This week is Men’s Health Week. Actually, men get the entire month of June dedicated to awareness of their health!
Men’s Health Month and Health Week were established in 1994 as part of a Congressional Health Education program and signed into law by President Clinton. June was designated as Men’s Health Month, with Men’s Health Week falling during the week preceding and culminating with Father’s Day.
Since its establishment, scores of activities have raised awareness of men’s health issues, not just in the US where the Month and Week originated, but all around the world.
Appropriately, a driving force behind establishing Men’s Health Month and Week was Senator Robert Dole, a longtime advocate of prostate cancer awareness after his diagnosis with the disease in the early 1990s. Senator Dole also put himself out there by extolling the effectiveness of Viagra, after he sought treatment for erectile dysfunction that arose as a result of his cancer-fighting medications.
Yay, Bob! Thanks for keepin’ it real!!
What better time than Men’s Health Week to look at male-factor infertility.
Infertility has long been thought to be a woman’s problem, and the majority of infertility treatments do focus on infertility conditions in women. The unfortunate truth, though, is that infertility is the one area where we have achieved true gender equality. Infertility doesn’t discriminate – roughly 30% of infertility cases are due to women’s issues, 30% to men and 30% are attributed to both partners (the remaining 10% of cases fall into that nebulous, dreaded “unexplained infertility” category).
Men’s infertility issues center around the quantity and quality of their sperm and semen (the fluid that contains sperm). Sperm counts (how many sperm are contained in a man’s ejaculate), motility (how fast the little guys and gals swim to their destination, the egg), and morphology (how they are shaped – misshapen sperm may have trouble penetrating and fertilizing the egg) are all key indicators of male fertility and what is examined in a standard semen analysis. The quality of the semen, including pH level, fructose level (sugar is needed in the semen to provide energy to the sperm) and white blood cell count is also evaluated.
New research also suggests that DNA damage in sperm may also contribute to male-factor infertility, as well as unexplained fertility. Unlike other cells that contain DNA, sperm cells do not replicate or make repairs, so DNA damage in sperm is irreparable, and damaged sperm can lead to difficulties conceiving or to increased probability of miscarriage.
While men continue to produce sperm until old age, which is why you sometimes see older men fathering children with younger women), men do suffer from age-related fertility decline just like women. Between the ages of 30 and 50 in the average man, sperm counts decline by up to 30%, sperm swim up to 37% slower, and they’re 5 times more likely to be misshapen.
The good news is that men can take steps to improve their fertility. And of course, healthy lifestyle choices top the list!
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get sufficient exercise
- Don’t smoke
- If you must consume alcohol, do so moderately
- Take a multi-vitamin every day
- Minimize stress
To build your collection of healthy recipes and dishes that can help boost male fertility, here’s a great recipe for gazpacho, a wonderful summer soup that’s eaten cold and really hits the spot on a hot day. We’ve already had so many hot days this summer here in DC – there was really no ramp-up to summer, so I’ve already made this soup! I also took some recently to a friend who just had a baby and she reported that it was just what her body was craving – that was so nice to hear!
The soup isn’t hard to make, just a lot of chopping. Once the chopping is done, you just throw it all together and stick it in the fridge – that’s it! I love fantastic meals that you don’t actually have to cook!
Gazpacho is a great soup for boosting male fertility because its tomatoes contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant found to improve the quantity and quality of sperm. A recent study of men with unexplained infertility who were given lycopene supplements for three months found a direct correlation between lycopene and fertility improvement – 67% of the men had improvements with the condition of their sperm in all three areas – quantity, motility and morphology.
Other ingredients in the soup contain essential vitamins and minerals. Peppers are rich in vitamin C, which boosts testosterone. Garlic has therapeutic properties, including recovering testicular function and improving male sexual health.
Lycopene is also abundant in fruits such as pink grapefruit, apricots, and watermelon – so pair this soup with a slice or two of refreshing watermelon for dessert, and you not only have a quintessential AND healthy summer meal, you also have a powerhouse meal for male fertility!
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded (and peeled if you have time, but I never do so my gazpacho has the tomato skins too!) OR 7 cups bottled (not canned) tomato juice (for soup base)
- 6 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped – again, peel if time but I never do!
- 2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
- 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped fine
- 1 poblano or anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped fine
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped parsley, or 1 tbsp dried
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, or 1 tbsp dried
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp organic Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Hot sauce to taste
- Drizzle olive oil
Prepare soup base by processing tomatoes in food processor to desired consistency – if you want the soup to be thicker, do more of a pulse. If you want it to be thinner, do more of a puree. Or, if using tomato juice, simply pour it into a glass bowl.
Pulse three of the roma tomatoes in the food processor separately from the other tomatoes.
In a glass bowl, combine soup base with the pulsed roma tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, vinegars and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least four hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve chilled with drizzled olive oil.