When researchers in 2017 analyzed the medical records of some 43,000 men in North America and in dozens of Western industrialized nations, the results revealed a decline of as much as 59.3 percent in sperm count over the past 40 years — setting off alarms about worldwide male reproductive health. The report didn’t offer definitive explanations for the sharp decline but suggested that stress and chemical exposure may be contributing to the problem.
Myles Spar, MD, an integrative-medicine practitioner in Southern California, doesn’t have a definitive answer either, but he agrees with the hypotheses.
“It’s clear that life in the 21st century is more stressful than ever, and we know that when people of both sexes are stressed, reproductive drive and capability go down,” he says. “The body can’t tell the difference between our being under actual attack and emotional stress, so it dials down the reproductive drive to shunt energy toward more immediate needs.”
That happens in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that generates hormones that affect both testosterone and sperm production.
As for environmental toxicity, he says, “we’re seeing a rise in autoimmune disease, inflammatory disease, and infertility, all related to things like chemicals in the environment, pesticides in our foods, and mold in buildings.”
The best way to respond is to take measures that support your general health.
To reduce stress, “we need to engage in some kind of activity that tells the body that everything is under control — even if everything isn’t,” Spar says.
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to decrease certain measures of stress. “And there’s breath work, prayer, yoga, tai chi, and other things that people can experiment with and then try to incorporate into their lives on a daily basis.”
Spar points to eating organic produce and meat from grassfed animals as ways to steer clear of toxins, as well as avoiding direct exposure to chemicals as much as possible.
This originally appeared as “I’ve heard that sperm health is declining across the board. Is that true? And what can I do to protect mine?” in the April 2019 print issue of Experience Life.