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Here's How Alcohol Affects Fertility and Sperm Quality

Are you concerned that alcohol could impact your fertility? For many of us, alcohol is part of our life in some way – whether it’s enjoying a cold beer after work on a Friday or celebrating good news with a glass of champagne. Whilst a weekly drink or two is not going to have a huge impact on your health, drinking too much alcohol could be bad for both you and your swimmers. 

 

What counts as too much alcohol?

 

So what actually is ‘too much’ alcohol? Well, it sort of depends who you ask – and where you live. In England, the NHS recommends that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units (24-32g) of alcohol per day and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units per day. Both men and women should stay below 14 units/week (112g/week). A unit is 8 grams of pure alcohol according to the NHS (or around half a pint)

 

In the USA, NIH recommends not to exceed more than 4 units/day (56g/day) and 14 units/week (196g/week) – so that would work out around a bottle of wine and a couple of small beers.. In Denmark, the national recommendation is that women should consume no more than 7 units (84g) per week and men no more than 14 (168g). In Denmark 1 unit of alcohol = 12g pure alcohol. 

 

At ExSeed Health, we use the guidelines that a unit is equal to 12 grams of pure alcohol since it is the standard used in most studies. We recommend that no more than five units (60g) per sitting and a total of no more than 14 units (168g) per week – is deemed low risk for men. For men who drink regularly, this is a good guideline to know when to ease off the bottle, both for better sperm and better overall health.

 

The research into how alcohol affects fertility

 

So, does alcohol impact your fertility? Whilst the majority of studies indicate that boozing is not great for your swimmers, the jury (aka the medical community) is still out on exactly how much you should drink whilst trying to conceive and how much alcohol a man can drink without it having an impact on his sperm quality and fertility. Most of the studies show that maintaining a moderate consumption of no more than 2 drinks per day is safe.

However, some clinical studies show that infertile patients who drink daily have poor semen quality and hormone imbalances – which were worse compared with patients who do not drink daily.

 

In a Danish study from 2014 with 1,221 male participants, it was found that consumption of more than 5 units in a typical week was associated negatively with sperm concentration, total sperm count, and percentage of sperm cells with standard shape (morphology). This link was most pronounced for men with a typical intake of more than 25 units/week – around 9-12 pints of beer. 

 

One thing is for sure; chronic, excessive alcohol consumption (i.e. more than 5 units a day) is not a good idea  – this is known as binge drinking and will have far reaching effects on your health – and potentially fertility.  

 

The wider effect of drinking 

 

Alcohol can not only have a direct impact on your sperm quality, but it often goes hand in hand with other unhealthy habits. Late nights and hangovers can disrupt your sleep pattern, which has been shown to reduce fertility. You’re also more likely to pick up a packet of cigarettes or take recreational drugs when you’ve been drinking. Your eating habits can also be affected when drinking heavily (think late night kebabs, or next morning fry up) and this too can decrease your fertility. 

How to reduce your alcohol consumption

 

We get that it’s hard to avoid booze when temptation seems to be everywhere – but it’s definitely possible to enjoy a social life whilst cutting down on alcohol.  We are not going to tell you to give up alcohol completely! However, keeping alcohol consumption on a moderate level – max 14 units per week – will help protect your sperm. 

 

Our 5 tips to help your alcohol consumption

  • Avoid triggers – If you really feel like you need to get back, become away of the people or situations that trigger your cravings and learn how to manage them.
  • Eat food and drink water – This will help to keep you at a good level and stop you from getting drunk. It’s hard to be mindful once you’re already pissed – so slow yourself down with soft drinks and snacks.
  • Count your drinks –  Look into the concept of mindful drinking. Become aware and keep track on how many units you drink to make sure that you don’t go above the recommended unit/week limit
  • Get rid of alcohol at home – Keep alcohol for times you’re out and about and socialising – and when you’re at home indulge in some healthy sperm boosting  smoothies instead.
  • Try alcohol free drinks – You’ll be surprised how great the selection of alcohol free beers is nowadays, some taste just like the originals! Here’s our list of the top ten best fertility friendly beers.

 

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.