Can alcohol, caffeine, and smoking affect your fertility?
In the past few years, the lifestyle of adult life has changed drastically. Nowadays, people, especially in metropolitan areas, indulge in a lifestyle that includes excessive coffee and alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, etc. Most of the time, we consume these food products, unaware of facts about how they are going to impact our overall health.
When we think about lifestyle affecting our physical health, most people think about diseases like cancer, heart conditions, and diabetes. The influence of these food items on reproductive health is something that rarely comes to mind. Taking care of your fertility doesn’t seem important when you are young. At such times, we also tend to fall into habits like smoking that can negatively affect your fertility. After marriage, when planning to have a child, these habits may create problems.
Whether you are a male or a female, your lifestyle has an impending effect on your fertility. Your eating and drinking habits, exercising habits, your thinking all affect your fertility.
Making some healthy lifestyle changes improves the chances of a healthy pregnancy, whereas unhealthy habits like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and having caffeine in large amounts decreases fertility for both men and women. Let us see how these factors can affect your fertility in the long run.
In this article
How alcohol affects your fertility?
Drinking alcohol has become a part of the lifestyle of most of the young generation. Everyone knows about the side effects like liver and heart disease. However, few people know about its negative effects on the fertility of both men and women. There are many studies done in the past few years showing the effects of alcohol on fertility. However, it is not clear what amount of alcohol results in infertility.
In men, alcohol consumption can lead to decreased sperm count, testicular atrophy (shrinking of testicles), and a decreased libido (decreased sex drive) all of which can lead to fertility problems when they try to start a family.
In women, the hangover has been associated with decreased fertility suggesting that the amount of alcohol consumed also matters. Studies claim that drinking alcohol in a range of one drink a week to 5 times a day can decrease the probability of successful pregnancy by 50% and decrease in the rate of implantation (a process when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the womb)  leading to a failed pregnancy. This basically means that it will take a woman who is a heavy drinker longer than other women to get pregnant.
Additionally, women who are heavy drinkers (7 or more drinks in a week or 3 or more drinks on one occasion) are at a higher risk of getting irregular periods and suffer from fertility problems. Studies show that heavy alcohol use may decrease the ovarian reserve ( number of eggs a woman has). Ovarian reserve can be easily determined by the AMH test (anti- mullerian hormone test). A study of African American women in Michigan found that women who regularly drank two or more times a week had 26% lower AMH level than women who don’t drink . Low AMH level indicates the decline in ovarian reserve and hence ability to get pregnant.
How smoking affects your fertility?
If you are a smoker, you may take longer to get pregnant as compared to a non-smoker. Typically, when a couple has unprotected sexual intercourse once every 2 to 3 days they get pregnant within a year. However, these chances are reduced by almost half each month for a couple who smokes.
Studies estimate that cigarettes contain about 4,000 + toxic chemicals that are harmful to the human body. These chemicals also have an impact on fertility as well. A recent study found that among 1,786 men going through infertility workup smoking led to a 15.3% decrease in sperm density and a 17.5% decrease in total sperm count .
Furthermore, chemicals like carbon monoxide, nicotine, and cyanide in cigarettes can speed up menopause in women. This means you will reach menopause (absence of menstruation and ability to conceive) way before the supposed age (i.e 51 which is considered the average of menopause).
Smoking is also a top contributor to pregnancy issues like:
- Ectopic Pregnancy
- Premature Birth
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
In order to avoid smoking cigarettes, many people switch to e-cigarettes these days. E-cigarettes don’t have tobacco and don’t produce harmful chemicals that other cigarettes do, however, research is still going on how safe are e-cigarettes and what are its effects on the human body.
How caffeine affects your fertility?
Caffeine is the main ingredient found in coffee, soft drinks (especially cola containing drinks), tea, and chocolate. Consuming caffeine, be it tea, coffee, or via other forms, has become an integral part of our daily life.
Due to the lack of extensive research, there is no clear proof of how caffeine affects your ability to conceive. However, fertility experts recommend limiting the caffeine intake when you are planning to get pregnant. Many published studies suggest that excessive caffeine may cause a delay in pregnancy , miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight. In general, consumption of more than four cups of coffee in a day can increase the time of pregnancy to more than nine and a half months. Experts recommend limiting the caffeine intake to 200 mg a day or less to have healthy fertility and improve your chances of pregnancy.
People suffering from fertility issues rarely think of these substances as causes of infertility. But, having a healthy lifestyle and limiting your alcohol, smoking, and caffeine consumption will help you achieve your dream of a complete family.
However, if the damage is already done, just cutting down on the consumption won’t help to reduce the fertility issues you are facing. You may need some extra help to improve your fertility. Your doctor may prescribe some medications which will help to reduce your fertility issues or may suggest you undergo artificial reproductive treatments. You can also try some natural remedies at home to increase your fertility.
Home remedies to boost male fertility
As mentioned earlier, substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine can cause issues like low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, low sperm mobility, and low sex drive in men. Thankfully, there are some remedies you can try at home to help you regain fertility.
Studies show that regularly exercising can increase testosterone levels, which help reduce the low sex drive. Also, don’t exercise vigorously. Too much exercise can also have the opposite effect on your sperm health.
Increase your vitamin C intake:
Research-based evidence suggests that vitamin C improves sperm quality. You can buy vitamin C supplements that are available online and in pharmacies. You can also include vitamin C rich food in your diet.
- Fruits like guava, strawberries, kiwi, oranges, papaya, tomato, lemon are rich in vitamin C
- Green vegetables like broccoli, kale, thyme, cabbage are also a good source of vitamin C
Increase your zinc intake:
Zinc intake can help reduce low sperm count and increase testosterone levels. You can opt for either zinc supplements or include zinc-rich food in your diet.
- Fruits like avocado, blackberries, pomegranate, raspberries, guava, peaches, etc. are rich in zinc
- Vegetables like green peas, spinach, beet greens, broccoli, lady finger, sweet corn, etc. are rich in zinc
Ashwagandha is a huge part of Indian Ayurveda, and it has many healing properties. Recent studies also show that it can improve male fertility as well. A study conducted on 46 men found that taking ashwagandha roots increased their sperm volume by 53%, sperm motility by 57%, and sperm count by a massive 167% .
You can get ashwagandha supplements easily online. Also, there are many famous herbal companies in India whose ashwagandha products are available in pharmacies and their own designated shops.
Home remedies to boost female fertility
Women may take more time for conception if they are heavy smokers and consume heavy amounts of alcohol and caffeine. And if they do get pregnant they still have other risks related to pregnancy. If you are concerned about your conception chances and pregnancy risk you can follow some of the home remedies mentioned below.
Dates are rich in vitamin B and K. It is also a good source of iron and folate that are essential nutrients for a successful conception. For best results, grind 10 to 12 seedless dates with some coriander roots. Take and paste and add it in cow’s milk and boil it. Drink this mixture for a week after your periods are over.
Banyan Tree Roots
Banyan tree roots are a good home remedy for increasing your chances for conception. You can find banyan tree root powder online or pharmacies. Mix the powder in milk and drink for three days after your periods. Follow this method for a few months for the best results.
Pomegranate is rich in vitamin-K and vitamin-C and has many antioxidants, potassium, and folate. These nutrients help in conception and also reduces the chances of miscarriage. For best results, take the bark of the pomegranate tree and its seeds in equal amounts and make a powder. Consume half a teaspoon of this powder daily for some weeks.
Nutmeg is also known to enhance female fertility. You can include it in your daily diet for a better chance at conception. Take a tablespoon of nutmeg powder and sugar and mix it in a glass of cow milk. Drink this solution daily during your periods.
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List of ReferencesHide
Rakesh Sharma, Kelly R Biedenharn, et al. “Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility”. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013; 11: 66, PMID: 23870423.
Hawkins Bressler L, Bernardi LA, et al. “Alcohol, cigarette smoking, and ovarian reserve in reproductive-age African-American women”. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016;;215(6):758.e1-758.e9; PMID: 27418446.
Jason R. Kovac, Abhinav Khanna, et al. “The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Male Fertility”. Postgrad Med. 2015 Apr; 127(3): 338–341, PMID: 25697426.
Cynthia K. Stanton, Ronald H. Gray, “Effects of Caffeine Consumption on Delayed Conception”, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 142, Issue 12, 15 December 1995, Pages 1322–1329.
Vijay R. Ambiye, Deepak Langade, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study”. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 571420, PMID: 24371462.
Last updated on: : 28 Sep 2020