Supplements and medication

Male fertility supplements to take or avoid for healthy sperm

While it’s always better to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs from the food you eat, and most adult males should easily receive everything they need by eating a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet, you may occasionally need to top-up your intake with supplements. It’s also important to realise that some legal drugs and medications may damage your fertility. These may be medications that you’ve had to take for past illnesses, or they may be drugs that you are choosing to take for your own benefit, such as bodybuilding supplements. As long as you know the risks involved with consuming them, you can make an informed decision about whether you continue to use them.

Folic acid and zinc

Men may want to consider taking folic acid supplements as evidence suggests that folic acid deficiency reduces fertility in men and may damage the DNA carried by sperm. When combined with folic acid, zinc may also increase sperm count and strength. Zinc is an essential component of genetic material and is found in high concentrations in sperm, it is needed to make the outer layer and tail and is, therefore, essential for sperm health. Most adult men can meet their recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for zinc by eating a well-balanced diet.

What foods contain folic acid and zinc?

Folic acid 
  • Green vegetables
  • Chickpeas
  • Bananas
  • Salmon
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
Zinc 
  • Eggs
  • Dried fruit
  • Legumes
  • Wholegrain foods
  • Nuts

Selenium

Selenium is a natural antioxidant that increases the production of sperm and testosterone in men. Selenium also improves sperm motility, which is important when it comes to fertilising a female egg during sex or IVF treatment.

What foods contain Selenium?

  • Tuna
  • Broccoli
  • Most wholewheat foods
  • Garlic
  • Eggs

Just as important as knowing what you should be doing to improve your chances of conceiving, there are several supplements and medicines that men should avoid.

Medications that damage male fertility

Anabolic steroids

Bulging biceps and washboard abs are no guarantee of fertility fitness. Illegal anabolic steroids – often used to build muscle and improve performance in certain sports – do serious long-term damage to male fertility. These highly concentrated substances reduce both sperm count and mobility, shrinking the testicles by disrupting the body’s ability to regulate hormones. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs

Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as those taken to relieve arthritis, can decrease sperm count when taken long term. The negative effects of such medications often wear off if you stop taking them and allow your body to flush them from your system.

Chemotherapy

The strong substances used to manipulate cells and DNA during chemotherapy treatments can affect sperm production. The potent chemicals used may do lasting damage to weaker sperm but, as with anti-inflammatory drugs, the negative effects may subside once your body has had a chance to recover.

Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies are best avoided when you are trying to conceive or are undergoing IVF treatment. The widespread availability of these remedies and huge variety of different ingredients used make it difficult to know exactly what you are taking, and what its effects may be on your fertility. Some root extract remedies have been found to damage sperm production and the testicles.

Please see your GP if you are worried that your fertility may have been affected by a herbal remedy, supplement  or prescribed medicine.