Get better sperm quality

Our advice for better sperm quality

How can you optimise your sperm quality?

Lifestyle affects your sperm quality - we've all heard it. It's not wrong. But it's also not guaranteed. After all, a man's sperm quality is primarily genetically determined. That doesn't mean you can't impair your sperm quality with an inappropriate lifestyle. But it does mean that even if you follow all the good advice, you're not guaranteed top sperm quality. Ouch or hurray? - Well, the key lies in how you act on the information! In this article, I'll tell you how healthy lifestyle habits can improve your sperm quality.

Anne/Donor Coordinator

Anne Johannsen

Do you give your testicles air and cooling?

There's a reason your testicles hang outside the rest of your body. Sperm develop optimally at 35°C - two degrees below body temperature. When sperm form at higher temperatures, the genetic material becomes unstable as very high temperatures kill them.
Have you thought about why the scrotum rises closer to your warm body when the outside temperature is low? Conversely that your testicles get as far away from your body as possible when the weather is hot?
In the mission to optimise your sperm quality, it is therefore a good idea to avoid saunas and very hot tubs. Also consider avoiding heat in the car seat, sitting with your computer on your lap and wearing tight trousers.
Sperm cell formation, from when a stem cell in the testicles becomes a finished sperm cell, takes 2½ months. If your testicles are exposed to high heat, you may find that your sperm quality is affected for a few months. So high fever can also mean reduced sperm quality in the following period.

Do you stay away from anabolic steroids?

You've probably heard the many horror stories about steroids. But did you know that the drug can also destroy your sperm production? You may be lucky that it returns once you've stopped, but often it can take years for it to normalise - if at all.
How is the drug damaging to my sperm, you may ask. Aren 'tanabolic steroids testosterone, and isn't testosterone supposed to be used for sperm production?
The answer
isyes - BUT testosterone produced by the body is produced in the testes, where the concentration of testosterone is about 100 times higher than in the blood. When one takes anabolic steroids, it is supplied in the blood, but not in the testicles. Itis the concentration of testosterone in the blood that regulates whether the Leydig cells in the testicles should produce more - so high concentration of synthetic testosterone in the blood means that the Leydig cells do not produce much testosterone, resulting in adrop in concentration in the testicles, so sperm cell formation comes to a halt. If thishappens over a long period of time, you risk destroying sperm production.

Do you eat healthily and exercise?

A generally healthy lifestyle with a low-fat, healthy and varied diet and moderate exercise often leads to better sperm quality. Conversely, high-fat diets, obesity and high intake of sugary drinks correlate with poorer sperm quality.
However, not all studies are equally convincing, and it remains to be seen whether the correlation between high intake of sugary drinks and sperm quality is actually due to the sugary drinks - or whether the subjects who drank a lot of sugary drinks were just generally living more unhealthy lives than the other participants. Researchers are fairly unanimous that sperm cell formation needs several different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, including vitamin D, zinc, selenium and Q10 (ubiquitin), and deficiencies of some of these can impair sperm quality. Eating a healthy and varied diet will help you meet your daily needs for the vast majority of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You get vitamin D mainly from the sun, because you make vitamin D in your skin when the sun hits your skin. But it also means that although vitamin D can be stored in our fatty tissues, the vast majority of us here in the northern hemisphere will be vitamin D deficient in the last months of winter. During those months, it's fine to supplement your diet with vitamin D, unless you're eating a vitamin D-rich diet, such as eating a lot of fatty fish.

Do you smoke?

Smoking can negatively affect your sperm quality. We also can't help but mention that maternal smoking during pregnancy can also affect your sperm quality. Of course, you can't use this information for your own sperm quality, but you can do something to make sure that your girlfriend/wife doesn't smoke during pregnancy.

Smoking and sperm quality

Are you aware of your stress level?

If you are stressed, it can negatively affect your sperm quality. In the sperm bank, we can clearly see when it's exam time.

How is sperm quality measured?

The quality of a semen sample is determined by several parameters. Quantity is one parameter. Here we are talking primarily about the concentration of sperm cells in the sample in millions per millilitre (mio/ml). Of course, the total amount of sperm in the sample (concentration x volume) is also important, as is the quality of the sperm counted. 

The quality of the sperm is defined by:

1) What proportion of sperm cells move. Movement is technically called motility. The most interesting sperm are those that not only move, but actually swim forward. These are said to be progressively motile.

2) The appearance of sperm cells, which is called morphology. When you get down to the nitty-gritty (fixing and staining the sperm, and microscoping at very high magnification), it's incredibly nice if 10% of the sperm are morphologically normal.

3) DNA stability of sperm cells. This measures the proportion of sperm cells with fragmented DNA. A sperm sample may be normal on other parameters but have a high DNA fragmentation index (DFI), which is associated with reduced fertility.
The WHO definition of normal semen quality is based on a study of more than 4500 men, all of whom had become fathers without fertility support within a one-year period. According to this definition, a sperm sample is normal if it has at least:
A volume of 1.5 ml 15 million sperm cells per ml (dead and live), of which at least 40% are motile, 32% are progressively motile and 4% are morphologically normal. However, as a sperm donor, your sperm quality must be significantly better than the above. It must also be able to withstand freezing reasonably well - the ability of sperm cells to withstand freezing varies.

REMEMBER! Your sperm quality varies

Having said all that, you need to remember one last important point: sperm quality is affected by many factors - including many more than mentioned above and factors that you can't necessarily control.

Therefore, sperm quality varies - sometimes significantly. So even when a semen sample is taken within the recommended withdrawal time, assessing one sample will not be enough to give a conclusion of your semen quality.

Antioxidants (bonus info)

In the body, many processes produce what are called free oxygen radicals. These are molecules that have an unpaired electron in one of the atoms they contain - such an unpaired electron will "go a long way" to find a mate, and in the process the oxygen radical can damage both the cell membrane and DNA.
Most cells in the body have "a toolbox ready and manpower to repair" minor damage. Sperm cells don't, so they are extra vulnerable to oxygen radicals. However, the body is amazing, as we know, so it (of course) has a defence ready in the form of endogenous antioxidants against free oxygen radicals. Optimally, the level of antioxidants will offset the level of free oxygen radicals. Scientists believe that imbalances in this ratio can affect sperm quality. Research is therefore continuing into whether and, if so, which antioxidants can improve sperm quality.

The studies show:

A few trials with antioxidant-rich preparations/juices have shown positive results. Conversely, researchers are puzzled that many antioxidants do not appear to be absorbed through the gut wall - at least their metabolites cannot be found in the blood. Recent research suggests that some antioxidants taken orally may not act as the direct "first-fighter" against free oxygen radicals, but that these antioxidants nevertheless boost the body's defences against free oxygen radicals by stimulating the body's own production of endogenous antioxidants.
Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables, and some in eggs, fish and dairy products. Very dark (red/blue) berries such as blueberries, blackcurrants, elderberries and chokeberries are particularly high in antioxidants, while pomegranate, galangarod and ginger are good sources of other types of antioxidants.

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