Current social context and media portrayal lead to the general assumption of men as unquestionably virile and ready to populate the planet.
Often considered as an afterthought if there is difficulty conceiving, let’s take a look at the prospective father to be and simple things he can do to improve his lot.
(Actually, these practical ideas are essential to your vibrant health (both men and women), whether you are trying to conceive, or doing your best not to….)
ANDROIDS We have the ever looming spectre of low sperm-count, morphology or motility to consider. The finger of blame points to androgination of the “endangered” human male. This is apparently due to exposure to too much female hormone, estrogen (through our urban water supplies) and estrogen-mimicing chemicals (from plastics containing/ wrapping our foods and drinks). (See Note* below for more on this issue). Since these seem pretty much unavoidable in today’s urbanised life it seems that the end of the human race is set to go out with a whimper rather than a bang….
…Or maybe not:- there are some very simple, manly things we can do to “man up”.
SQUATS The most simple and accessible of these is my old favourite. My patients will almost certainly know what’s coming… the Squat! This squat is so good on so many levels that I am sure I am not alone in calling it the ‘king of exercises’.
In the context of male fertility we are interested primarily in the intense contraction the squat demands of the Kidney Meridian & Liver Meridian which run through the legs. Not convinced? Here is a bit more detail on the advantages:
Mojo: In Acupuncture theory, the testicles are part of the "Kidney-complex". The health of this system is fundamental to healthy sperm production. It is the ‘essence’ of the Kidney which stores the essential information of life (basically the code for DNA). Exercising the Kidney Meridian regularly essentially helps encode your DNA into the sperm and gets them healthy.
Delivery: The Liver is also involved here but its influence has more to do with the delivery mechanism: A healthy Liver function & Liver Meridian is fundamental to erectile function. This is elegantly encapsulated in our own language by the term “brewer’s droop”.
Flexibility & Flow: The second area of improvement is increased flexibility in the lower back & groin areas – allowing for improved sexual function & enjoyment. Regular squats will also increase blood flow through the genitals and testes which is especially lacking in today’s sedentary & seated lives, and skinny-jeans fashion.
Heat Distribution: Thirdly, when performed correctly, the squat works the legs, the core and the entire “posterior chain” (legs & back all the way up to the neck). This is the Bladder Meridian in Acupuncture theory. This is considered to feed the Kidney Meridian. Also when it is working well, it redistributes heat from the top of the body to the bottom – see ZuKan SokuNetsu for the vital importance of this!
TOO MUCH OF A MAN? There are some men who experience sperm quality issues as a result of over-doing exercise (and other stressors) rather than under-doing it. This can seem counter-intuitive, especially to the culprits themselves.
They are usually not resting enough relative to the volume of exercise and are basically not giving their Liver and Kidney systems sufficient time to process the metabolic results of exercise. (Note that metabolically, your kidneys and liver don’t distinguish whether you are doing ‘chest-day’ a ‘leg-day’ or a ‘back-day’!) Yes, they are ‘knackered’.
Such men would do well to reduce exercise volume a little and focus a greater proportion of what they do do in the lower body. Did I mention squats?
COLD GOLD 令金法 REI KIN HO This may sound like some kind of conspiracy theory to do with the Cold War military-industrial complex but actually its another ‘Manly Practice’. My Sensei wrote so eloquently about it that I would rather you read his own words:-
Rei Kin Ho translates to "Cold Gold methods” in English, which doesn’t give much of a clue as to what it is all about, unless you consider that the gold here refers to the testicles. It’s a bit like the slang term for male genitalia: “the family jewels”. At any rate, this method refers to the practice of chilling the testicles and is based on sound Oriental medical principles.
Yin & Yang The testicles are considered to be ‘yang’ [warm] in nature and therefore require yin [cool] to become balanced. In bodily terms this means that the very yang testicles hang slightly away from the body to avoid being overheated and thus overexposed to yang. In fact, the production of sperm can only take place at a temperature that is about 2°C below body temperature. Bathing the testicles in cold or even freezing water is though to stimulate sperm production and also help with arousal problems.
Normally upon sexual arousal the testicles are lifted nearer to the body by a small band of muscles. By applying freezing cold water to them, sexual arousal is mimicked on a testicular scale (limited, for the cold doesn’t allow you to think of sex): The testicles are strongly lifted toward the body and this strengthens the muscles involved. At the same time, blood flow to the whole area is improved and a refreshing glow is felt.
Shower or Bowl Perform this exercise in the morning in the shower. At first a lukewarm shower should be used, gradually decreasing the temperature until it is cold. It is good to finish off your shower with this one as it is rather invigorating, reminding me of my nude bathing days on Brighton Beach, a bleak pebbled beach in freezing, miserable England.
If the force of the shower hitting the testicles is unpleasant and you want something more traditional, then a small bowl may be filled with cold water and the testicles slowly immersed in it. Normally about two or three minutes of this cold therapy is enough to ensure a glowing and vigorous if slightly unconventional start to the day.
…but not after Sex I would add that this Cold Gold Technique (and indeed the practice of full-body cold showers which I will discuss in another newsletter) should not be practised immediately after sex. At this time the body is very open to its core depths and the cold can penetrate deeply, exhausting the Liver and Kidney.
PULL UPS Ok, its pull-ups of the pelvic variety that I’m after. But I am trying to sell it to you as a ‘Manly Practice’ to bring this excellent ‘exercise’ out of what is often erroneously considered of importance to female health only.
Pelvic pull-ups (yes, lifting & squeezing your perineum in a manly fashion) will stimulate the Kidney and Liver Meridians with the benefits discussed above. As a variation, try gripping the floor with your toes whilst doing it (the Kidney Meridian will be involved here).
If you need further incentive, regular practice can improve sexual function by:
increasing blood flow,
increasing control over ejaculation (and resolving premature ejaculation), and
improve prostrate health as you age. You may not be thinking about this now, but ask any of your elderly relatives about it...
To emphasise these benefits, try it out from time to time whilst urinating, attempting to cut the flow. Shifting the focus of contraction to the anus can also help prevent haemorrhoids.
ACUPUNCTURE Obviously there is more to it than what been covered above, but a good proportion of problems can be resolved by applying these simple concepts. Good acupuncture diagnosis and treatment is also recommended to fine-tune your hormones and metabolism for optimum health and manly, virile fertility.
In part 3 of this newsletter we assume successful conception and look at the progress and methods to support both mother and foetus during the 10 Months of Pregnancy as understood by Acupuncture theory. Yes, its 10!
Notes * Note that these endocrine disrupting chemicals tend to leech at a far greater rate from plastics into food and drink (1) if there is heating and (2) the thinner and more flexible the plastic. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers and if possible use less cling-film, especially on acidic foods which encourage leeching (eg tomato / lemon).
** (For a discussion on the female perspective please see Part 1 of this Newsletter: Fertility & Fitness