Our world is a toxic place and the negative effects toxins have on fertility are an example of an enormous challenge these toxins present to humans. Male infertility in particular is on the rise, and a growing body of evidence is attributing this to toxic exposures which are leading to poor sperm count, low motility and bad morphology. Toxins including medications, drugs, environmental pollutants and heavy metals, all have major impacts on male fertility and the health of sperm.
How do toxins affect fertility?
Sperm, just like any other parts of our body, are influenced by toxin exposure and accumulation. One of the most common toxic exposures studied in male fertility is cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is associated with decreased sperm count and motility, and increased number of abnormal sperm. (1) Studies show that males exposed to cigarette smoke have higher levels of heavy metals (such as cadmium) that can alter sperm production. (2) Similar associations to poorer sperm quality have been made with alcohol intake (3) and marijuana use (4).
Environmental estrogens (also known as xeno-estrogens) and pesticides have also been shown to impact testosterone levels and sperm production. (5)(6) Some of the most well known sources of xeno-estrogens are found in plastics. To avoid these, try to never heat food in plastic containers and drink water or other beverages from stainless steel or glass jars. In general, decreasing our overall use of plastics is highly encouraged. Decreasing our exposures to pesticides by choosing more organic fruits and vegetables will also support healthier sperm.
Toxic effects on sperm from heavy metals are well-documented. Mercury and lead accumulation significantly decreases male fertility. (7)(8) Therefore, it is worthwhile investigating potential occupational and environmental exposures to heavy metals when evaluating male fertility.
How do I get tested?
Toxin testing should be an important part of any treatment plan to improve male fertility and sperm. At Vive Integrative Health Group, we have a myriad of different tests that can be used to test one’s levels of heavy metals and environmental pollutants. Most of these tests are commonly done using urine samples. You can read more about these tests under Programs-Heavy Metals Testing and Services-Laboratory Testing. Knowing what is in your system can be a great first step at improving your health on many levels.
How do I remove toxins from my body?
Your Naturopathic Doctor can guide your removal of toxins depending on what shows up through testing. Certain toxins require very specific and targeted methods of elimination, whereas a general focus on the liver, kidneys and intestinal tract can be beneficial. An important part of the treatment plan includes eliminating further exposure to harmful toxins and optimizing diet and nutrition to fuel proper detoxification.
~ Dr. Patti
(1) Kulikauskas V, Blaustein D, Ablin RJ. Cigarette smoking and its possible effects on sperm. Fertil Steril 985;44:526-528.
(2) Oldereid NB, Thomassen Y, Purvis K. Seminal plasma lead, cadmium and zinc in relation to tobacco consumption. Int J Androl 1994;17:24-28.
(3) Sandro La Vignera, Rosita A Condorelli, Giancarlo Balercia, Enzo Vicari, and Aldo E Calogero. Does alcohol have any effect on male reproductive function? A review of literature. Asian J Androl 2013 Mar; 15(2): 221–225.
(4) Close CE , Roberts PL , Berger RE. Cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana are related to pyospermia in infertile men. Department of Urology, University of Washington, Seattle. The Journal of Urology 1990, 144(4):900-903.
(5) Meeker J, Ehrlich S, Toth T, Wright D, Calafat A, Trisini A, Ye X, Hauser R. Semen quality and sperm DNA damage in relation to urinary bisphenol A among men from an infertility clinic. Reproductive Toxicology 2010; 30(4): 532-539.
(6) Krause W, Hamm K, Weissmuller J. The effect of DDT on spermatogenesis of the juvenile rat. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 1975;14:171-179.
(7) Dickman MD, Leung CK, Leung MK. Hong Kong male subfertility links to mercury in human hair and fish. Sci Total Environ1998;214:165-174.
(8) Gennart JP, Buchet JP, Roels H, et al. Fertility of male workers exposed to cadmium, lead or manganese. Am J Epidemiol 1992;135:1208-1219.