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Inadequate sperm production and low sperm quality are some of the most common reasons for male infertility as these decrease the odds of one of the sperms fertilizing the egg for conception.
According to the World Health Organization, the normal concentration of sperm is at least 20 million/ml of semen. (1)
Fewer than 15 million/ml is considered a low sperm count, also called oligozoospermia and oligospermia. (2) Conception problems are associated with fewer than 40 million moving sperms in the ejaculate.
Causes of Low Sperm Count
Oligospermia can happen due to a wide variety of reasons and contributing factors. Some common reasons are:
- Hormonal abnormalities
- Infected semen
- Infection in the prostate gland
- Varicoceles (enlargement of the veins within the scrotum)
- Damaged sperm ducts
- Use of anabolic steroids
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug abuse
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Certain medications, including testosterone replacement therapy, cancer medications (chemotherapy), and antidepressants
- Heavy metal exposure
Even vaginal lubricants tend to be toxic to sperm.
Recent studies indicate that heating of the testicles due to electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) can lower sperm motility and testosterone levels. (3) Thus, habits like keeping a laptop on your lap and a cell phone in your pants pocket are often discouraged.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Sperm Count
The main sign of a low sperm count is not being able to father a child.
However, those who have some underlying medical conditions that lead to a low sperm count may experience some additional symptoms. Such symptoms include:
- Problems related to sexual function
- Pain or swelling in the testicle area
- Reduced facial or body hair
Simple Ways to Increase Your Sperm Count
Here are some home remedies to increase sperm count.
1. Do moderate exercise
Studies have found that moderate exercise can help boost healthy sperm production.
In fact, a 2013 study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that the increase in sedentary lifestyle among young men has led to a decline in the overall quality of semen.
The study found that young men who lived a sedentary lifestyle and watched more than 20 hours of television a week had a 50% lower sperm count compared with those who did not watch much TV.
On the other hand, those who engaged in at least 15 hours of moderate exercise a week had better sperm quality and 73% higher sperm count than those who engaged in little or no exercise. (4)
Another 2017 study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health also suggests that intense physical activity may affect semen concentration. (5)
To increase your sperm count, do some type of moderate physical exercise for at least 1 hour a day on a regular basis. Outdoor physical activities (except cycling) and weight training are also beneficial.
Note: Avoid overexertion as it can lead to a decrease in sperm count. Cycling, too, is not recommended as it can place pressure against the scrotum and increase scrotum temperature.
2. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad for your overall health. It can lead to low sperm quality and can affect the fertility of men.
A 2006 study published in Human Reproduction reports that current smoking can moderately impair the semen quality. Hence, it is advisable to abstain from smoking to avoid decreased fecundity. (6)
Another study published in the Journal of Advanced Research in 2010 found a positive link between cigarette smoking and male infertility.
Smoking can reduce sperm production, sperm motility, sperm normal forms, and sperm fertilizing capacity. These happen due to increased seminal oxidative stress and DNA damage. (7)
A 2016 study published in European Urology reviewed the results of over 20 different studies and found that smoking consistently reduced sperm count. (8) Looking at the results, it is advisable to take steps to quit smoking.
3. Reduce your stress levels
Stress negatively affects sexual activity, be it, men or women. (9) Stress raises the hormone cortisol, which in turn negatively affects the testosterone level. A low level of testosterone levels affects male fertility.
A 2015 study published in Nature Reviews Urology found stress as a causative factor in male infertility due to its negative effect on testicular function. (10)
Another 2015 study reports that stress management is warranted for male infertility cases. (11)
To manage your stress, try taking a walk in nature, meditating, taking up a hobby, cooking, exercising, or spending time with friends.
4. Enhance your fertility with maca root
Maca root of the black variety can help improve sperm production and motility. It is a popular fertility herb that helps balance hormones.
In a 2001 study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, nine normal men aged 24–44 years were given tablets of maca (1500 mg/day or 3000 mg/day) for 4 months.
It was found that after the treatment, there was an increase in seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculum, motile sperm count, and sperm motility. It was also noticed that serum hormone levels were not modified with maca treatment. (12)
Another 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that that maca possesses fertility-enhancing properties in men and can be used by men who prefer to use an alimentary supplement to enhance fertility. (13)
How to use:
- Take 1 to 3 teaspoons of maca root in two divided doses for a few months daily.
- You can add it to a glass of water, healthy smoothie, or a protein shake or just sprinkle it on cereal. As maca root is high in fiber, start by taking ½ teaspoon and gradually increase the dosage over a few weeks.
5. Reap the benefits of ashwagandha
A 2013 pilot study by Indian researchers, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that ashwagandha root extract can significantly increase sperm count, semen volume, and sperm motility. The study participants were given 675 mg of ashwagandha root extract in three divided doses daily for 90 days. (14)
The study clearly highlighted the therapeutic value of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for the treatment of oligospermia that leads to infertility. (14)
Plus, this herb promotes healthy testosterone production. It also improves overall health, increases vitality, and reduces stress and anxiety.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of ashwagandha powder, also known as Indian ginseng, in 1 glass of warm milk. Drink this mixture twice daily for a few months.
- Another option is to take ashwagandha root extract. Consult your doctor for the proper dosage.
6. Tribulus can be beneficial
Tribulus Terrestris, also known as gokshura, is an Ayurvedic remedy to increase sperm count and improve sperm quality as it can enhance hormone levels.
A 2012 study by Indian researchers also found this aphrodisiac herb to be helpful in treating oligospermia. (15)
In another 2017 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers investigated the effects of direct addition of Tribulus Terrestris extract on human sperm parameters and found it to be effective. (16)
Take 1 to 3 capsules of 500 mg Tribulus Terrestris daily for a few months, but only after consulting your doctor.
7. Korean red ginseng is worth a try
Korean red ginseng is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to increase testosterone, sperm count, and sperm motility to enhance male fertility. It can even help improve erectile performance.
A 2016 study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that Korean red ginseng can be used for the treatment of male infertility. However, more studies are needed to evaluate the dose and duration of treatment. (17)
In another study published in Experimental Gerontology in 2017, researchers investigated the effect of Korean red ginseng water extract (KRG-WE) on the expression level of spermatogenesis-related key biomolecules and sex hormone receptors and ultimately came to the conclusion that long-term administration of Korean red ginseng water extract can help delay the aging-induced testicular dysfunction. (18)
Take 1 to 3 capsules of 500 mg Korean red ginseng daily for at least 3 months. Consult your doctor before starting this or any other supplement regimen.
Additional Tips to Boost Male Fertility
- As garlic acts as a natural aphrodisiac and increases sperm production, you can include 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves in your daily diet.
- Low doses of a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) present in green tea can improve sperm quality, so try to drink 1 or 2 cups of green tea daily.
- Go organic in terms of food as well as other products, such as deodorants and other cosmetics, to avoid toxic chemicals.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C, zinc, selenium, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, spinach, eggs, lentils, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, and oranges. You can also take nutritional supplements after consulting your doctor.
- Avoid the use of plastic bottles, containers, and other items made of plastic to reduce xenoestrogen (environmental estrogen) exposure.
- Do not wear tight briefs or boxers.
- Steer clear of hot baths and saunas to avoid heating the testicles, which is detrimental to normal sperm production.
- Keep your weight in check.
- Get proper sleep.
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You must consult a doctor if you are not able to conceive a child after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse. This will help rule out the possibility of any medical condition that might be causing the problem.
In the meantime, you can try the above listed tips and remedies to help improve your sperm count and sperm quality.