Male Fertility: Some Background Info
Dr. Eric Viegas, ND
The term infertility has no agreed upon standard meaning. Generally, if a couple has not conceived after 1 year of sexual intercourse they are labelled as infertile.
About 16% of Canadian couples fall into this territory of infertility; a figure that has doubled since the 80s.(1)
In about 3 out of every 10 cases, male fertility issues are the sole causative factor in a couples’ fertility problems.
Some factors at play here include: poor sperm quality, low sperm count, sexually transmitted infections, chronic illnesses (eg. diabetes), smoking (both tobacco and marijuana), alcohol, and poor weight control (overweight or underweight).
Recently, an article published in TIME magazine highlighted a study on the long-term use of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Researchers found that, after 6 weeks, men taking daily ibuprofen experienced “compensatory hypogonadism” suggestive of male fertility problems.
Basically, increasing ibuprofen levels in the blood also saw a rise in the body’s production of luteinizing hormone (LH). LH functions as a signal for the production of testosterone in the testicles. However, study participants did not see a rise in testosterone production despite LH levels being high.(2)
When researchers studied the effects of ibuprofen on testicular function, they found the cells responsible for testosterone production (those that respond to LH) were suppressed.(2)
Another possible reason for male infertility is mitochondrial dysfunction.(3)
Mitochondria are the powerhouses or batteries of our cells, and sperm is no different. Mitochondrial DNA mutations that result in poorly functioning mitochondria have been identified in males with fertility concerns.
Fortunately, there are diet and lifestyle interventions that show promise in their ability to increase the number of healthy mitochondria, boost sperm function, and help cope with the stress of fertility problems.
Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor for more information on how fertility issues can be effectively treated with a holistic approach to wellness.
- Government of Canada. Fertility. Feb 4, 2013. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/fertility/fertility.html accessed Jan 15, 2018.
- Kristensen DM, et al.Ibuprofen alters human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism. PNAS Jan 2018; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1715035115.
- Nakada K., et al. Mitochondria-related male infertility. PNAS 2006; 103(41): 15148-15153.