Men need to learn more about prostate care

A couple of months ago, men were growing moustaches to promote awareness of prostate cancer. I saw all types of moustaches, amazed at the infinite variations on facial hair man can accomplish within a single month.

A couple of months ago, men were growing moustaches to promote awareness of prostate cancer. I saw all types of moustaches, amazed at the infinite variations on facial hair man can accomplish within a single month.

Unfortunately there was not that much information on prostate care. So here’s some general information to improve prostate health.

The prostate is a walnut size gland that sits below the male bladder and wraps around the urethra. It secretes the white fluid that sperm travel in during ejaculation.

The prostrate thrives on testosterone. Without this male hormone, it shrivels up. Too many estrogens in a man’s diet or environment have a similar detrimental effect.

There are a number of conditions that affect the prostate. Each has its separate causes and outcomes.

Benign Prostrate Enlargement or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) — BPH occurs in 50 to 60 per cent percent of men between the ages of 40 and 49. BPH is the gradual enlargement of the prostate. For some men BPH has no symptoms.

For others, it causes a number of challenges. Initial symptoms are:

l Hesitancy: Difficulty getting started in urination.

l Urgency: A strong need to urinate, including frequent trips to the bathroom at night.

l A thin or stop-and-go stream.

If the prostrate continues to enlarge, complete emptying of the bladder becomes increasingly difficult. This may result in back pain, chronic bladder infections and possible kidney damage.

PBH maybe caused by an excess accumulation of testosterone. Sex uses up testosterone. Studies suggest sex three times a week is the best prevention against the development of BPH.

Prostatitis — Prostatitis is inflammation or an infection of the prostate. It may be causes by a sexually transmitted disease.

In some instances, the infection has spread from another part of the body, for example an abscessed tooth. Or it may have been aggravated by extended periods of sitting on hard surfaces, such as bicycle seats.

The symptoms of prostatitis are similar to BPH, with the addition of pain on sitting and/or a dull ache in the area of the prostate.

Prostatitis can lead to bladder and kidney infections.

Malignant Prostatic Enlargement — This is commonly referred to as prostate cancer. Current estimates are that one in nine men will be diagnosed with this disease. One in three of these men will die from it.

Although commonly a disease of elderly men, it is occurring more frequently in younger men.

Many of the symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to BPH. Tests done at the doctor’s office are used to differentiate between the possibility of cancer or BPH. These include a digital exam to identify unusual lumps and a blood test for PSA.

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. Elevated levels of PSA are found in both cancer and BPH.

It has recently been discovered that there are two different groups of PSAs. One is bound to a protein, the other is not. A low ratio of unbound PSA to bound PSA suggests BPH. A higher ratio suggests cancer.

Caring for the Prostate — Regular sex, other than when suffering with prostatitis. Abstinence is best until the infection resolves.

Eight half-cup servings of fruit and veggies per day, including tomatoes and carrots. Lycopene, found in both vegetable reduces inflammation in the prostate.

Sports with a competitive edge are best for the prostate, they engage testosterone.

Drink green tea and wear boxers.

Kegel exercises, tightening and loosing the lower pelvic muscles, massages the prostate.

Substitute pumpkin seeds for peanuts, and snack on oysters. Both foods are high in zinc.

Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Saw palmetto (Serenoa spp.) is the best-known herb to ease BPH. It grows in the West Indies and is probably one of the worse tasting herbs in the apothecary.

A more local plant, nettle root (Uticaria dioica radix) is just as effective, cheaper and tastes better.

As with most health issues, challenges to the prostate maybe associate with dysfunction in another organ system, such as the liver.

Many men report relief using liver tonic herbs such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) or even the famous menopause herb black cohash (Cimmicifuga racemosa).

It is important to address underlying health issue which maybe a contributing factor. For example, flax seed which supports lower cholesterol levels has brought effective relief to BPH.

So whether sporting a moustache or not, take care.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached at abrah@shaw.ca

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