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Male Fertility Evaluations: What to Expect

Couple in hug watching sunrise togetherIf you are seeking to start a family, but are encountering problems, you are not alone. As many as 15% of couples struggle with conception, with male infertility accounting for or contributing to up to 60% of cases1. If you and your partner are part of this 15% of couples, you should both seek a professional fertility evaluation, as factors contributing to conception, or the lack thereof, are unique to each individual and couple. For men, a thorough male fertility evaluation usually involves examination of the following aspects:

 

Reproductive History

Your doctor will need to know a little more about you and your attempts at conception. You will need to provide information on things like:

  • when and how frequently you and your partner have sex
  • how long you have been having difficulty conceiving
  • childhood illnesses and developmental history
  • medical conditions, medications, and allergies
  • sexual history and STDs
  • exposure to toxins

Semen Analysis

In addition to knowing your history, the doctor will also want to understand where things stand today—with your semen. Analysis of a semen sample provides the doctor with information about sperm concentration, motility, and morphology, as well as overall semen volume. If the semen analysis raises any red flags, or if no abnormalities are identified that can account for infertility, additional information gathering and testing might be in order.

Medical History and Physical Examination

If further information is needed, the next step is to complete a medical history and physical examination. Your medical history can identify and risk factors that can contribute to infertility, including elements of your family history or lifestyle. The physical examination focuses largely on the reproductive organs, determining if any physical factors contribute to infertility.

Other Tests

Many causes of male infertility can be identified by the previous steps, but sometimes further testing is required. Each patient is unique, and a medical professional will work with you to determine which steps you need to take to determine the cause of infertility. For example, you may undergo an endocrine evaluation to determine if a hormonal abnormality plays a part, or your doctor may recommend ultrasonography to image your reproductive tract. These and many other specialized tests and procedures are available to aid your doctor in discovering the source of infertility. A thorough fertility evaluation performed by a caring medical professional will help you identify any obstacles to starting your family. Since many conditions that affect fertility can be treated, this evaluation may be the first step in opening doors to solutions.

  1. The Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2012). Diagnostic evaluation of the infertile male: a committee opinion. Fertility and Sterility, 98(2), 294–301. Retrieved from http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Committee_Opinions/optimal_evaluation_of_the_infertile_male(1).pdf
  2. Our practice websites:
    1. https://brucegilbertmd.com
    2. http://nycryo.com
    3. http://vasectomyreversalmd.com

 

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Antioxidants and Male Fertility

BlueberrySome diets recommend eating ‘Superfoods’—foods that contain antioxidants and have supplemental health benefits. These foods are supposed to be good for your overall wellness, with the potential to help treat certain conditions or symptoms. But what you don’t normally hear is how these antioxidant-rich foods can help your reproductive health.

Antioxidant Basics

When molecules in your body become oxidized, free radicals are released. These free radicals roam the body and cause chain reactions that end up damaging and killing cells. Antioxidants are the antidote. Not only can they stop these harmful chain reactions in their tracks, they can also prevent molecules from becoming oxidized in the first place1.

Antioxidants and Fertility

Free radicals aren’t all bad. A certain level of free radicals is normal, and even necessary, in the body. For men, normal sperm function requires the presence of free radicals. But an excess of these molecules can negatively impact sperm function and subsequent fertilization. In fact, some data suggests that high levels of free radicals contribute to 30-80% of cases of male infertility2. And not only can these free radicals make conception challenging, but the damage they do to sperm can result in birth defects, disease, pregnancy loss, and other complications if your partner does get pregnant3. Antioxidants reduce the levels of free radicals in your body, in turn reducing the damage they do to your sperm’s DNA and improving sperm motility.

Antioxidant Sources

Antioxidants are relatively easy to come by. Your body makes some of its own, but you can boost your internal supply. Many dietary supplements contain antioxidants, but it is ideal if you go right to the source: fresh foods. Examples of antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • berries and red grapes
  • broccoli, spinach, and artichokes
  • beans and legumes
  • whole grains, nuts, and seeds

 References

1. Sies, H. (1997). Oxidative stress: Oxidants and antioxidants. Experimental Physiology, 82 (2),  291–295. Retrieved from http://ep.physoc.org/content/82/2/291.long

2. Agarwal, A. & Allamaneni, S. S. (2011). Free radicals and male reproduction. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 109(3), 184–187. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22010591

3. Gharagozloo1,P & Aitken, R. J. (2011). The role of sperm oxidative stress in male infertility and the significance of oral antioxidant therapy. Human Reproduction, 26(7), 1628–1640. Retrieved from http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/7/1628.long

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Why Your Heart Health is Important in the Bedroom

Young couple sleeping in a bedSex is an emotional, physical, and sensory experience, but sexual performance is dependent on physical processes. If you want to improve your performance in the bedroom, you would do well to begin by focusing on your heart. Why the heart? Because the heart is what pumps your blood, and erections are caused by increased blood flow to the penis. If you want to improve your vascular health (and your sexual performance along with it), it’s good to remember that “whatever’s good for the heart is also good for the penis”1.  The arteries in the penis are three times smaller than the arteries supplying the muscles of the heart. Therefore, many common diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity will often affect the smaller vessels in the penis first making erectile dysfunction and early indicator of vascular health.

High Blood Pressure

Individuals with high blood pressure often blame their medication for negative sexual side effects. While these medications can decrease sexual function, high blood pressure itself can also be the cause. High blood pressure can change patterns of circulation in the body, even damaging the inner lining of arteries—both of these effects can decrease blood flow to the penis and impact sexual performance2.

High Cholesterol

While your body needs a certain level of cholesterol to function properly, too much cholesterol can be bad for your heart, as well as your performance in the bedroom. An overabundance of cholesterol clogs arteries and restricts blood flow. Without proper blood flow throughout your body (and to your penis), reaching and maintaining an erection can be more difficult.

Food

What you eat plays a big role in your heart health, impacting your blood pressure and cholesterol level. But in addition to eating right to avoid or treat these conditions, there are foods you can eat to improve your sexual function and drive. See our earlier blog on the Mediterranean Diet (http://bit.ly/1l8sfHC). For example, spinach contains magnesium, which helps dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. Spinach and other green vegetables also contain folate, which can help rid your body of homocysteine. This harmful substance encourages plaque buildup in arteries and puts you at risk for peripheral arterial disease3, so eating your veggies is good for your heart health and your sexual health.

References

1. Men’s Journal. 6 things that hurt sexual performance. Retrieved from http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/6-things-that-hurt-sexual-performance-20140210

2. Harvard Health Publications (2004). High blood pressure can affect your sex life, says the Harvard Heart Letter. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/high_blood_pressure_and_sex

3. Men’s Health (2013). How to eat for better sex. Retrieved from http://www.menshealth.com/sex-md/better-sex-diet

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Acupuncture for Men’s Health

Man Undergoing Acupuncture Treatment In SpaAcupuncture is a popular form of complementary medicine. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM),a s of 2007, 3.1 million Americans1 were using acupuncture to assist with a variety of conditions. Acupuncture practitioners insert thin needles through the skin to stimulate specific muscles and nerves in the body, promoting healing and reducing pain. If you’re interested in learning more about this healing practice, here’s a look at how acupuncture may be able to help you.

Headaches and Pain

Acupuncture can be used to treat pain in many areas of the body. While most patients seek acupuncture for back pain, the practice is also commonly used for joint pain, neck pain, and headaches2. Science doesn’t always agree about the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for all types of pain, but some studies have shown that acupuncture used in conjunction with traditional medical care can be more effective at reducing pain than conventional treatment alone2. This goes for everything from chronic lower back pain to osteoarthritis knee pain to tennis elbow.

For tension headaches, acupuncture does more than encourage your tense muscles to relax.  A contributing factor to tension headaches is an imbalance of neurochemicals like serotonin. Acupuncture appears to send signals to the brain3 to adjust the levels of these brain chemicals, resulting in reduced headache pain.

Fertility and ED

ED has many causes and contributing factors, ranging from hormone imbalances to physical damage. Emotional or psychological factors can play a role, too. Acupuncture can be used to help treat the psychological contributors to ED, and studies4 have shown that, for many man, this treatment alone is enough to completely resolve their ED.

Other studies have shown that acupuncture helps with fertility, as well. According to researchers5, acupuncture improves fertility in three ways: it increases the percentage of healthy sperm found in ejaculate, it increases sperm motility, and it improves the quality of sperm structure.

Whether you are looking to ease pain of the body or mind or improve your body’s function, there just may be an acupuncture technique to help you. Acupuncture is a nearly-painless procedure, and since it is a popular and ever-growing practice, chances are that you can easily find an experienced practitioner in your area. Please visit our webpage for additional information http://bit.ly/1mh5rsa and contact us if you have questions.

References

1. NCCAM (2012). Acupuncture: An introduction. Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/introduction.htm#ususe

2. NCCAM (2010). Acupuncture for pain. Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm

3. Matlack, J. 5 ways acupuncture can fix your health problems. Retrieved from http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/acupuncture_benefits/acupuncture_for_headaches.php

4. WebMD (2000). Impotence Gets ‘Needled’ in Acupuncture Study. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/news/20000505/impotence-gets-needled-in-acupuncture-study

5. Pei, J., Strehler, E., Noss, U., Abt, M., Piomboni, P., Baccetti, B. & Sterzik, K. (2005). Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertility and Sterility84(1), 141–147. Retrieved from http://www.acupuncturist.nl/wp-content/uploads/Quantitative-Evaluation-of-Spermatozoa-Ultrastructure-After-Acupuncture-Treatment-for-Idiopathic-Male-Infertility.pdf

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The Mediterranean Diet and Erectile Function

Ikarian Diet: Vegetables, legumes and greens, and olive oil.

Ikarian Diet: Vegetables, legumes and greens, and olive oil.

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, and a common resolution for both women and men revolve around losing weight or improving fitness and heath. In fact, the #1 resolution for 2014 was “Lose Weight,” and #5 was “Staying Fit and Healthy”1. But, while more than 40% of Americans make a resolution in the New Year, only about 8% actually keep them, according to Forbes2. If you were one of the many individuals who made a health-focused goal this year (with the aid of a diet), and you have fallen off the wagon, you might just want to get back on—and not just for the sake of swimsuit season. Studies have shown that going on a diet can improve erectile function.

The Mediterranean Diet

Numerous news articles have lauded the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on women’s health, but what about men’s health? It turns out that men who follow the Mediterranean diet experience significant improvement of erectile function3, meaning that this diet can be used to treat ED.

The sexual performance benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are demonstrated by a group of Greeks on the island of Icaria. One-third of the residents of that island live to be over 90, and according to AARP, most Ikarians over 90 are sexually active4.

How to Eat Like an Ikarian

If this diet sounds like your dream come true, it is relatively easy to adopt. The Mediterranean Diet focuses on nuts, fish, veggies, and beans. Here are a few examples of Mediterranean Diet foods to incorporate into your diet:

  • Nuts
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Olive oil (instead of butter)
  • Herbs and spices (instead of salt)
  • Fish and poultry (instead of red meat)

References

1. Statistic Brain (2041). New Year’s resolution statistics. Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

2. Diamond, D. (2013). Just 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions. Here’s how they do it. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/?_ga=1.31932087.82904362.1398303739

3. Esposito, K., Ciotola, M., Giugliano, F., De Sio, M., Giugliano, G., D’armiento, M. & Giugliano, D. (2006). Mediterranean diet improves erectile function in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. International Journal of Impotence Research18, 405–410. doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3901447

4. Buettner, D. (2009). Live more good years. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/longevity/info-09-2009/more_good_years.2.html

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