With Father’s Day just around the corner, now’s the perfect time to talk about men’s health. Specifically, I’d like to address three common health problems men encounter and propose safe, effective solutions for each one. Feel free to share these with the special men in your life.
Men’s Health Problem #1: Prostate Concerns
As men get older, several health problems regarding the prostate can arise. Here are two of the most common.
One common concern is prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate). Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics for this health problem, which may help acute conditions but are often ineffective for chronic prostatitis. It’s worth asking your physician to rule out a fungal infection, but that’s not a sure bet either.
The good news is that, in most cases, prostatitis eventually clears up, with or without treatment. In the meantime, see if cutting back on alcohol and caffeine and drinking lots of water helps. I also recommend zinc, 60 mg per day, and other supplements that support prostate health such as saw palmetto, pygeum, beta-sitosterol, nettles, and lycopene. Cranberry extract, which improves urinary tract symptoms, may also be helpful.
An even more common issue that affects men’s health is prostate enlargement. Seventy-five percent of men 50 years and older have measurable enlargement of their prostate gland, otherwise known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). As the gland enlarges, it constricts the urethra, blocking the passage of urine from the bladder. Signs of BPH include a weak urinary stream, dribbling, and nocturia (having to get up several times during the night to urinate). Serious BPH may result in obstruction, with a urinary flow as low as 4-5 cc per second; normal is about 35 cc.
The most common treatment for BPH is prescription drugs such as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which block the conversion of the hormone that stimulates the prostate’s age-related growth spurt, and alpha blockers, which relax the smooth muscles in the neck of the bladder and the prostate. Though these medications can improve urine flow and reduce symptoms, they have a host of side effects.
Fortunately, there are several effective natural treatments for this common men’s health problem. For starters, follow the dietary and supplement guidelines mentioned above for prostatitis. Men in their 40s or early 50s should also begin taking a high quality supplement that contains saw palmetto extract and other supportive herbs. Saw palmetto works in a manner similar to yet much safer than 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor drugs prescribed for BPH, and beta-sitosterol has also been shown to be effective for treating enlarged prostates. Dosages vary amongst products so use as directed. My formula, Prostate Health, is one great combo product that also includes a proprietary blend of pumpkin seed and soy extracts that work wonders for another men’s health problem: urinary troubles. To order Prostate Health, call 800-810-6655.
Men’s Health Problem #2: Sexual Function
You can’t expect to have top-notch sexual function if you don’t support your overall health and well-being. The best way to do this is by making appropriate lifestyle choices. Eat a healthy diet, maintain your optimal weight, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. On the drug and supplement front, you also have several options.
Rx Meds and L-Arginine
While I’m no fan of Big Pharma, I’m not opposed to drugs that are safe and work well for a variety of health problems. Viagra, along with Cialis, Levitra, and related medications are such drugs. However, if you prefer something more natural, I suggest the amino acid L-arginine. Like Viagra, arginine increases nitric oxide (NO) levels in the blood. NO, which relaxes arteries and improves blood flow plays a key role in erections and sexual health in general.
Although it has been ignored in the clamor over Viagra and other drugs for male sexual dysfunction, for some men arginine is an equally effective and far less expensive option. My patients who are taking arginine for cardiovascular conditions (it supports overall circulation as well) often report improvements in erectile function. Even those who don’t have problems note increased duration and firmness of erections.
Consult your physician before taking arginine if you are taking Viagra, nitroglycerin, or related drugs. I recommend 500–1,000 mg every two hours throughout the day, or 6 grams or more 45 minutes prior to having sex.
Pycnogenol + Arginine
Pycnogenol, which is extracted from French maritime pine bark, contains flavonoids, proanthocyanidins and other phytonutrients with powerful antioxidant activity that protect the artery walls and provide overall support for the cardiovascular system. Like arginine, Pycnogenol also aids in the production of NO, making it another effective supplement for supporting erectile function.
Furthermore, studies have shown that when Pycnogenol and arginine are combined they have a synergistic effect on NO production. In one study, which examined the effects of Pycnogenol and arginine supplementation, 80 percent of the participants experienced normal sexual function after taking 80 mg of Pycnogenol combined with 1.7 g of arginine for 30 days.
Epimedium sagittatum, commonly and appropriately referred to as horny goat weed, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as an aphrodisiac and enhancer of male sexual function. Its active ingredient, icariin, is now known to target some of the same mechanisms as Viagra and related drugs. It also boosts NO production, and mimics some of the effects of testosterone. If you decide to try this herb, look for a standardized extract for icariin and take as directed.
The root of maca (Lepidium meyenii) has long been used in the Andes to enhance vitality, fertility, energy, endurance, and stamina. It is suggested that maca may be beneficial in both women’s and men’s health.
An extract of Avena sativa (wild oats) is believed to mimic testosterone. As a result, herbalists speculate that the extract can help enhance sexual performance, satisfaction, and vigor.
Men’s Health Problem #3: Thinning Hair
Hair loss may not be a health problem per se, but it is certainly a concern of many men. I wish I had an easy answer, but the most common type of hair loss in both men and women is androgenetic alopecia (male/female pattern hair loss), and it is driven by genetic and age-related hormonal changes. Topical minoxidil (Rogaine) has been approved for this condition, but results are mediocre and temporary. Oral finasteride (Propecia)—which is a 5-alpha-reducase inhibitor—is often prescribed, but it’s not very effective and has lots of adverse effects. Bioidentical hormone replacement reportedly helps in some cases, as do laser and light treatments.
Hair loss is also a hallmark symptom of hypothyroidism, so I suggest you also have thyroid hormones checked and, if levels are low, request a prescription for natural (Armour) thyroid. Our female patients give us good feedback on orthosilicic acid, a form of silicon that boosts collagen formation and has been shown to improve hair thickness as well as skin elasticity, bone density, and nail strength. There’s no reason men shouldn’t give this a try as well. The suggested dose is 5 mg, taken twice a day with meals. Look for BioSil in health food stores or order RegeneMax from the Whitaker Wellness Institute at (800) 632-8890.
Men’s Health Recap
I hope these solutions for common men’s health problems are helpful for you and/or the men in your life. Taking good care of yourself now can go a long way toward ensuring better health well into the future. Here’s wishing all the Dads out there a happy and healthy Father’s Day.