Male Fertility Supplements-101
Fertility Supplements- what can I take?
The use of supplements during infertility treatment intrigue many patients and physicians alike. While there are no magic pills that result in pregnancy, supplements are an interesting area of research and may provide some small benefit to patients who are concurrently undergoing traditional fertility therapy.
Infertility can be a difficult problem to treat, and it’s not surprising that some people look to herbs and supplements as a possible alternative treatment to this troubling problem.
Important points to remember:
- Research on so-called fertility herbs and supplements is not conclusive and is based on a limited number of small studies.
- Conventional infertility therapy has been evaluated more rigorously and remains the best option.
Talk to your doctor about any herbal or nutritional supplements you plan to take or are taking to find out the possible risks and benefits. Until researchers more clearly define the risks and benefits of fertility herbs and supplements, conventional treatment for infertility appears to be the best option.
What is the rationale for supplements?
Background: Oxidative Stress occurs when the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS or “free radicals”) exceed the total antioxidant capacity in the seminal plasma (fluid around the sperm).
Increased Oxidative Stress has been correlated with abnormal sperm morphology, low sperm motility, increased time to pregnancy, and decreased ART success.
How can we reduce or correct oxidative stress?
- Stop smoking
- Avoid environmental toxins
- Increase antioxidant capacity
- Coenzyme Q 10
- Folic acid
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Daily Centrum vitamin with minerals once a day
L-arginine is an amino acid needed to produce sperm (l-arginine assists with cell division and immune function).Preliminary research has shown increase in sperm counts, quality and fertility; however, no benefit has been shown when the initial sperm count is quite low (<10million).
Dietary sources of antioxidants include: kidney beans, pinto beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichoke, blackberries, prunes, raspberries, strawberries, Red Delicious, Granny and Gala apples, pecans, cherries, plums, and dried black beans.
Dietary sources of l-arginine include nuts, lentils, kidney beans, fresh soybeans. Other sources: egg yolk, meats and dairy products.
What is the recommended duration of supplementation?
Based on the life cycle of sperm development and maturation, a minimum of 10-12 weeks would be needed to reflect any reductions in oxidative stress.
Are fertility supplements safe?
Although often marketed as “natural,” this doesn’t mean that herbal products are always safe. Consider these important issues about fertility herbs:
- They have limited Food and Drug Administration regulation. Herbal and nutritional supplements are subjected to limited regulation by the Food and Drug Administration and are only now starting to be held to higher purity and quality standards.
- They have a potential for drug interaction. Conventional hormone and drug treatments for infertility are complex regimens. It’s not known how herbs or supplements may interact with such treatments.
- They may have side effects. Herbal and nutritional supplements may have side effects, especially when taken in larger doses. For example, too much vitamin C can cause significant gastrointestinal problems, and high doses of vitamins may be toxic rather than therapeutic.
- Ross c, Morriss A, Khairy M, et al. A Systematic Review of the effect of oral antioxidants on male infertility. Reproductive Biomedicine Online (2010) 20, 711-23.
- Showell M, Brown J, Yazdani A, et al. Antioxidants for male subfertility. The Cochrane Collaboration 2012.