Lately, I have been receiving an unusual number of inquiries regarding sperm health through my Ask Jessica Q&A service. I’m not sure what it is about the new year that makes men so urgently concerned about sperm health, but I’m happy to help answer their questions! I have received so many questions that I thought I should start a series of blogs about sperm health to help those of you out there with the same questions who might be too shy to ask.
One of the most alarming things I have been finding in my sperm research (I’ve been up to my elbows in sperm research lately, thanks to you readers) is the way that sperm interacts with soy. It keeps on coming up so I thought I would focus on soy for the first installment of this blog series. Here are a few facts, supported by research, that will have you hiding from the scary soy monster!
- Soy exposure beginning in infancy and continuing through adolescence causes males to have “significantly higher” levels of estrogen and “significantly lower” levels of testicular testosterone than in control groups. While the study supporting this was done on rats to determine whether soy exposure changed the physical makeup of their reproductive systems (it didn’t), it is still alarming to me to think of how many little boys start out on soy infant formula, then transition to soy as filler in their school lunch meat – all in the name of good health.
- Foods that help to improve sperm health include egg yolks and raw (or at least non-homogenized) milk, while soy was found to induce “sublethal” damage to sperm, meaning it doesn’t directly kill sperm, but it gets pretty darn close! An interesting study was done on ram sperm (really, what could be more manly than sperm from a ram?) which found that freezing sperm with egg yolk or milk protein made it more functional when thawed, while freezing it with soy lecithin created “sublethal damages that seriously affect sperm functionality”. One more reason to choose creme brulee over soy ice cream for a romantic baby making dessert! As if you needed a reason…
- Just a few months ago, a study was done in Japan which found that increased intake of soy and coffee (oh no!) was a “significant contributor to poorer semen quality”. Other non-dietary factors identified as sperm killers (kind of like Ghostface Killah but different) in the study included exposure to plastics, ingestion of pesticides, and increased levels of cadmium from cigarette smoke.
It’s important to keep in mind the fact that the body can usually deal with soy if it is only eaten occasionally and in small amounts. The effects of soy are not the same in everyone – some men suffer extreme hormonal changes when eating even small amounts of soy, while some vegan men who use soy as their primary source of protein have no problems with fertility and have several healthy children to prove it. If you do decide to eat soy, please be sure it is not genetically modified (label would say something like “GMO-free”) and try to stick to fermented forms of soy such as tempeh, miso, or natto over highly processed forms such as tofu.
January 6, 2012 No Comments
In my practice I work with a lot of women who experience breast tenderness, especially right before their periods. I have found that eating half a sheet of Nori seaweed each day makes a drastic difference because it is so rich in iodine and iodine directly nourishes breast tissue and calms the inflammation associated with premenstrual pain. For people that don’t like the taste of nori, I recommend about 15 mg daily of an iodine/iodide mixture such as Iodoral or Lugol’s solution. If the pain is severe, try taking 50 mg of iodine and give it an hour or two before taking painkillers. Women tell me this works like a charm and has the added benefit of improving the elasticity of their skin! There are many factors involved in breast tenderness including caffeine intake and use of hormonal contraceptives, but from my point of view as a nutritionist, iodine is key.
And as always, I must say to please consult your doctor before making any changes in diet or lifestyle.
March 11, 2009 2 Comments