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Having a healthy sperm count increases the odds of a successful pregnancy. If there’s more sperm, there are more chances for a sperm to reach an egg. So, it makes sense that many men who are trying to conceive are curious about how to increase their sperm count.
In this article, you’ll find seven ways to improve the health of your sperm naturally, as well as why having a normal sperm count matters.
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Why does your sperm count matter?
Male infertility means a man has a problem with his reproductive system, which lowers the chances of his female partner getting pregnant.
Total sperm production is one of several major indicators of overall reproductive health. If your sperm count is low—and low is usually defined as anything below 39 million spermatozoa per ejaculate—then your risk for male infertility goes up, making it more difficult to conceive.
Besides low sperm count, other measures of low semen quality can include low sperm concentration, sperm that aren’t moving well, and sperm with abnormalities (Leslie, 2022).
Even though increasing sperm count can potentially increase fertility, it’s important to keep in mind that sperm count is just one measure of male fertility. Having a normal or high sperm count on its own doesn’t say a lot about how fertile you are. For example, even if you have 100 million sperm, you still won’t conceive naturally if none of them are moving.
That’s relevant when looking into at-home sperm tests that only measure sperm count but don’t look at overall sperm function (Leslie, 2022).
What causes low sperm count?
A combination of different things often causes a low sperm count and low overall sperm quality. However, several risk factors or activities may contribute to sperm-count deficiencies that can result in fertility problems. These include (Leslie, 2022):
- Endocrine (hormone) abnormalities
- A prior or current sexually transmitted infection
- Alcohol or tobacco use
- Use of some medications
- Exposure to environmental toxins
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How to increase sperm count naturally
Your sperm health and your overall health are closely aligned, which is why the lifestyle factors below that support general wellness are among the best ways to improve a low sperm count.
Before we get into this, it’s important to remember that the amount of semen you ejaculate is not related to sperm health. In other words: men who are bigger shooters aren’t inherently more fertile than men who are decent dribblers.
1. Eat a balanced diet
There is a link between eating a healthy diet and improved sperm health, including higher sperm counts. So, if you want to increase your sperm count, eating a balanced diet containing the following foods is important:
- Whole grains
It’s probably not a coincidence that these are also the foods nutritionists tend to recommend for overall health. Eating a variety of these foods, especially lots of different fruits and vegetables, is good for you and good for your “swimmers” (Salas-Huetos, 2019).
2. Consider certain supplements
When it comes to taking supplements to increase your sperm count, many experts recommend getting your nutrients from foods—rather than pills—unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise. Keep in mind that studies on supplements for male fertility tend to be small, and treating the condition with supplements alone is not recommended.
With that said, there are some supplements with links to improved semen quality and sperm counts:
- Ashwagandha: This herbal supplement may help with male fertility by improving sperm counts and quality (Durg, 2018).
- Maca root: Several studies show that maca helps increase sperm mobility and concentration. It can also help with erectile dysfunction (Zenico, 2009; Melnikova, 2015).
Other supplements that may increase your sperm count include selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). However, the research on these is mixed with some studies finding no benefits to sperm health when taking them (Salas-Huetos, 2018).
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3. Exercise regularly
Several studies show that regular physical activity may increase sperm counts and improve testosterone levels. Some of that work also shows an association between increased sedentary time—for example, time spent watching TV—with poorer sperm health (Gaskins, 2015).
However, the research on exercise and sperm counts is a little inconsistent. Experts haven’t figured out exactly what amount or intensity of exercise is optimal. There’s even some evidence that too much intense exercise—for example, running marathons—may actually reduce sperm counts and other measures of sperm health, at least in the short term.
Right now, the takeaway seems to be that regular exercise is healthy, both for your body and your sperm. And you don’t need to run marathons or complete triathlons to get those benefits (Jóźków, 2017).
4. Maintain a healthy weight
If you want to have healthy sperm, maintaining a healthy weight seems to be another important factor.
Several studies point to a link between body mass index (BMI) and sperm counts. For example, one study found that men with a BMI above 25—often considered the threshold for being overweight—had a 24% reduction in sperm count compared to men with a BMI below 25. That same study also found that men with a BMI below 20 tended to have lower sperm counts.
And sperm count isn’t the only thing that a higher BMI may affect. It could also lessen the quality of your sperm by decreasing your sperm motility, sperm concentration, and semen volume—ultimately leading to a decrease in your overall fertility (Chambers, 2015).
5. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking may lead to better sperm quality and an increased sperm count.
One study found that men who smoked a pack a day were more likely to have sperm-count abnormalities than those who didn’t smoke (Verón, 2018).
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6. Watch your alcohol intake
There is a lot of mixed research on the relationship between alcohol and sperm count.
Some studies show that men who drink heavily have lower sperm counts than men who don’t drink and that among young men (ages 18–28), sperm count tends to go down steadily as alcohol consumption rises (Ricci, 2018).
However, most of the research on alcohol and sperm counts shows that low or moderate drinking doesn’t hurt your sperm. Some work even associates moderate drinking with healthier sperm.
At this point, the takeaway seems to be that if you don’t drink, don’t start. But if you do drink, keeping your consumption in the “moderate” range—often defined as no more than two drinks per day—will not hurt your sperm count (Ricci, 2018).
7. Don’t spend all of your time in a hot tub
Too much time in the hot tub or other extremely hot environments may affect your sperm.
A small study suggests that spending a lot of time in a hot tub or hot bath—more than 30 minutes per week for at least three months—can negatively affect your sperm count and sperm health. The good news is that these effects are reversible, meaning sperm health will eventually return to normal (Durairajanayagam, 2015).
The same can be said for saunas—at least temporarily. Men who aren’t used to saunas may experience a temporary drop in sperm health when they start using one. However, research on sauna use shows that men who use saunas regularly do not experience male fertility issues—perhaps because their bodies (and hormone levels) adjust to the heat (Huhtaniemi, 2019).
Can STDs cause infertility in men and women?
When to see a healthcare provider
Most medical experts define infertility as an inability to become pregnant after 12 full months of regular, unprotected sex. So, if you and your partner are in your 30s or 40s, trying for a few months without success isn’t a sign of fertility problems like a low sperm count (Walker, 2021).
However, if a year has passed and you’re not pregnant, it may be time to talk with a fertility specialist. In most cases, that specialist will conduct a semen analysis—basically, a sperm lab test—to ensure your sperm count and other measures of semen health are where they should be (Leslie, 2022).
If it turns out that your sperm count is causing your fertility issues, there are healthy and natural ways—like the lifestyle changes listed above—to boost the health of your sperm.
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- Durairajanayagam, D., Agarwal, A., & Ong, C. (2015). Causes, effects and molecular mechanisms of testicular heat stress. Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 30(1), 14–27. doi:10.1016/j.rbmo.2014.09.018. Retrieved from https://ccf.org/reproductiveresearchcenter/miscs/2014_Durairajanayagam_RBMO.pdf
- Durg, S., Shivaram, S. B., & Bavage, S. (2018). Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in male infertility: An evidence-based systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine, 50, 247–256. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2017.11.011. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30466985/
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- Walker, M. H. & Tobler, K. J. (2021). Female Infertility. [Updated Dec 28, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved March 14, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556033/
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Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.