Male infertility due to low or abnormal sperm production is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Infertility in general has increased over the years, with 7% couples unable to have children unassisted. In 40-50% of these cases, this is due to male infertility.
Many factors contribute to male fertility including:
- Drugs or alcohol
- Strenuous bicycle or horseback riding
One overlooked reason for male infertility is leaky gut. There’s actually quite a bit of evidence showing that leaky gut decreases testosterone in males of reproductive age. There’s also evidence that correcting leaky gut improves male fertility. So let’s dive in to the research.
Leaky gut, male infertility, and low testosterone
A recent observational studies showed that people with leaky gut have lower testosterone than those without it. The study also injected men with lipopolysaccharide(LPS) and found a decrease in testosterone.
LPS is a component of the cell wall of gram negative bacteria in the gut. As the name suggests, leaky gut occurs when the intestinal wall cannot keep food and bacteria out of the blood. As a result, food and bacteria contained within the gut enter the blood and cause inflammation.
The theory behind why this happens is that since testosterone lowers immune function, infection decreases testosterone to help resolve the infection. Since DNA damage also occurs during infection, this may reduce fertility to reduce the risk of a failed pregnancy.
In the study mentioned above, testosterone decreased within an hour and reached a significantly lower level by 6 hours. It remained low even 24 hours later.
Leaky gut and sperm count & quality
A study published this year found that leaky gut and LPS decrease sperm count and quality in obese men. This is due to oxidative stress induced DNA damage to sperm.
In vitro studies show that sperm exposed to LPS have poor motility and often die. Another study found that LPS decreases sperm motility with not effect on count.
Animal models also show that leaky gut decreases male fertility. A consistent finding in all studies is that in addition to a direct effect of LPS on male infertility, inflammation also plays a role.
Male infertility continue to increase in prevelance, the primary factor for 40-50% of couples who cannot conceive. Methods to increase testosterone are used to treat male factor infertility, but this may not be ideal. Since testosterone impairs the immune system, attacking the source of the inflammation makes more sense.
Thus, if you have leaky gut, addressing that may be your best bet to improve male infertility. But first, you need to determine if you have leaky gut.
Currently there aren’t a lot of good options for testing for leaky gut. The best I’ve found is the 5 sugar intestinal permeability assay(IPA). To check out a sample report, click here.