In a new study at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, reported in the British press, researchers have claimed that toothpaste, sunscreen, soap and other everyday products could be behind a drop in male fertility, finding a direct link between common man-made chemicals and a decline in the potency of human sperm.
Researchers say that around a third of the so called ‘non-toxic’ chemicals, used in everyday items, can dramatically affect the potency of sperm cells, leading to a rise in infertility. They discovered that the ingredients in sunscreen,
detergents and plastics have been found to render sperm infertile.
Researchers also discovered a 'cocktail effect' where the effects were magnified when several chemicals were present.
Is this a possibility?
This may not be as far fetched as you might think as exposure to environmental toxins (in the form of industrial chemicals) both in utero and neo-natally are already thought to possibly affect adult fertility. In the USA, most chemicals used in everyday life do not go through the same checks that medications do. As a result, toxic chemicals and heavy metals are circulating in our environment, our food supply, our air and our water.
What are these toxic chemicals and heavy metals?
They include lead, ovotoxicants, endocrine disruptors, phthalates, VCH chemicals and PAH. As well as sperm being sensitive to these pollutants, there have been links to sperm abnormalities too with pesticides, exogenous estrogens and heavy metals, in some cases, thought to negatively affect the formation of sperm. You can find out more on this here.
Sperm disorders contribute to 40% of all infertility cases, with women (who suffer from recurrent miscarriages) often having partners with low sperm counts and visually abnormal sperm.
What can you do to avoid these toxins?
Whether you are male or female and if you are planning on having your own children in the future, there are at least 6 environmental toxins to avoid:
1. Pesticides -
these can be found on non-organic fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and unfiltered tap water. Change to growing your own produce if possible or support local farmers markets. Change to free range poultry and eggs as well as sourcing grass fed meat and dairy products. Ideally, buy a dual filtration water system that gets rid of particles smaller than 1 micron (this will filter out the drugs as well as heavy metals). Use the filter in your shower as well as your kitchen because, if shower steam contains the same chemicals, you can end up inhaling these and they can be absorbed through your skin.
2. Formaldehyde -
present in air fresheners, deodorants, floor polish and upholstery cleaners. Can be avoided by changing to all natural products.
3. Bisphenols -
in plastic containers so they cause problems by leaching into food and water. Can be avoided by changing to glass containers.
4. Solvents -
these are petroleum based liquids found in many household products in daily use as well as in electronics, car repair, health care, photography, agriculture, printing, construction, cosmetics and more. As these are so widely used, avoidance is more difficult but necessitates a complete re-think as well as checking ingredients.
5. Dry-cleaning chemicals -
perhaps not so commonly used today but still a threat. Avoid by supporting those businesses that have changed to safer methods to dry clean.
6. Paint fumes -
these can be avoided by using zero VOC paint
While we can probably get away with occasional exposure to one or the other toxic chemical, it is the accumulation of these chemicals over a long period that it is imperative to avoid.
How can you increase fertility?
- Top of the list is to ensure high levels of vitamin D. Currently, the USA and elsewhere are experiencing epidemic proportions of vitamin D deficiency. This reason alone could lead to infertility. Safe exposure to sunlight boosts fertility in both men and women. Achieve this by exposing as much of the skin as possible between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm until skin starts to turn pink. It is sunburn and not sunlight that can be a danger. Keep up this safe sun exposure as often as possible during the summer months while taking a vitamin D3 supplement during the colder winter months. You may not realize that in men, vitamin D is essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, improves semen quality and sperm count, and is capable of supporting healthy testosterone levels. Vitamin D impacts on fertility in women too by boosting levels of progesterone and estrogen to help regulate menstrual cycles and improve the likelihood of conceiving naturally.
- Change to a special fertility diet that is as fresh and organic as possible to include organic meat in small quantities; small deep sea fish like sardines; home cooked organic legumes; whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit in season; good fats such as those monounsaturated fats in olive oil; polyunsaturated fats in oily fish and nuts; and mid chain fatty acids found in coconut oil. For cooking, use clarified butter (ghee) or coconut butter (without flavor) as they do not become unstable when heated. Cold pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil and nut oils are ideal for using cold over salads etc. At the same time, avoid all trans fats. Their sole purpose is to extend a food's shelf life. If you include trans fats regularly in your diet, you can increase your risk of infertility by as much as 70%. Learn to read ingredient labels so that you can avoid them - trans fats are usually listed as ‘hydrogenated fat’, ‘hardened vegetable fat’ or ‘vegetable fat.’
- Eliminate or reduce your dairy intake as the consumption of milk has been linked to some male infertility and if you are serious about being fertile, it makes good sense to avoid gluten and dairy altogether during preconception time and beyond. At the same time, keep cups of coffee to a minimum while smoking and recreational drugs can also reduce the chances of conception.
- It is also advisable for both partners to be checked for any STDs so that they can be treated if possible. For example, a Chlamydia infection in men can lead to sperm abnormalities including sperm antibodies.
By changing to healthier lifestyle choices and avoiding environmental toxins, men (and women) can improve their fertility. In fact, it makes good sense to follow such a plan for at least 4 months before conception because sperm and egg quality can both be improved in just 120 days.
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