To put that 200 million number into perspective-that's approximately 50% of the US population. Woah. That many sperm to fertilize just one egg? Researchers looked into this relatively mysterious event and found some pretty amazing things-long story short? There is an immune game a-foot!
It appears the female uterus (uterine cells determine largest swath of sperm that do not travel into the fallopian tubes and endometrial receptors protect strongest sperm allowing them to pass through to the egg-binding to specific receptors found in those sperm) plays a critical role in this process. We have a built in filtering system (innate immunity) that seems to kill a majority of the sperm cells in semen-separating the weakest sperm from the strongest sperm. But the exact mechanism of why some sperm pass and others do not is still unknown. This defense may exist against polyspermy-or many sperm fertilizing the egg, versus just one sperm fertilizing the egg.
Since it takes around 65 days for a sperm to mature fully, we like to focus on ways to improve 50% of what it takes to create life! 50:50-male & female genetic material is needed to make a baby. Especially important since 200 million sperm are required to facilitate egg fertilization.
Ways to Improve Sperm Health
- Eat plants - plants (fruits/veggies/nuts and seeds/spice and herbs) contain the highest levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against damage.
- Eat healthy fat-particularly fat found in cold-water fish (low mercury is best)
- Take carnitine-an amino acid that helps with motility and total sperm count
- Take arginine or eat walnuts-improves motility (movement), vitality (resilience) and morphology (shape)
- Get comfy with bacteria-we are, after all, made up of more bacteria cells than any other cell-type. Specific strains of bacteria have known benefits to improving overall sperm health. Data supports supplementation, but fermented foods are a great place to start-yogurt, kimchi, kefir, & sauerkraut are pretty easy to find at your local grocery or farmer's market!
Fertilization: Eillen Tecle, Hector Sequoyah Reynoso, Ruixuan Wang, Pascal Gagneux. The female reproductive tract contains multiple innate sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectins (Siglecs) that facilitate sperm survival. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2019; jbc.RA119.008729
Fat: Nassan et al, Fertil Steril. 2018 Sep;110(4):570-577. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.025.
Antioxidants: DOI: 10.1186/s12958-016-0219-0 DOI: 10.5653/cerm.2018.45.2.57
Carnitine: Lenzi et al, Fertil Steril. 2003 Feb;79(2):292-300.
Arginine: Robbins et al, Biol Reproducers. 2012 Octo25:87(4):101
Bacteria: Maretti et al, Andrology. 2017 May;5(3):439-444. doi: 10.1111/andr.12336.
Posted on Jul 21, 2019