Things That Affect Your Reproductive Health
One of the best thing you can do for your reproductive system is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Since spermatogenesis (when your body creates sperm) is the highest functioning system in the human body, mistreating your body affects your reproductive system.
Create healthy habits:
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly: Vigorous exercise seems to improve sperm counts, probably because it improves hormone balance and functionality and reduces obesity.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
Also, there is no data that wearing briefs, riding a bike, using protein supplements, taking creatine, or drinking moderately (one alcoholic drink a day or less) impacts your reproductive health.
Effect of Drugs/Testosterone Enhancement
Certain prescription and recreational drugs (marijuana and cocaine) can be bad for your reproductive health. The most common prescription drug that causes fertility problems for men is exogenous testosterone (testosterone that you get from outside sources, rather than the testosterone that’s produced in your body).
While we have might recommend using medication to increase testosterone, actually giving a man exogenous testosterone will shut off his sperm production.
How Do Hormones Regulate Testosterone?
Why is it harmful to give a man exogenous testosterone? Here is an analogy to help understand this: If we think of the male hormone (or endocrine) system as a thermostat that regulates testosterone, we can think of exogenous testosterone as a space heater. If you place a space heater in a room and heat it up, the thermostat in the room will shut off as it sees the room is already warm and doesn’t need to heat the room.
In our case, exogenous testosterone is the space heater and the thermostat is the male hormone system. Giving a man exogenous testosterone shuts down the male endocrine axis and stops sperm production (though usually not permanently).
Alternatively, we may use other medications such as clomid that cause the thermostat to go into overdrive. These medications act like placing an ice pack on the temperature sensor of the thermostat. Doing this tricks the thermostat into thinking it’s cold in the room by altering the feedback and artificially increasing the temperature.
The main point here is to not, under any circumstances, take testosterone if you are trying to have children.
Nutraceuticals are generally any non-FDA regulated substance, also known as health or dietary supplements. All of these supplements are not required to undergo testing for any of their uses because they are made of natural substances not synthesized chemicals.
This means that their quality is not tightly controlled and that many make false claims of their benefits. Very few, if any of them, have scientific evidence proving they are effective.
The good news is that most will not hurt your reproductive potential, and some may help. However, we don’t have data to support these claims (with just a few exceptions). In general, we are believers in alternative and complementary medicine along with medical care and feel they can have a valuable role in treating patients.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
The one nutraceutical we recommend is Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10. We suggest that patients take 200 mg of this twice daily as four out of five studies have shown that this drug can help sperm quality of men. CoQ10 works by acting as a cofactor in mitochondria, which are the power plants of all cells.
CoQ10 is thought to lessen the damage caused by oxidative stress experienced by sperm (it is an anti-oxidant) and to help sperm move more efficiently.
Oncofertility is a term used to describe fertility preservation in men and women diagnosed with cancer. We will make any scheduling changes necessary to see newly diagnosed men with cancer who wish to put their sperm in a sperm bank before having chemotherapy or radiation treatments, which could impact their reproductive health.
If the man is azoospermic (he has no sperm in his ejaculate), we are happy to provide surgical sperm extraction should this be desired by the patient. Patients must understand that future use of any of these samples may require in-vitro fertilization.