As a man, what do you consider your most important asset? Your charm? Your chiselled good looks? How about your platinum card? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you’ve forgotten about the fundamental aspect that makes you a man – your giblets.
A man takes his equipment seriously. Whether big or small, active or passive, a man’s bits are his temple, so to speak. But though you may think your penis is your most important asset, it's what’s underneath that really counts.
Your testes account for two of the most important functions of your body – testosterone, and sperm production. Without testosterone, you’re losing the essential development of more muscle and bone and the regulating of all that makes you male; without sperm, well, you can forget about ever spawning a set of mini-me’s.
Sperm and testosterone can continue being produced by your testicles well into your eighties. This is, of course, if you take good care of the little guys. Everything you do in life, from what you eat, to what exercise you participate in, can affect the function of your jewels. It is up to you to take note of these possible consequences, and do something about it.
Baking your berries
What many men do not realise is that for the production of sperm and testosterone to happen regularly, the testicles must be at a constant temperature, that being approximately four degrees below your body temperature.
But don’t stress out. Evolution has stepped in to help you in this regard. Your scrotum is your own little heat regulator, and will do its best to keep your factory at an optimum temperature.
If the temperature of your sack rises to dangerous levels, a muscle called the cremaster muscle relaxes, allowing your testicles to hang loosely, and providing them with greater access to cooler air.
If it’s colder, the cremaster muscle will contract and pull your testicles closer to your body in attempt to maintain body heat.
However, this doesn't mean the temperature down south is always constant. There are many things you can do to avoid over-heating, or over-cooling of your manhood.
Avoid very hot baths. Bath water will raise the temperature of your testicles to way above normal, and because they are immersed in the water, they have literally nowhere to go. Don’t worry, bathing can’t cause permanent damage – you’ll just have minimal fertility for a couple of hours after a bath.
Wearing tight underpants or jeans can also heat things up, but there is little evidence that boxer shorts eliminate this problem, contrary to urban mythology. Instead, try wearing material that breathes more easily, and avoid wearing those tight leather pants from varsity too many nights in a row.
Lose weight. Those hanging layers of fat are heating up your crotch area, and raising the temperature of your globes to unhealthy levels.
An enzyme known as aromatase is produced by excess fat, and is responsible for turning testosterone into oestrogen, which can eventually lead to the development of man-breasts. Not a pretty sight.
Eat, drink, shrink
Everyone knows that what you eat and drink affects your entire body function, including your reproductive organs.
Alcohol and drugs have been shown to stunt the production of testosterone and sperm, and can lead to the development of abnormal sperm.
High-fat diets have also been shown to hamper male fertility. The best thing to do is just eat healthily.
As you are probably aware, bicycle seats can damage your testicles if you are Lance Armstronging it around your neighbourhood every day.
When you are on a stationary bicycle indoors, or on a real one outside, you are putting pressure on an artery and nerve bundle that is situated in your perineum (the space between your scrotum and anus).
This pinches off blood to your testicles, and if habitual, could result in erectile dysfunction, low quality sperm production, or even prostate inflammation.
Luckily for cycling enthusiasts, a vast amount of research has been put into designing a less damaging seat.
The dual platform seat features a large gap through its centre which helps distribute your body weight more consistently. This has been designed to give your scrotum a bit of space as you cycle.
When cycling, take a break every half an hour, and stand up every couple of minutes to relieve the pressure on your perineum. Try make these actions a habit when you cycle.
Wearing extra-tight spandex won't help either, as it will pull your testicles closer to your body, adding to the pressure.
If you cover more than 140 km a week, take a day off to give your extremities a bit of a break.
Any man will tell you that there is no greater pain than a blow below the belt.
Not only can a knock to your privates be ridiculously painful, it can result in permanent damage to erection function and sperm production.
Damage to the testicles is a rare occurrence however, but this doesn’t mean that they can't tear or rupture with a hard enough blow.
Sportsmen are especially vulnerable to testicle damage, and should take care to shield their genitals with protective cups, or protective underwear that has recently become available.
If you do take a hit, apply an ice pack to the area, and wait for half an hour. If the pain subsides, this usually means that all is well, but if the pain persists after an hour, see a doctor immediately.
Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, but bad for your libido too. Clinical studies show that men who smoke ten or more cigarettes a day suffer from a lower sperm count, and a visible decrease in sperm functionality.
Smoking can cause breakages in your DNA, leading to an increase in free radicals, which become deposited in the testicles and affect sperm negatively.
Smoking also hardens your arteries - including those that deliver blood to your penis when you get an erection. The blood vessels within the penis are some of the smallest in the body and so are first in line for clogging.
Smoking also increases a man's risk of developing testicular inflammation, orchitis and mumps.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Quit smoking today.
Of course, keeping your equipment clean is non-debatable. Not only will this ensure a happy partner at bedtime, but will add to the longevity and functionality of your bishop.
Men who are not circumcised should take special note of genital hygiene. The foreskin can gather dirt and other undesirable things underneath it, and should be rinsed clean at least twice a day.
The presence of a foreskin can also increase the risk of STD infections, as it helps to contain body fluids on the head of the penis after a sexual encounter.
But just because you’ve gone for the snip, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear when it comes to keeping clean. A long day at work or on the field can leave a foul smell and build-up of sweat down there, but nothing that can’t be cured with a quick shower.
Though it is a painful thing for many men to consider, a third of all penile ruptures are a result of sexual intercourse.
A sudden shift in position, or trying awkward positions can put immense pressure on the erect shaft of the penis, and can result in the tearing of the penile tissue, which is often audible, and beyond any pain a man could ever wish to experience.
These injuries occur mostly through rough sexual play, or when partners resort to having sex in tiny spaces, like in the front seat of a car, or in the cupboard at work.
There’s not much you can do to prevent this possible injury, other than being aware of what’s going on during intercourse, and taking precautions to prevent your pride and joy getting into a damaging situation.
(Warren Vonk, Health24.com, Updated December 2009)