An often overlooked test that could explain low sperm count.

Issues with male fertility can account for up to 50% of all fertility cases but testing rarely goes beyond one or two tests for the male when low count is detected.

Most times if they can’t find anything from one or two tests they simply called it unexplained or even “bad luck”.

But there is simple and easy test to do that may explain why there is a low count and it is important to rule out that this is an issue as it can be related to poor overall health as well.

There are other tests related to male fertility issues such as low count that I will discuss in other posts but I find this test is often overlooked. 

In the last few weeks I have seen a few men that presented with low count, and issues with motility (swimming ability)  and morphology (the shape of the sperm). I am always amazed at how many times when these issues come up, there are NO tests done to try to determine what may be causing the issue. One of the gentlemen I saw had a family history of this issue and still he wasn’t tested for it.  When I suggested to have this simple blood test done his doctor was hesitant.  Thankfully he did go on to test and the levels were extremely high.

The issue he was tested for was Hemochromatosis.

What is Hemochromatosis and How Does It Impact Male Fertility?

Hemochromatosis occurs when ferritin levels (which are the iron stores in our system) are too high. The result of this can be iron deposits in various organ systems in the body, including the reproductive organs decreasing the ability of the testes to create sper*m. It is also can be a risk factor for cardiovascular health issues as well.

Most menstruating women will not have this issue because of the blood loss each month (however I have seen cases where menstruating women have excessive ferritin levels too so women should always have iron studies done as well).

There can be a familial tendency for excessive iron stores in the system  therefore if there is anyone in the family that has been diagnosed with Hemochromatosis it is worth getting it tested. The “normal” ranges may vary from lab to lab, but the latest research is showing that levels above 150-200 can be an issue.

As discussed, this issue, i.e. excessive ferritin accumulating in different organ systems may be correlated with male fertility issues if the iron is accumulating in the testes as it could obstruct the making of sp**erm but also the accompanying inflammation may affect the health of the remaining sp**erm.

There are some symptoms associated with Hemochromatosis which may be a clue that someone has it. The person may always have red face and complain of aching in the joints of the fingers. 

However symptoms are not the only reason iron studies should be done. I have see elevated levels of ferritin when these symptoms are not present. Any general fertility work up should include iron studies and that will include an assessment of your ferritin levels. 

There are a few ways Hemochromatosis can be addressed.

One is thru diet

  •  Eliminate refined sugars as well as other high glycemic carbohydrates
  •  Increase healthy fibre in your diet
  •  Support bowel function with a multi-strain probiotic or other bowel support that you can discuss with you naturopath or herbalist.
  • Eliminate iron rich foods such as red meat
  • Avoid alcohol consumption or significantly decrease it.Avoid iron fortified foods which are usually processed foods 

Supplementation

  • Avoid any iron supplementation (check supplements, especially any that are supposed to help with energy to make sure there is no iron)
  • Take an optimal amount of zinc to help release excess iron in the system. (consult your herbalist or naturopath as to how much zinc is the optimal amount for you)
  • Consider adding Turmeric to your supplementation and or your eating plan as studies has shown the benefits of Turmeric to lowering excessive iron in animal studies.

Note:  Some health professionals suggest that a person with high ferritin levels stay away from Vitamin C because this nutrient encourages absorption of iron however Vitamin C is a vital nutrient so stopping this can be short term while the other areas are addressed to help decrease the excessive iron stores. 

Giving Blood To Reduce Ferritin Levels

Giving blood sometimes referred to as venesection at regular intervals can be ordered by your physician and can help decrease the excess levels of ferritin in your system. 

Excess iron in the system can create more free radical damage in the body and decrease cellular health and remember, the Sp**erm are cells too. Therefore it is important to have an antioxidant rich anti-inflammatory eating plan.  

Genetic Factors Affect the Absorption of Iron.

More and more research is showing how our genetic makeup can predispose us to having certain health issues. This is true for Hemochromatosis.   But the research is also showing that the environment can influence these genetic factors and the environment includes what we put in and on our bodies so an anti-inflammatory eating plan we support in our program can go a long way to supporting the system, decreasing inflammation and improving overall health and fertility.

I hope you have a great week.

All the best
Stacey