION: I’m doing everything I can to increase my chances of having a baby (like eating the right foods and managing my stress), but is there anything my guy can do to enhance his fertility?
ALISA’S ANSWER: This is such a great, important question that not enough couples ask. So often we get caught up focusing on female fertility that we completely forget to acknowledge the profound role men have in the baby-making game. The great news is, the short answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” — there are plenty of things men can do to increase the odds of successful conception, and getting a few factors straightened out can have a big impact.
When we think about endocrine disruptors and reproductive obstacles, we often think of big concepts like environmental pollutants and genetically modified Franken-foods. And while these big-picture factors certainly play a significant part in compromising fertility, there are so many smaller, under-the-radar aspects of everyday life that can add up to become major roadblocks as well.
Here are a few things you might not realize are impacting your man’s fertility:
1. Pesticides in sneaky places
You may fill your grocery cart with organic produce in an effort to avoid pesticides. That’s great! But did you know these harmful, fertility-destroying chemicals can lurk in other places besides the grocery store?
This one comes as a shock to many women and men, but one place essentially covered in pesticides is … the golf course. Really! Pesticides are actually applied to golf courses in higher concentrations than just about any other type of land in the country — including farmland!
According to the organization Beyond Pesticides, it takes a ton of chemicals to preserve the pristine green turf and that includes synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and more. These harmful chemicals have been associated with everything from kidney and liver damage to neurotoxicity to — you guessed it — endocrine disruption and reproductive effects.
If your man is an avid golfer, he’s likely hitting the green in shorts and a shirt, exposing his skin to the elements, working up a sweat, and repeatedly picking up a ball that’s been rolling around in all those chemicals. Not good. Even if your guy has never picked up a club, he may still be exposing himself and his hormones to the same kinds of dangerous pesticides if he ever does lawn work or doubles as your in-house, ant-killing exterminator. All those chemicals can mean fertility challenges.
2. Off-balance gut bacteria
Believe it or not, the gut plays a major role in reproductive health. The gut really does rule all; while a microbiome disruption can be at the root of pretty much any health problem across the board, it can really wreak havoc on hormones.
By now, we’ve all heard about the importance of gut bacteria. While we like to think of ourselves as autonomous, independent individuals, the truth is, bacteria really do run the show! We need to maintain a delicate balance of gut bacteria in order to stay healthy. When the bad bacteria outnumber the good, however, that delicate balance can be disturbed. And in our modern world, this can happen pretty easily,
Gut health is a big deal, and one major consequence of an imbalanced microbiome is the possibility of micronutrient malabsorption. When you can’t get access to the vitamins and minerals necessary to support proper hormonal production, problems will inevitably arise, and this of course includes reproductive problems as well.
3. Low testosterone
If your guy is moody, overweight, or seriously not interested in sex, then he may have a hormonal imbalance – specifically, too much estrogen and too little testosterone. Testosterone keeps men (and to a certain extent, women!) physically strong and stoked for sex. If something disrupts the body’s natural healthy levels of the hormone, all sorts of symptoms like fatigue and even depression can arise. In addition, low testosterone and elevated estrogen can severely impact the quality, mobility, and motility of a man’s sperm, which can severely compromise a couple’s ability to conceive.