Men’s Health

Men health centers mostly on the genitourinary tract, but there is much more to men’s health issues. Hormonal balance is just as important for men as it is for women. We experience changes with our hormonal balance but usually are not aware of these changes. Men are brought up in this society to be the strong breadwinner of the family, and the pressures to provide and to take care put a lot of stress on us. The fact that we don’t know how to express our emotions also put us under stress conditions that have health ramifications. This article will deal with some of the main health issues such as impotence, enlarged prostrate, prostatitis, and cancer. We will discuss an approach that includes dietary and lifestyle changes and some natural remedies that can aid these conditions. To begin let’s discuss the prostate gland. In a recent article in the London Times the results of a survey taken showed that 89% of the men did not know where their prostate gland was located. They also did not know the function of this gland or the problems associated with it. It is estimated that 50-60% of all males in the United States have problems with enlarged prostate. So where is this prostate gland and what is its function? The prostate, which is the size of a walnut, lies below the bladder and is wrapped around the urethra, the tube used to carry urine from the bladder. The prostate gland produces seminal fluid that is needed for reproductive processes. One of the main problems with the prostate is enlargement called BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). The symptoms are painful urination, straining to urinate, prolonged dribbling, incomplete bladder emptying, increase frequency of urination, and nocturia (night time urination). Other symptoms can be bladder infections, bleeding, and incontinence. Enlargement is caused by numerous factors. To describe it simply, it is usually caused by abnormal growth or swelling of the prostate tissue. This is a result of the hormone testosterone. The prostate gland takes testosterone and converts it to a more potent hormone called DHT (Dihydrotestosterone). Enlargement happens when too much conversion takes place, it then begins to block the urethra, and urination is impaired. The drug prescribed for this problem is Proscar. It has been compared in numerous studies with a natural substance found in saw palmetto berries and the results are very interesting. Proscar takes approximately six months to begin working effectively. In the studies with the use of an extract of the saw palmetto berries, results have been seen in as little as 30 days without side effects. There are saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and sterols in the berries that help to reduce this conversion factor of the testosterone, thus reducing the swelling and helping to relieve symptoms. Saw palmetto has a long history of use for this condition, and it is beneficial that science has been able to understand how it works. A diet high in fat and sugar has been shown to be a contributing factor with this problem. I will address dietary changes later in the article. Impotence affects approximately 10 million men in the United States with only about 200,000 seeking medical help. Even though this has been associated with aging, growing older does not necessarily mean we will be impotent. There are two types: Primary and secondary. Most cases are secondary and are related to stress, emotional factors such as low self esteem, immaturity, depression, hypothyroidism, and hypo pituitary function. Other causes can be lack of circulation or impairment of blood flow. The herb gingko biloba and yohimbe have been studied in research and have shown to provide some benefits. Some other herbals that have seen improvement are panax and Siberian ginseng due to how they affect the adrenal hormones, and again, saw palmetto berries. Prostatitis is an inflammation or infection of the prostate usually seen in men from 20 to 50 years of age. This is usually due to a bacterial infection and can be contracted through sexual partners. Candida albicans and chlamydia are two known bacteria. Deficiency of zinc, Vitamin C and proteolytic enzymes can also be factors. Some excellent remedies are the herb pipsissewa, horsetail, Echinacea, goldenseal, uva ursi and marshmallow root. These plants are soothing and have an anti-bacterial effect on the urinary tract system. They are normally taken in tea form for better effectiveness. Prostate cancer is responsible for approximately 35,000 deaths in America. It is most commonly found in men over 50 and is the second most prevalent form of cancer affecting men. About 20% of enlarged prostates are a result of cancer. Fully 80% of these cancers do not metastasize or are of the slow growing type. One of the problems with prostate cancer is that it is present without many detectable symptoms. It is now recommended that men have a PSA (Prostatic Specific Antigen) test once a year. This can indicate the possible presence of cancer. The precise cause is unknown, but many factors seem to play a role. Some factors are genetics, hormonal balance, vasectomies, diet, and personal sexual activities over a period of time. Of course, prevention is the key to any health condition, and the herbals mentioned earlier have positive effects. Let’s look at some of the dietary and nutritional helpers for these conditions. Several studies have found that decreasing sugar leads to a decreased risk of cancer, and a high fat diet (especially animal fats) contribute to higher incidence of cancer. Excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol can be contributing factors. It is recommended to use more complex carbohydrates and more fresh vegetables and fruits. Some other nutrients that help to prevent problems are:
  • Zinc: 15-60 mg daily. Necessary for proper prostate function
  • Vitamin B6: Enhances absorption of zinc
  • Magnesium: 200-600 mg daily. Aids muscle and immune function
  • Flaxseed oil: 1-2 TLB Balances fatty acidsVitamin E: 400 IU 1-2 times day
  • Selenium: 200-mcg daily
  • DHEA: An adrenal hormone used for hormonal balance
  • Saw palmetto extract: 160-320 mg daily
  • Pygeum africanum: Works on inflammation and bacteria
  • Stinging nettle: Aids kidney bladder function; aids flow
  Prevention is the best approach when dealing with any genitourinary health issues. Be sure to educate yourself before using any treatments recommended and check with your health care practitioner when dealing with these ailments. Article by herbalist Dave Hawkins, MH, CNC
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