Male Fertility and Alcohol

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.

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Are you a couple attempting to conceive a child but struggling? You're not alone.

Thousands of couples every year struggle with conceiving and it can be due to lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption.

If this issue is affecting you and your partner read on for more information on the subject and some possible solutions.

In this article we shall cover the following key ponts:

  • Can alcohol affect male fertility
  • How does alcohol affect sperm
  • How much alcohol is okay
  • What is a normal sperm count
  • Why does sperm count matter
  • Can you boost male fertility
  • How to take action
  • Conclusion

Can Alcohol Affect Male Fertility?

group of people drinking beer

The short answer is yes it can, drinking excessive quantities of alcohol can damage male fertility. The properties of Alcohol can affect the male reproductive system and reduce the sperm count making it more challenging for their female partners to get pregnant. [1]

Alcohol disrupts the production of luteinizing hormones and follicle-stimulating hormones that can harm the sperm and lower a man's sperm count. Heavy alcohol use can also lower testosterone levels and make it more difficult to attain an erection. [2]

How Does Alcohol Affect Sperm?

Heavy drinking Affects Male Fertility in several ways, it lowers the testosterone levels and follicle Stimulating hormones and simultaneously raises estrogen levels. This in turn lowers a man's sperm count. Alcohol consumption can also shrink the testes causing impotence and infertility. [3]

Other ways male fertility is affected include a change in the gonadotropin release that alters sperm production and causes premature or delayed ejaculation. Alcohol can also change the shape, size and movement of sperm in the testicle making them less effective. [4]

How Much Alcohol is Okay?

Having a healthy sperm count isn't just about alcohol, it is about maintaining a healthy overall diet that includes exercise, healthy eating, and proper sleep. But alcohol consumption is a big part of finding the balance between enjoying life and keeping your sperm count high.

The general medical advice is not to exceed 14 units of alcohol per week for men, that's the equivalent of 6 pints of average strength beer or ten small glasses of low strength wine. It's important to remember that these measures are the upper alcohol limit that you should not exceed. [5]

The previously held belief that some alcohol was good for the heart has now been revised, it's now thought that even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause long-term damage to critical organs and reduce fertility in men.

In addition, it was once considered that red wine is more beneficial that drinking other alohlic beverages, but nothing has been proven to be less detrimental than the other. [6]

What is a Normal Sperm Count?

If you are trying to conceive a child then your sperm count is important. The more sperms you have available the more chance there is to conceive. [7]

So what is a normal sperm count and how can you find out if yours is higher or lower than average?

According to the Indian Journal of Urology, the normal average amount of semen or ejaculate after a short period of sexual abstinence is 2-6ml. [8]

The World Health Organization states that the average sperm count is between 15 million sperm and 259 million sperm in one millimeter of semen with up to 928 million per total ejaculate. [9]

If a sample of sperm contains less than 15 million sperm it would be considered low and is known as oligozoospermia. In fact, around 1 in 3 couples who are struggling with fertility could include low sperm as the issue. [10]

More than 200 would be considered a high count. Reasons for a low count can be related to oligospermia, genetic factors, or alcohol consumption. [11]

The Best way to determine your sperm count is to contact your medical professional or a private clinic. They will ask for a sample of your semen and provide you with the results in a few days. This will give you an idea of how to approach any issues you're having.

Why Does a Sperm Count Matter?

couple with child

If you and your partner are trying to conceive a child then your sperm count is very significant. It only takes one sperm and one egg to get pregnant but the more sperms there are available increases the chances of conception each month. [12] If this is not your aim a sperm count can still be significant.

Men diagnosed with a low sperm count may also have associated conditions, they tend to have larger waistlines and poorer general health which contributes to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. There's also a strong correlation between low sperm count and low testosterone.  Although the main concern with a low sperm count is usually reproduction, it is not the only reason you should pay attention to this diagnosis. [13]

Are there any symptoms to low fertility? 

As we have mentioned, a low sperm count can be associated with low testosterone.

Therefore, some of the symptoms which align with low testosterone such as fatigue, low levels of lean body mass, fatty breast tissue and low levels of facial and body hair. 

You can read more about the symptoms of male infertility, here.

Can you Boost Male Fertility?

nutritious food

If you suspect you have a lower sperm count or you have been officially diagnosed, you might be interested in how you can boost your count and improve yours chance of conceiving with your partner. You might also want to boost your sperm count for health reasons.

There are many causes of male infertility with excess alcohol consumption being one of them, therefore, the first thing to do is to consider your lifestyle. Do you think you are drinking alcohol excessively – over 14 units per week – and how is your body mass index (BMI).

It's been found in studies that men who eat a Mediterranean diet have a higher sperm count in general, so consider your diet and lifestyle routines such as smoking, recreational drug use or stress. [14]

Then consider, what is it about a Mediterranean diet that is so beneficial..?

It is the high nutritional value, this means lots of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants which are often absent in a modern Western diet. The Western diet is often high in toxins, preservatives and calories. [15]

This is why Fertiligy is high in these vital nutrients often omited from our typical dietary regimes. 

How to Take Action

The good news is that a low sperm count is not beyond your control to fix, with a few lifestyle changes and adjustments you can raise your sperm count to normal levels and improve your chances of conceiving with your partner.

You can start by changing your lifestyle routines, diet and contacting your health professional.

Chances are your health care professional will conduct a test to determine your sperm count and they will probably advise you to improve your nutritional intake and to get more exercise.

You can start these things sooner on your own, but it's also a good idea to have your sperm count officially checked.

Conclusion

When people say that drinking alcohol lowers your sperm count they aren't just trying to scare you, there is significant evidence to support this claim.

Alcohol reduces the sperm count by altering the hormonal balance in the male’s body and affecting sperm production and release, it also affects the behavior of sperm in the testes.

You have a low sperm count if it is measured below 15 million sperms per millimeter. Of this occurs there are steps you can take to increase your sperm count and improve your chances of conceiving a child.

Change your diet to one that is more green and get into an exercise routine and onsider giving up or reducing your alcohol intake. 

 

fertiligy male fertility supplement

References

[1] Jensen, T.K., Gottschau, M., Madsen, J.O.B., Andersson, A.-M. ., Lassen, T.H., Skakkebaek, N.E., Swan, S.H., Priskorn, L., Juul, A. and Jorgensen, N. (2014). Habitual alcohol consumption associated with reduced semen quality and changes in reproductive hormones; a cross-sectional study among 1221 young Danish men. BMJ Open, 4(9), pp.e005462–e005462. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/9/e005462

[2] Castilla-García, A. (1987). Alcohol-induced hypogonadism: Reversal after ethanol withdrawal. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 20(3), pp.255–260. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3125031/

[3] Van Thiel, D.H., Gavaler, J.S., Lester, R. and Goodman, M.D. (1975). Alcohol-induced testicular atrophy. An experimental model for hypogonadism occurring in chronic alcoholic men. Gastroenterology, [online] 69(2), pp.326–332. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1171045/

[4] Ricci, E., Al Beitawi, S., Cipriani, S., Candiani, M., Chiaffarino, F., Viganò, P., Noli, S. and Parazzini, F. (2017). Semen quality and alcohol intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 34(1), pp.38–47. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28029592/

[5] www.nhs.uk. (n.d.). Every Mind Matters | One You. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/for-your-body/drink-less/know-your-alcohol-units/

[6] British Heart Foundation (2018). Effects of alcohol on your heart. [online] Bhf.org.uk. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/effects-of-alcohol-on-your-heart

[7] Slama, R. (2002). Time to pregnancy and semen parameters: a cross-sectional study among fertile couples from four European cities. Human Reproduction, 17(2), pp.503–515. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/17/2/503/568992

[8] Vasan, S. (2011). Semen analysis and sperm function tests: How much to test? Indian Journal of Urology, [online] 27(1), p.41. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114587/

[9] WHO laboratory manual for the Examination and processing of human semen FIFTH EDITION. (n.d.). [online] . Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44261/9789241547789_eng.pdf;jsessionid=F577E96867A29CC002AE25F470B4FFF3?sequence=1

[10] NHS Choices (2019). Low sperm count. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-sperm-count/

[11] Gude, D. (2012). Alcohol and fertility. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, 5(2), p.226. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3493844/

[12] FERTILITY AND STERILITY Correlation of semen variables and pregnancy rates for donor insemination: a 15-year retrospective*. (1994). [online] 61(2). Available at: https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(16)56531-5/pdf

[13] Ferlin, A., Garolla, A., Ghezzi, M., Selice, R., Palego, P., Caretta, N., Di Mambro, A., Valente, U., De Rocco Ponce, M., Dipresa, S., Sartori, L., Plebani, M. and Foresta, C. (2021). Sperm Count and Hypogonadism as Markers of General Male Health. European Urology Focus, [online] 7(1), pp.205–213. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31427194/

[14] Karayiannis, D., Kontogianni, M.D., Mendorou, C., Douka, L., Mastrominas, M. and Yiannakouris, N. (2016). Association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and semen quality parameters in male partners of couples attempting fertility. Human Reproductionhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27994040/

[15] Nazni, P. (2014). Association of western diet & lifestyle with decreased fertility. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, [online] 140(Suppl 1), pp.S78–S81. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4345758/