Most men worry about things like fertility, erectile dysfunction, testosterone, and other common terms we're aware of when we think of Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). But do you ever wonder about the aspects that have an affect on it?
Sexual or fertility issues have nothing to do with one's masculinity. But we live in a society where things that need to be spoken out loud about are usually looked down upon as a taboo.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits, lack or excess of physical activity, the food you eat can have quite an impact on your sexual and reproductive health. These few things that we might not take as an issue that serious, can end up affecting the SRHR in ways that most men probably haven't imagined.
Daily Factors That Affect Reproductive Health
"When we say 'reproductive health' what we intend to touch upon is both the erectile dysfunction,as well as their fertility potential," says Dr Kannan R Nair, Clinical Professor, Urology and Renal Transplantation, Amrita Hospital, Kochi.
He also says that "in order to have the optimal level of these aspects, men should lead a healthy lifestyle maintaining physical, mental, and social health. Following regular exercise, healthy diet, and getting good sleep is key for optimum reproductive health."
"A balanced, rainbow diet is the way to go. This will ensure adequate amounts of the various vitamins and antioxidants in the diet, to maintain are strength and immunity of the body, and also the reproductive health."Kavita Devgan, Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer
The Diet-Nutrition Link
You know what testosterone is. Diet and nutrition have is paramount importance in maintaining healthy levels of testosterone hormone.
"Food containing plant estrogens and chemicals with estrogen-like properties could induce the suppression of testosterone levels. Consuming foods that are contaminated with pesticides and growth hormones also impacts the healthy production of this male reproductive hormone," says Dr Kanan.
He also mentions that "avoiding such foods can help to preserve optimum testosterone levels. It is identified that stress is also an important factor that causes testosterone levels to drop."
Can Food Boost One's Sperm Count?
Nutritionist Kavita Devgan says "Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and can make the sperm more fertile. The right sources for you to be able to absorb the vitamin are roasted seeds and nuts, peanuts, and spinach."
On the other hand, Vitamin C can keep the sperm from clumping together, making it more motile. You can keep your Vitamin C levels up by eating plenty of oranges, strawberries and sweet potatoes.
"Sperms are produced in the testes and stored in seminal vesicles. Sperms that get ejaculated are the ones that are produced around three months back. So sperm count of a particular level will denote your health around three months’ time."Dr Kannan R Nair, Clinical Professor, Urology and Renal Transplantation,Amrita Hospital, Kochi
One’s physical ailments in that period can result in lower sperm count. Also, if you had some kind of stressful event in that time period, it also gets reflected in your sperm count test. For improving one’s sperm count, management of stress both physical and emotional stress is necessary. Regular exercise will not only help to boost sperm count but also improves sperm quality.
"Taking testosterone supplements is not a good idea as it decreases sperm production. Anabolic steroids commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders are detrimental to healthy sperm production," Dr Kannan adds.
Getting a good amount of sleep (6 – 8 hours) and a diet including a lot of green leafy vegetables and healthy nutrients assist in maintaining optimum reproductive health in men.
What About Mental Health & Sexual Health?
Mental health has paramount importance in one’s reproductive and sexual health. Physical, mental and social well-being will also strengthen one’s reproductive health.
According to Dr Kannan, "Excessive worrying, anxiety and other mental struggles negatively affect the quality of sexual and reproductive health. Regular exercise releases certain endorphins in the brain which helps to be happy, calm and relaxed, creating an ideal mental state for healthy reproductive life."
"Being low on vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin) may lead to inadequate production of sperm while affecting one's mental health severely. To avoid the deficiency, meat, eggs, and sea food are rich sources that can be consumed."Kavita Devgan, Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer