Acupuncture for Men’s Fertility
Acupuncture for Men’s Fertility
As many as 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, and this can be due to variety of male or female factors. In this article, we take a look at men’s fertility from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and how acupuncture may be able to help.
Some common male fertility issues include:
- Low sperm count
- Poor sperm motility or morphology
- Ejaculation problems
- Testicular problems
- Prostate or epididymis problems
- Hormonal issues
Men’s fertility also declines with age, although this change is not as dramatic as it is in women. Although it is possible for a man to conceive well into his 60s or 70s, this situation is highly unusual and most men will find it more difficult to become a father as they age.
Men’s Fertility in Chinese Medicine
From a TCM point of view, men’s reproductive health relies on a number of different factors. These are yin and yang, essence, qi and blood, and external pathogens.
Yin and Yang and Men’s Fertility
In TCM, yin and yang are seen as central to good health in both men and women. Yin and yang are the two opposing but complementary energies of nature; night and day, cold and warmth, rest and activity, and so on.
Men’s fertility relies on these two energies being in a constant state of balance. If one becomes deficient, the other can get out of control and cause a variety of symptoms throughout the body.
Yin and yang are stored by the Kidneys and it is important to keep these organs healthy to maintain harmony between yin and yang. The Kidneys are badly affected by chronic illness, overwork, and even excessive sexual activity. TCM doctors believe that the amount of sex you have should be appropriate for your age and general state of health. Being sexually promiscuous or having intercourse while tired, drunk, or under the influence of drugs are all seen as damaging to the Kidneys.
When the Kidneys become sick and yin and yang fall out of balance, a number of fertility problems can occur. Kidney-yang deficiency is one of the most common causes of men’s infertility and can cause issues such as low sex drive, impotence, and premature ejaculation.
Essence and Men’s Fertility
Essence, known as jing in Chinese, is another important substance in TCM. Like yin and yang, it is stored by the Kidneys and also plays a vital role in men’s reproductive health.
Essence is sometimes compared to genetics as in part it is inherited from your parents and is responsible for your growth and development as a child. However, essence can also be influenced by your diet and lifestyle as you grow older. You can preserve your essence by eating well and living a healthy lifestyle, or you can deplete it with unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and using recreational drugs.
Essence also naturally declines with age which is why it becomes more difficult to conceive as you get older. In men, essence is closely linked with sperm quality and problems such as low sperm count, poor motility or morphology can be related to weak essence.
Qi and Blood and Men’s Fertility
According to TCM, qi and blood are also vital for good health. These two substances are closely related to one another and together they nourish the body and provide energy to carry out all of your biological processes.
For qi and blood to do their work, they need to reach every part of the body with ease. This relies on healthy circulation which, in TCM, is controlled by the Liver. The Liver is negatively affected by emotional stress. Stress causes the muscles to become tense, making it more difficult for qi and blood to flow freely. This can lead to stagnation in the body, and a whole host of different symptoms may follow.
In terms of men’s fertility, stagnation of qi and blood can lead to problems with ejaculation such as retrograde or painful ejaculation. You may also feel generally tense or ‘wound up’ or suffer from pain or digestive issues.
Although stress is probably the most common cause of stagnation in our hectic, modern lives, it can also be caused by injuries which block the free flow of qi and blood.
External Pathogens and Men’s Fertility
TCM was developed thousands of years ago and back then, doctors had a unique understanding of the causes of disease. Many different conditions were thought to be caused by external pathogens which could enter the body from outside and upset its delicate balance.
Today, we know that infections are caused by microbes such as bacteria and viruses, but in ancient China, doctors believed that they were due to extreme climatic factors such as excessive heat, cold, dampness, and wind. TCM doctors still use these terms today as they describe the symptoms of certain conditions so accurately.
Men’s fertility can be damaged by external pathogens which enter the reproductive organs causing blockages to the flow of qi and blood. Excessive dampness is an especially common issue and can lead to symptoms such as prostate swelling or urinary tract infections.
Acupuncture for Men’s Fertility
Acupuncture benefits men’s reproductive health and promotes fertility in a number of ways. Your exact treatment will depend on your specific problem and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.
At you first appointment, your acupuncturist will ask you for a detailed medical history including information about your past and present symptoms, family history, and lifestyle. They will then determine which of your organs or vital substances may be out of balance and create a personalized treatment plan.
From a TCM viewpoint, acupuncture for men’s fertility can help to:
- Restore harmony between yin and yang
- Nourish essence
- Benefit the circulation of qi and blood
- Help your body to expel external pathogens
From the perspective of modern medicine, acupuncture is known to:
- Improve circulation
- Reduce stress
- Influence hormonal balance
Your acupuncturist may also recommend that you supplement your treatment with Chinese herbal remedies and some simple lifestyle changes.
Self-Care Tips for Men’s Fertility
One thing which TCM and modern medicine have in common is the advice that they give to men wishing to conceive, although the reasoning is slightly different. Here are some self-care tips for men’s fertility from a TCM perspective:
Balance rest and activity
Overwork is seen as damaging the Kidneys, and so it is important to ensure that you get enough rest. You should avoid too much physical or mental work, and ensure you get enough sleep every day. However, you should not be too sedentary either as this can deplete your Kidney-yang as well as making it harder for qi and blood to flow.
Regular, moderate exercise is best as this can benefit the circulation without causing exhaustion. Brisk walking, cycling, and swimming are ideal, and can be combined with relaxing practices such as yoga or tai chi to help reduce stress and keep the muscles flexible.
As well as exercising regularly, you can manage your stress levels by using relaxation techniques such as meditation. If you are under a lot of pressure, see whether you can delegate any of your tasks to make life easier, and ask for support from friends and family if you need it.
Talking therapies such as counselling can be beneficial if you have a specific problem to work through, and can also teach you helpful coping strategies.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to improve your fertility and increase your chances of conception. Avoid foods which are difficult to digest as these can cause excessive dampness in your body and lead to fertility problems as well as weight gain. Some foods to avoid include:
- Fatty, greasy, or deep-fried foods
- Processed foods
- Refined carbohydrates and sugars
- Excessive dairy produce
- Excessive cold or raw food
Foods which can be especially beneficial are those which nourish the Kidneys. These include:
- Fish and shellfish
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and pulses
- Meat cooked on the bone
Look for foods which have a dark color or a slightly salty flavor as these are great for the Kidneys. But avoid adding extra salt to meals and choose naturally salty condiments such as soy sauce instead.
Your testicles should be kept cool as too much heat can damage your sperm quality. Wear loose fitting underwear and avoid sitting with laptops or warm dinner plates on your lap.