Considered the top cause of male infertility, defective sperm function is often a result of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when you have more free radicals in your body compared to antioxidants. Free radicals easily react with other molecules and can even cause chain reactions that are often harmful.
Unfortunately, lipids found in your cell membranes and carbohydrates in your nucleic acids are common targets of free radicals. When free radicals bind to lipids or carbohydrates, it can lead to cellular damage or DNA damage. If the reaction involves your sperm, it can lead to infertility. Continue reading to find out exactly how oxidative stress causes infertility.
Reactive Oxygen Species Production
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are oxygen-containing compounds that easily react with other molecules. When your body metabolizes oxygen, ROS are produced as a byproduct. This means that just by breathing, you already produce ROS.
Not all ROS are bad. In fact, many of them play key roles in cell signaling as well as in maintaining homeostasis in your body. The problem starts when you’ve got too much ROS that your antioxidants can’t keep up with them.
Antioxidants are supposed to neutralize ROS molecules so that they won’t be able to react with other molecules that they’re not supposed to react with, like your DNA molecules. When your ROS levels are higher than your antioxidant levels, oxidative stress occurs. This simply means that your antioxidant defense has been overwhelmed by ROS attack.
Within the structure of your sperm cell, there are many chemical reactions going on that also produce ROS as a byproduct. In fact, ROS can even be found in the cytoplasm of your sperm. And experts are saying that increased spermatic cytoplasm can even be linked to infertility.
Spermatic leucocytes or white blood cells in your sperm are also sources of ROS. These spermatic leucocytes produce ROS a thousand times more than your usual aerobic metabolism. This means that when you get an infection, there will be more white blood cells in your body, and this can result in oxidative stress.
Men with infections in their urethra, seminal vesicles, vas deferens, testes, epididymis, or prostate typically have higher levels of ROS. Which is why infections in these organs are often associated with impaired fertility.
Varicoceles also produce a lot of ROS. And as you may have already heard, varicoceles are also strongly associated with infertility. Men with varicoceles often have higher levels of sperm DNA damage caused by oxidative stress. In addition, varicoceles often cause higher scrotal temperatures, which is also linked to higher ROS in the semen.
In addition, hyperglycemia in men with diabetes or pre-diabetes also causes increased ROS levels. Hyperglycemia is also linked to poor sperm parameters. Exposure to heavy metals, smoking, exposure to pesticides, and alcohol intake are also associated with high levels of ROS and increased oxidative stress.
Oxidative Stress Affects Sperm Functions
The main reason why experts are saying oxidative stress causes infertility is that excessive oxidative stress increases your sperm’s susceptibility to DNA damage. This not only causes infertility but also results in miscarriage and birth defects.
Your sperm contains unsaturated fatty acids that are very vulnerable to oxidative stress. When ROS reacts with the unsaturated fatty acids in your sperm through a process called lipid peroxidation, it can lead to extensive damage to the sperm’s cell membrane.
The sperm’s cell membrane is responsible for keeping your sperm intact. So when your sperm’s cell membrane is damaged, the sperm’s functions will be affected. Furthermore, lipid peroxidation can give rise to the production of molecules that cause mutations in the DNA, indirectly causing DNA damage.
But free radicals and ROS can also cause direct damage to your sperm’s DNA. Your sperm’s DNA strand can break. ROS can also lead to the rearrangements of the chromosomes in your sperm.
Another mechanism by which ROS can cause sperm damage is by initiating apoptosis which leads to the destruction of your DNA’s sperm and can even cause cell death. Unfortunately, your spermatozoa only have a limited ability to repair their DNA material.
Aside from sperm DNA damage, oxidative stress is also known to cause reduced sperm motility. When your sperm’s cell membrane is damaged by free radicals, it decreases your sperm’s flexibility. Its motility mechanisms, especially the sperm tail, is also adversely affected by oxidative stress.
Fighting Oxidative Stress In Your Sperm
One way that you can prevent high levels of oxidative stress in your sperm is by avoiding things that cause increased production of ROS like smoking and alcohol consumption.
You can also raise your antioxidant levels by increasing your intake of foods that are rich in seminal antioxidants like vitamin C and E. Other antioxidants that can also help protect your sperm include zinc, selenium, lycopene, and Coenzyme 10.
Vitamin C neutralizes ROS and can help protect against sperm DNA damage. Vitamin E, on the one hand, can inhibit lipid peroxidation, just like zinc. Coenzyme Q10 is linked to reduced ROS levels as well as increased sperm motility and higher sperm count.
Enhancing Your Fertility
Aside from these vitamins and minerals, there are herbal supplements you can take that can also help enhance your sperm health. For instance, there’s Malegenix which contains Tribulus terrestris and maca.
A recent study, for instance, showed that Tribulus terrestris can significantly improve sperm concentration and sperm motility. This is because Tribulus terrestris contains protodioscin, a phytochemical agent that has positive effects on the Sertoli cells in your testicles.
Maca is another herbal medicine that can help improve sperm quality. Maca is also known to promote spermatogenesis. On top of that, maca is a globally recognized libido booster and male virility enhancer. In fact, maca is recognized as one of the healthiest aphrodisiacs since it’s a superfood with an extremely high nutritional value.
When you take Malegenix, you get to reap all the health benefits that maca and Tribulus terrestris have to offer. Since both herbs are very rich in antioxidants, your sperm not only gets added protection from ROS but you also get more protection against various diseases. Plus, both maca and Tribulus terrestris are amazing erection boosters.