When a couple is trying to conceive and having problems doing so, it can sometimes seem hopeless.  And frequently, the female is the focus of fertility issues.  But as we all know, it takes two to make a baby and the male’s part in this should not be dismissed.  An estimated 10% of men are infertile, and the male partner is a factor in up to 50% of infertile couples.  In many cases, the cause of male infertility is unknown. This is where a holistic approach can increase your chances of success and where East Asian Medicine can be invaluable.

You may be curious about how East Asian Medicine (EAM), and particularly acupuncture, can help.  There are actually several ways that EAM and acupuncture improve fertility in men.  Let’s explore these areas.

1. Raise Testosterone Levels – The hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular (HPT) axis is a major positive and negative endocrine feedback system that regulates testis function. Hormone levels that are either too high or too low are detrimental to spermatogenesis.  Modern research has demonstrated that kidney deficiency often manifests with the dysfunction and impaired structure of the HPT axis. Experiments have shown that kidney supplementing formulas can repair the structure and restore the function of the HPT axis, bidirectionally regulate the hormone levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, and eventually increase the level of testosterone to improve the quality.

2. Boost Sperm Production & Improve Blood Flow –  Sertoli cells are a type of cell around which spermatids develop in the tubules of the testis.  Sertoli cells play a central role in the production of sperm.  A reduction in the number of these cells leads to a decrease in the number of germ cells and Leydig cells.  Leydig cells are the primary source of testosterone or androgens in males.  If Sertoli cells or Leydig cells are insufficient or not functioning properly, it can have detrimental effects on male fertility.  Experiments have shown that EAM promoted the proliferation of Sertoli cells and Leydig Cells and eventually facilitated the progression of germ cells to spermatozoa (meaning increased sperm production).

Spermatogenesis is also highly metabolic process that is susceptible to disruptions in the supply of nutrients and oxygen. Sufficient blood supply for the testis is a imperative for normal sperm production. Chinese herbal formulas including those that increase blood flow, improve the microcirculation and metabolism of the testis and promote an adequate nutrient supply for the testis, while reducing inflammatory effusion and unblocking the duct which conveys sperm from the testicle to the urethra during ejaculation.

3. Improve Semen Quality – Researchers found five weeks of acupuncture treatment reduced the number of structural abnormalities in sperm and increased the overall number of normal sperm in a group of men with infertility problems.  The study followed 28 infertile men who received acupuncture twice a week for 5 weeks, and 12 who received no treatment and served as a comparison group. Researchers compared sperm samples at the beginning and end of the study and found significant improvements in sperm quality in the acupuncture group compared with the other group.  Acupuncture treatments meant fewer structural defects in the sperm and an increase in the number of normal sperm in ejaculate.

4. Prevents Oxidative Stress – Environmental pollution causes cellular damage via by oxidative stress (OS).  Reactive oxygen species (ROS) attack the membrane and DNA of sperm cells, leading to decreased fluidity and reduced permeability of the sperm plasma membrane. This results in an augmented DNA fragmentation index (DFI) and apoptosis rate, ultimately resulting in infertility.  EAM has been demonstrated to neutralize ROS, improve the antioxidant capacity of the seminal plasma, lower sperm DFI, and protect the male reproductive system from the lesions induced by ROS.

As demonstrated, there are many ways that acupuncture and EAM can improve different aspects of male fertility.  If you are a man dealing with infertility issues, considering EAM could be extremely beneficial.  Infertility is a serious issue facing many people right now and this is just one more method that might be helpful.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions and also share this information with others.

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