By Shivi Verma July 2012 Low sperm count can spell tragedy to couples longing to start a family. While our faulty and unnatural lifestyles have sent sperm counts plunging across the world, alternative therapies have proven solutions to the problem, says Shivi Verma Ancient diet to improve fertility and reduce heat 1. Do not eat foods like red meat, maida, deep fried and spicy, sour or fermented foods. 2. One glass of white pumpkin juice gives stamina, physical strength and keeps away acidity. 3. Mix one teaspoon each of Kauch, Ashwagandha and Gokshur powder and take in half glass of water daily. 4. Take six dates (khajur), 3 figs (anjir), 4 almonds (badam), 2 cardamom (elaichi) and one teaspoon Fennel seeds (variyali). Soak all overnight. Remove seeds from dates and peel off almonds and cardamom. Add half teaspoon ghee and make a fine paste and eat it every morning on empty stomach. Low sperm count can spell tragedy to couples longing to start a family. While our faulty and unnatural lifestyles have sent sperm counts plunging across the world, alternative therapies have proven solutions to the problem, says Shivi Verma Rajesh and Rani were a made-for-each-other couple. Good looking and intelligent, and madly in love with each other, their life stretched before them like one long sweet song. And yet as the years went by, a subtle note of tension ran through their harmony because Rani was unable to conceive. The reason? Rajesh had a low sperm count. After many futile trips to the doctor, fertility clinics and so on, they finally resigned to their lot but Rani still sometimes tears up when she sees a toddler on the road. Such poignant scenarios are playing themselves out increasingly the world over. For the truth is that the male sperm count is declining rapidly. Nuclear weapons, natural calamities, Doomsday predictions, climatic upheavals, global warming, and terrorism all seem to point to the end of the Homo Sapien species from this planet. But nothing quite spells it out as chillingly as a plunging sperm count. The male sperm count is on a steady decline of two per cent every year worldwide including India according to medical reports and journals being circulated worldwide. In 1950, the WHO had pegged the normal sperm count as 113 million per ml. But in 2009-end the WHO revised its definition of normal sperm count to 20 million per ml. At this rate there would be no fertile men in the next 40-50 years, exclaims Dr PM Bhargava who worked out the Indian guidelines for assisted reproductive techniques. Dr Anjali Malpani, fertility specialist, and co-founder of India’s first sperm bank, says that sperm banks are getting sperm samples of as little as 15 millions per millilitre which they are forced to reject. Sperm counts in the 1940s were typically well above 100 m sperm cells per millilitre, but Danish Professor Skakkebaek, in a paper published in The British Medical Journal in September 1992, found they had dropped to an average of about 60 m per ml in the 1980s. Not only the count, but the quality and motility of sperm cells are also on the downside, ringing alarm bells across the world. The vultures went, are we next? The reasons Allopaths cite various reasons for the phenomena. Dr Sitesh Roy, immunologist from Illlinoise University USA, says, “Sperm formation takes 70-75 days to reach full maturity and requires the support of many other tissues and cells within the male reproductive system. But several factors such as pollution, excessive hormones in meat, and even allopathic medicines, may interfere with the body’s normal processes and hamper the production and the motility of the sperms.” Dr. Swapna Sawant, a doctor at Ayushakti, an ayurvedic clinic based in Mumbai, says that the shukra or semen is the potent power derived by the final and complete absorption of nutrients by the dhatu agni (metabolic fire). It is the essence of all processes within the body. Sperm count and sperm quality is a direct indication of a man’s overall health and vitality. “Therefore, we need good food and a good digestive system to have good sperm quality. A bad lifestyle affects the digestive system and stress too plays spoilsport with the metabolism and hormones that are responsible for sperm production,” she adds. Technology is partly responsible for decliningsperms worldwide says Dr. Sitesh Roy Says Dr. Sitesh Roy, “In the US it was observed that women who ate a lot of beef while pregnant gave birth to sons who grew up to have low sperm counts. Interestingly, cattle are routinely given hormones to boost their growth and these badly affect the reproductive system of both the mother who eats it and her foetus. The milk of hormone-injected cows too contains a substantial amount of oestrogens and its consumption leads to changes in the oestrogen metabolism in man. These hormones get transferred across species directly when we eat them or through their urine which contaminates the water table and impacts the fertility of man.” According to a study published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility, March 2009, “Men who eat lots of processed meat and full-fat dairy have poorer quality sperm than those who eat more fruit, vegetables and low-fat diary.” In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, online March 25, 2010, it was reported that those who didn’t drink cola had better sperm quality – averaging 50 million sperm per millilitre semen – and tended to have a healthier lifestyle than those who did. Cola drinkers also ate more fast foods, and less fruit and vegetables. But vegetables too have become unsafe these days since high amount of pesticides and chemical fertilisers also carry hormones. Lifestyle factors There is now an emerging consensus among some experts that the problem of male infertility probably starts in the womb. In one study men whose pregnant mothers had been exposed to high levels of toxic dioxins in Italy were found to have lower-than-average sperm counts. But men exposed to dioxins in adulthood showed no such effect. Dioxin, a byproduct of chemical manufacturing and of the pulp-and-paper industry, is present at low levels nearly everywhere in the environment. It is not just their lifestyle that is a problem, but that of their mothers as well. A man who smokes typically reduces his sperm count by a modest 15 per cent or so, which is reversible if he quits. However, a man whose mother smoked during pregnancy has a fairly dramatic decrease in sperm counts of up to 40 per cent – which tends to be irreversible. Although most Indian mothers do not smoke or drink, industrial pollutants and the presence of chemicals and pesticides in their air, water and food impact their foetuses. Environmental exposures But more recently, the link between male fertility and the environment has come under study. Groups like the Centre for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre are adding weight to the idea that sperm is taking a hit, possibly from environmental chemicals. Dietary changes with increased consumption of hormone-rich dairy produce; synthetic oestrogens in the contraceptive pill and other drugs as well as environmental contaminants such as DDT, Polychlorinated biphenyls – PCBs (used in electronics), and exhaust fumes, all have weak estrogenic properties that affect the male reproductive system. Scientists implicate a number of man-made chemicals (PCBs) used in electrical equipment from generators, televisions and computers that mimic human hormones for this trouble. Humans now live in an environment that can be viewed as a virtual sea of oestrogens. The plastic lining of many tin cans and food wrapping contain phthalates, and it has been found that these can leach into the contents, especially vegetables and fatty foods. Studies show sperm can be affected by Bisphenol-A, a chemical contained in many plastic products and even cash register receipts. The biggest source of Bisphenol-A (BPA) contamination is food packaging; almost all metal cans are coated with a BPA resin. Phthalates are also found in scented soaps, shampoos, and cleaners – and in vinyl shower curtains. Some allopathic treatments such as Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia), a medicine used for hair regrowth and enlarged prostate treatment, can cause low sperm count and fertility problems. There is now an emerging consensus among some experts that the problem of male infertility probably starts in the womb. Testosterone replacement therapy, long-term anabolic steroid use, cancer medications (chemotherapy), certain antibiotics, some ulcer medications like cimetidine and certain other medications like sulfasalazine, and some anti-cancer medicines can impair sperm production and decrease male fertility. Use of cocaine or marijuana too can reduce the number and quality of your sperm as well. Radiation Prolonged exposure to radiation from X-rays, and CT scans also reduce sperm production. It can take several years for sperm production to return to normal. With high doses of radiation, sperm production can be permanently reduced. Tech trouble Researchers from South Africa found that men who carried their cell phone in their hip pockets or in the front pants pocket had sperm swim slower and also had much less concentration. A hypothesis states that cell phones emit electromagnetic waves which are absorbed by the body and affect the molecular motion in the cell body. Laptops, if placed on a man’s lap, get hot over time. The increase in scrotal temperature may have a negative effect on a man’s sperm if he keeps a laptop sitting on his lap for extended periods of time. Overheating the testicle Frequent use of saunas or hot tubs may temporarily lower your sperm count. Sitting for long periods or wearin
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