Promoting Male Reproductive Health

Here's some actionable information for men who want to be proactive about their reproductive health.

reproductive health - sperm swarm illustration

A high sperm count is one indicator of reproductive health.

Illustration by Fotolia/aleksbond

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Sperm, it turns out, are deeply vulnerable to environmental toxins. It's no accident that male fertility has declined through the 20th century as use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic hormones have increased and fission byproducts have accumulated. Until there is a permanent solution to this evolving crisis, individual men can take a number of important steps to guard their own reproductive health.

[1] Call your state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administrations OSHA offices if you suspect job exposure to any toxic substances.

[2] Wash all store-bought fruits and vegetables carefully, with soap. (Better yet, raise your own vegetables and meat organically.)

[3] Learn how to perform a testicular self-examination. This quick painless procedure (similar to a woman's breast self-exam can detect testicular tumors early when treatment gives best results. A free brochure explaining this procedure can be obtained from the American Cancer Society office in your community.

[4] Eat foods high in zinc, the trace mineral particularly important to men's reproductive health and fertility. The typical American diet tends to be deficient in zinc because commercial processing removes the substance from foods. Fresh peas and carrots, eggs,milk, whole grains nuts, and seeds are all zinc-rich. (Note: If you obtain the mineral from your diet, you'll probably not need to ingest commercial zinc supplements. If you do choose to take zinc pills,though, don't exceed the recommended dosage or you may experience a toxic reaction.)

[5] Take vitamin C. It helps eliminate lead and other toxic metals from the body.

[6] Drink only in moderation, if at all. Alcohol depresses the production of testosterone, the male sex hormone.

[7]If you're trying to sire a Child, don't wear tight underwear or take hot baths (both kill sperm). Also, don't smoke ... anything.

[8] Ask physicians and pharmacists about the reproductive effects of any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you might be taking. (Tagamet, for instance — the nation's most popular anti-ulcer drug — has been shown to reduce sperm counts substantially.)

[9] Avoid unnecessary X-rays.

[10] If you're curious about your own sperm count, consult a urologist or a family planning clinic for a fertility test.