How to Increase Sperm Count: 9 Proven Methods and 4 Hacks
In 2017, a study published in Human Reproduction Update claimed sperm counts had dropped by 53% over the last 38 years from 1973 to 2011. This sparked a major discussion in the health community as low sperm counts not only predict a decline in population health but also can serve as a marker for the overall health status of men worldwide.
Besides the ability to populate the planet, low sperm counts reflect the quality of the man’s lifestyle and are the leading cause of male infertility. Obesity, diet, sedentary life, stress, and environment can change the body’s ability to produce those valuable little swimmers. This study illustrated the idea that men need to pay better attention to their health both for the sake of themselves and the sake of their future families.
Whether you’re looking to make babies or just be a healthier human being, there are some simple things every guy can do to improve both the quality of his sperm and his life.
A Brief Overview of Sperm Production
Before we look into ways to reverse the results of this research, we need to go back to the basics and understand how sperm is produced. Knowing that will help us evaluate potential solutions to the overall decline in sperm counts.
Where is Sperm Produced? It Begins in the Brain
You might have thought sperm production starts a little farther south, but it actually starts in your brain, specifically the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus can be thought of as your body’s thermostat. Not only does it control body temperature but also many different hormone levels in your body.
In the instance of sperm production, the hypothalamus monitors testosterone levels in the blood. When levels drop, the hypothalamus kicks on and starts a chain reaction. This almond-sized part of your brain sends gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary gland which, in turn, cranks out luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) sends it down to the testes.
Luteinizing Hormones Travel to the Testes Where Testosterone is Released
When LH and FSH make it to the testes, they signal each testicle to release testosterone. LH causes the stimulation while FSH sends testosterone to the sperm factory (the seminiferous tubules). These tubules house the germ cells which will eventually grow into mature sperm by using testosterone as a fuel source.
Testosterone Triggers Meiosis to Form New Sperm Cells
Sertoli cells are the workers in the sperm factory which grow and mature sperm cells and prepare them for “shipment”. These cells, through the use of testosterone, trigger meiosis which is the production and maturation of sperm.
Meiosis is the cell division process which reduces DNA carrying chromosomes in half and packages them into sperm to transport to the female egg for fertilization. Once this process is complete, Steroli cells move baby sperm to the center of the seminiferous tubules where they grow and mature over a span of about 72 days. When they reach full maturity and learn to swim, the sperm is stored ready for launch.
What is the Average Sperm Count for Men?
According to a study by the World Health Organization, a healthy sperm count is around 10-15 million sperm per milliliter or about 30 to 40 million per sample. This is the low end of the range found when the researchers compared samples from a wide range of men from across the planet. Numbers lower than 10 million per milliliter is one marker for male infertility.
Sperm count, however, isn’t the only issue. Other characteristics of the individual sperm, such as mobility and morphology (shape), play just as important of a role as overall sperm count. Basically, you can have all the boys in the pool but if they can’t swim, it doesn’t really matter. The idea with increasing sperm count is to have the most swimmers in the water to increase the chances of having a Michael Phelps racing for the gold. So let’s look at what we can do swing the odds in our favor.
While sperm motility is an important issue, a higher count is more important than anything.
Understanding How to Increase Sperm Count Naturally
Several things we do (or don’t do) each day can have a huge impact on sperm health. Here are a few methods to increase sperm levels naturally:
Physical Exercise Can Increase Your Testosterone Levels
Exercise is the cure-all for almost every physical, mental, and emotional ailment in the history of humanity. Exercise reduces several of the problems known to cause low sperm count:
- Exercise reduces both obesity and stress.
- Exercise cuts out the sedentary lifestyle which causes obesity.
- Exercise increases oxidation and perfusion of tissues and organs allowing your body to work more efficiently.
- Exercise boosts testosterone production.
Getting More Sleep Has Been Linked to Increased Sperm Count
Just like exercise, sleep is vitally important to both a healthy sperm count and a healthy lifestyle. Sleep reduces stress and allows your body to recharge and refuel the hormone pathways critical to producing high-quality swimmers. One study in China showed sleeping around 7 to 7.5 hours each night increased sperm production compared to those who got less than 6 hours or more than 9.
Eat a Diet Rich in Vitamins and Healthy Fats, Low in Phytoestrogens to Increase Semen Volume
There are two dietary components to consider when looking at foods to increase sperm production. The first is vitamins and healthy fats. We’ll get to a few specific vitamins in a moment but eating vitamin-rich foods in general means you’ve made a choice to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to work more efficiently and with the possible added benefit of reducing obesity we’ve already mentioned.
Healthy fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 found in fish and walnuts, are associated with higher sperm counts compared to the typical monounsaturated fats found in burgers, fries, and other fast foods typical of the Western diet. In fact, those monounsaturated fats were shown to reduce overall sperm count and activity.
The second is reducing foods containing phytoestrogens. As the name implies phytoestrogens are plant-based hormones which function in our bodies just like the female sex hormone estrogen. The data here is conflicting with some studies reporting no effect on sperm production or testosterone concentration and others suggesting the opposite. The list of these types of foods is extensive and it is hard to reduce them completely from your diet. Foods with the highest concentration of phytoestrogens include flax seed, soybeans (and soy-based products) and whole grain cereals.
How to Increase Sperm Count at Home With Supplements
Sometimes, natural remedies may not be enough. Here are a few options to boost sperm production and semen quality through supplementation:
Vitamin C and Other Antioxidants Can Stave Off Infertility
Antioxidants remove dangerous compounds in our bodies known as free radicals. Free radicals cause DNA and cell damage, speed up the aging process, and inflict a wide range of diseases. With all the mayhem free radicals cause, your body has to work overtime to repair and heal itself. This leaves no time or resources for normal body functions like sperm production. Increasing antioxidants, whether through diet or supplementation, increases your defense against free radicals.
Vitamin D Deficiency Has Been Linked to Low Testosterone Levels
Over the last few years, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a laundry list of diseases and poor health outcomes. In many ways, vitamin D works like a hormone more than a traditional vitamin.
Scientists have found vitamin D receptors on sperm and in the testicles as well as being synthesized by those Sertoli cells mentioned earlier. Vitamin D deficient rat models showed 65 percent fewer sperm in males and 73 percent fewer pregnancies in females.
Supplementing vitamin D is as easy as drinking a glass of milk or increasing sun exposure by as little as 15 minutes. Your primary care provider can also measure your current vitamin D level and recommend further supplementation if needed.
Fenugreek is a Popular Herb For Male Fertility
Fenugreek is a culinary and medicinal herb more commonly associated with increased milk production in breastfeeding mothers. However, several studies have shown benefits for men as well. 600 milligrams of fenugreek has produced increased testosterone levels, libido, strength, and overall sexual performance.
Zinc Could be a Vital Nutrient in Maintaining Healthy Testosterone Levels
Zinc is another one of those antioxidants shown to improve sperm quality in men. It is essential to sperm production, motility, and morphology.
Zinc can be found in a variety of foods like red meat, fish, and eggs. Zinc is also a common supplement found in every vitamin shop. The recommended daily intake is 15 milligrams. An added bonus to supplementing with zinc is it can balance out the loss of testosterone associated with excessive amounts to exercise.
Ashwagandha is an Herb That May Help Increase Semen Volume
Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian medical herb with a history of improving fertility. One study gave participants 675 milligrams of the supplement and saw a 167 percent increase in sperm count, a 53 percent increase in semen volume, and a 57 percent increase in sperm motility.
A quick internet search will provide a variety of ashwagandha sources including capsules, liquid drops, and powders. Most capsule forms come in approximately 460mg per dose. Be sure to do your research on the dosing and the quality of the individual supplement if you choose to go this route.
Some tips on how to increase sperm count fast
What if you want the fast result for a higher total sperm count and boost your sperm concentration? Here is what you need to do:
Make Sure Infections and Toxic Exposures Aren’t Tanking Your Sperm Production
When trying to explain the cause of a large reduction in sperm count, several interesting “explanations” have been offered up. The internet is full of articles linking cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices to eradicating a man’s private parts. Overall, the evidence is lacking and the primary causes are related to the other items listed in this article.
That’s not to say you can go swimming in a vat of glowing green goo and not come out looking like the Toxic Avenger. Little effects, such as radiation exposure or increased air pollution, can compound on top of those other issues but the bigger problems need to be solved first before diving down this rabbit hole.
Lower Your Stress Levels So That Your Body Can Focus On Reproduction
Stress wrecks your health. It can change hormone levels, cause you to lose sleep, and change your diet, all of which have been shown to reduce sperm counts. Reducing stress allows your body to get back to normal. In addition to exercise, some ways to reduce stress include meditation, focused breathing, or talking out your problems with a partner or friend.
Quit or Cut Down on Smoking, alcohol and drug use
Is there ever a good reason to smoke? We’ve already discussed reducing toxic exposures as a means to increase sperm count. Smoking is a direct port for toxic exposure to your body. Smoking also reduces your body’s oxygen volume which reduces your ability to send energy and nutrients to vital organs including the testicles.
The same smoking song and dance goes for drug use. You’re taking a toxic substance and injecting, snorting, or smoking it straight into your bloodstream. Drugs mess with so many different neurochemicals and transmitters, it’s hard to pick a starting point to tell you how much of a bad idea this is, so just say no.
Alcohol is a more complicated story. Alcohol doesn’t have the same immediate health risks as smoking or drugs can. That doesn’t mean alcohol is risk-free. Several studies document the inflammatory and hormonal changes alcohol has on your body and your ability to produce high-quality sperm. In addition, alcohol is made with rice, wheat, hops, barley, and other grains high in phytoestrogens.
Don’t Overheat Your Testes in the Sauna or Hot Tub
There’s a reason your testicles hang where they do: sperm cells are very sensitive to temperature. Heat causes damage to DNA structures causing a decrease in both viability and motility. One study also suggests heat stress to sperm can change the odds of you have a boy versus a girl.
While hot tubs and saunas might be the obvious place to cook your berries, they aren’t the only causes of higher scrotal temperatures. Other sources of heat exposure include tight clothing, sitting in the same posture (sedentary lifestyle), and underwear made of thick, heat-absorbing materials.
How Long Does it Usually Take for Sperm Count to Increase?
Sperm count can change over days, weeks or even months depending on the changes to all the things mentioned above. Remember the growth cycle for sperm is 72 days so it could take a few months before consistent higher numbers are seen.
Another important note, especially for those trying for a family, concerns the frequency of “attempts”. Frequent sexual activity and ejaculation can decrease sperm count. The best way to have the most swimmers in the pool is to have a break for a few days.
How to Monitor Your Sperm Production
Typically males with fertility problems would collect semen sample and run an analysis for sperm concentration. Based on the sperm growth cycle, you shouldn’t have to sperm count analyzed any more than every 3 months. You could test as often as monthly, but these analyses can be costly and time-consuming. The best option is to discuss your goals and situations with your primary care provider and develop a plan together.
Sperm counts are important, both as a marker for fertility and as an indicator of overall health. Several things in our daily lives can affect these levels and it is important to recognize and deal with them accordingly. Take time to evaluate yourself and see where you can make changes in the areas above to improve the quality and number of your sperm.