Brace yourselves

This is going to be a long one. As mentioned in the original article on MFI, a number of different biological processes that, when disrupted, cause MFI. And for every one of these disruptions, there’s a list of things that may be a contributing factor. These factors fall into one of three broad categories: genetic/anatomical abnormalities, diet, and other  lifestyle factors.

Genetic/Anatomical Abnormalities:


Varicoceles – This term describes varicose veins in the scrotum. This affects 15% of men and is the most common cause of MFI, as 40% of men presenting with fertility challenges cite varicoceles as the reason.

Orchitis – This means swelling of the testicles. Mumps, urinary tract defects, STIs, or bacterial infections from medical instruments can cause this.

Cystic Fibrosis – Simply being a carrier of CF can cause the vas deferens (a part of the male reproductive organ) to be missing.

Klinefelter Syndrome – This genetic disorder causes sterility.

Undescended testicles – This occurs if the testicles do not drop down during fetal development, leading to sterility. Fortunately, this can be repaired at birth though sterility is still possible.

Vasectomy Reversal – This process can break the isolation barrier between the testes and the rest of the body, exposing the sperm to attack from the body’s own immune system.

Chemotherapy or radiation – Chemo and radiation can often kill dividing cells indiscriminately, leading to the death of both cancer and healthy sperm cells.

Kidney Disease – The resulting cysts in the seminal vesicle can impact semen quality, and may in rare cases, lead to the absence of sperm in semen.

Retrograde ejaculation – This is the backing up of semen into the bladder. It can be due to a congenital issue, or can be a complication of surgery or medications.

Any acute or chronic in inflammatory disease – Particularly if it leads to an episode of high fever.


Alcohol consumption – This one’s a no-brainer. It may decrease sperm count and quality, as well as cause DNA fragmentation.

Diabetes (as a result of poor diet) – Poor food choices such as excessive sugar, sweets and high-energy drinks, can lead to diabetes, which can increase oxidative stress, impede blood flow to the testicles, and alter endocrine function; all of which damage sperm.

Excessive Caffeine Intake – Although no study has directly linked excessive coffee consumption to sperm damage, this point is mainly based on Traditional Chinese Medicine’s perspective on balance (link to article about TCM Facts).

Estrogen-treated foods – High estrogen levels can affect the morphology of sperm. Therefore, limit foods that contain high levels of estrogen such as hormonally-treated dairy and soy estrogen.

Red meats – Long-term consumption of red meats is linked to a number of health risks, and an increased risk of MFI is no exception.

Other Lifestyle Choices/Factors:



Prescription drug use – Drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants, steroids, calcium channel blockers, allopurinol, cimetidine, alpha blockers, antipsychotics, testosterone supplements, and others can affect sperm quality and/or quality of sperm.

Non-prescription drug use – The use of cannabis, for instance, can reduce sperm motility and its ability to penetrate eggs.

Cigarette smoking – Tobacco can cause oxidative stress, which can damage genetic material.

Obesity/High BMI – A high BMI can lower semen volume, sperm concentration and sperm motility.

High scrotal temperatures – Avoid sitting in saunas & steam baths for long periods, wearing tight briefs or cycling tights, and using a laptop on your lap or having cell phone in your front pocket for extended periods of time.

Exposure to toxins – Chemicals such as Bisphenol-A can leach into foods, resulting in decreased sperm count and motility.

Poor oral hygiene – Poor brushing & flossing may lead to gum disease, from which bacteria can enter the bloodstream and infect semen.

When it comes to genetic and anatomical abnormalities, there is not much you can do to correct them on your own. This is where a urologist or fertility doctor can help. But when we are looking at male factor infertility that is due to lifestyle, you can take charge of your fertility: be proactive by changing your diet and other lifestyle choices and that might be enough to have a profound effect on the health of your sperm.