The human body is 37 degrees Celsius while sperm functions best at 32 degrees Celsius. This means anything that elevates the scrotum’s temperature over a period of time can adversely affect sperm. Long distance driving, extended sitting, hot baths, saunas, hot tubs, tight-fitting underwear, and athletic support straps all can raise the temperature of the scrotum, thus “cooking” the sperm.
Alcohol interferes with the ability to make testosterone and also speeds-up the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Furthermore, the breakdown product of alcohol in the body is acetaldehyde, which is toxic to sperm. All of this can lower sperm count and decrease sex drive. The good news is that if you stop drinking, most of damage will be repaired over time.
Smoking increases the number of free radicals in the body, which are known to damage many cells. Sperm cells are among those most affected by free radical damage so smoking can result in reduced sperm count and motility as well as increased amount of abnormally-shaped sperm. Fortunately, this damage is reversible if you quit smoking.
Many prescription drugs affect fertility: common antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline can wipe out a sperm harvest while phenytoin, glucocorticoids, sulfasalazine, and nitrofurantoin are other drugs that can affect sperm motility.
Furthermore, many nonprescription drugs can have a toxic effect on sperm. For example, the chemical ingredient in marijuana is very closely related to testosterone, which causes the body to produce less of its own. Marijuana also builds up in the testes, lowering libido, causing impotence, and sometimes causing sexual anxiety. Fortunately, as with cigarettes, if you stop smoking them, you will probably see an improvement in sperm quality within a few months. The effects of cocaine on fertility are similar to those of marijuana.
Too much caffeine may impair sperm production, cause chromosomal abnormalities, and effect sperm motility.
Though moderate regular exercise helps your reproductive health, exercising to exhaustion may lower sperm count (heat) and temporarily reduce testosterone production.
Toxins and Pollutants
There are unfortunately a wide variety of toxins and pollutants that can harm the development of sperm. For example, pesticides and heavy metals are toxic for sperm – they’re designed to disrupt the reproductive cycle of the insect, fungus, or weed they’re trying to kill. Ever since the use of chemical pesticides was introduced after World War II, male sperm counts have plummeted. Avoid as much pesticide consumption or contact as possible by eating organic foods and not using pesticides in your garden.
Another problematic toxin is DBCP (dibromochloropropene), a soil fumigant formerly used in American agriculture. It causes male sterility in mammals and although it was banned in the US in 1979, it can still be found as a contaminant in ground water. DBCP has allegedly caused epidemics of childlessness among plantation workers. Therefore eating local organic foods is important. Avoid tropical non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, watch your exposure to X-rays, solvents, paint products, and toxic metals. Chemicals called APEs are used as emulsifiers and are found in detergents, paints, pesticides, plastic wraps, textiles, and cosmetics. Phthalates, which make plastic flexible, are the most abundant man-made chemicals in the environment, and are present in the human diet. When these chemicals were tested on animals at levels approximating human exposure, they found effects similar to those of DES. It appears that industrial chemicals can actually mimic hormones.
Environmental estrogens can damage the sertoli cells. Sertoli cells are responsible for the production of sperm. Estrogens are now found in drinking water and food such as meat. Plastics also give-off estrogens. Don’t microwave plastic and try to avoid drinking from it – use glass containers instead. If you are drinking water from a plastic bottle, try to limit its exposure to the sun or heat. Balance your intake of water between bottled water and filtered tap water (or tap water that has been let sit on the counter for a few hours).