Here’s a shocker – men are much less likely than women to visit a naturopathic doctor or any kind of doctor for that matter when they are sick. Often they wait until their symptoms progress into something serious before they do anything about them. Some of this tendency may be that men are less likely to ask for help in general. Needing help is perceived as a sign of weakness. Hence, the guys have that often-joked-about inability to ask for directions. Some of it may also be that many men simply don’t like to talk much about health issues. In fact, a 2001 study in the United States found that for preventive care visits, the female visit rate was over 75% higher than the rate for males.
The reason most commonly cited by men for avoiding medical appointments is that they feel that they are too busy. But with the rise in chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, men need to be proactive about their health more than ever before. This month we’re discussing some of the most common health problems specific to men, and natural ways to prevent and treat them. Share this blog post with the men that you love.
This information doesn’t replace the need to see your naturopath or medical doctor. In fact, we hope that it will encourage more men to take their health seriously and visit their healthcare providers more often.
The small prostate gland is one of those little-discussed body parts until something goes wrong with it. Did you know that 1 in every 9 men in North America will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime? That makes it the most common form of cancer for Canada’s men. The good news is that regular screening catches prostate cancer because it is generally slow-growing cancer. The bad news is that many men don’t seek out screening at all until they have been living with the symptoms for far too long.
All men over 50 should talk about their prostate health with their medical doctor. It’s particularly important if you have one of the risk factors for prostate cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors For Prostate Cancer?
- Obesity (having a BMI over 30)
- A family history of prostate cancer
- Eating a diet high in red meat and dairy
Some evidence suggests smoking is also a risk factor (and even if it’s not, quitting is always a good idea for a multitude of other reasons anyway). African-American males have higher rates of prostate cancer.
Benign Prostate Enlargement (BPE) or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)
Not all prostate enlargement is cancer. In fact, a more common issue causing similar symptoms in the earlier stages is an enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Although it’s not prostate cancer, BPH has a negative impact on a man’s quality of life. That’s because it leads to annoying symptoms like frequent urination, needing to get up at night to go to the bathroom, embarrassing “leaks,” poor control of urine flow, weak urine stream, difficulty starting to pee and trouble emptying the bladder.
About 50 percent of men will experience BPH by the age of 60, and up to 90 percent by the age of 85. In addition to age, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are risk factors.
Fortunately, there are several natural approaches that support a healthy prostate and reduce the risk of issues down the line.
A third condition that affects your prostate is prostatitis. This means inflammation of your prostate. Acute bacterial prostatitis is an acute infection of the prostate gland that causes pelvic pain and urinary tract symptoms. Symptoms of prostatitis may include painful urination, urinary frequency, painful ejaculation, and urinary retention. There may also be systemic symptoms, such as fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, and overall malaise.
Diagnosis is mainly based on history and physical examination but may be assisted by urinalysis. Urine cultures should be obtained in all patients who are suspected of having acute bacterial prostatitis for culture and sensitivity. Additional laboratory studies such as a CBC can be done based on risk factors and severity of illness.
The symptoms of chronic prostatitis are similar to those of acute prostatitis including painful urination, urinary frequency, urinary retention, painful ejaculation, and pelvic pain. The most common prostatitis, type III chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndromes (CP/CPPS), does not correlate with the occurrence of prostate cancer. Although the cause of CP/CPPS is unknown, an autoimmune mechanism is favored by most studies.
Men’s Health Supplements To Support a Healthy Prostate
Some studies have found that the herbal remedy saw palmetto improves men’s urinary tract function because it lowers dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production. This, in turn, shrinks the prostate enlargement.
In addition, low zinc levels correlate with BPH. Consider adding zinc supplements to your regime. Also, you want to increase your consumption of high-zinc foods such as eggs, pumpkin seeds, shellfish, and nuts.
The use of another promising supplement, Pygeum (African plum extract), has been linked with a lower risk for BPE in several studies. Pygeum is usually used together with Saw Palmetto as the two herbs work synergistically.
Simple Diet And Lifestyle Changes To Protect Your Prostate
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids during the day to support a healthy urinary tract. However, it’s best to stop drinking about two hours before bedtime. That way you can get better quality sleep, especially if you are plagued by frequent trips to the bathroom at night.
- Increase the amounts of lycopene you consume. Deep pink or red foods are good sources of lycopene. Incorporate things like tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. Cooked tomatoes or tomato sauce are especially rich in lycopene.
- Limit or eliminate caffeine, artificially or sugar-sweetened drinks, and alcohol. If you must have caffeine, choose green tea. One study found that green tea helps prevent prostate cancer.
- Choose natural, unprocessed food whenever possible.
- Eat more zinc-containing foods like eggs, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and shellfish.
Many signs of “low testosterone” develop slowly over time. As a result, men often attribute their symptoms to simply growing older. However, a drastic reduction in your testosterone doesn’t have to be a normal consequence of aging. Although your hormone levels do begin to decline as early as your 30’s, there are a number of steps you can take to help maintain an optimal level of testosterone for your age.
Symptoms Of Low Testosterone Levels
How can you tell if you have low testosterone? Only your healthcare provider can make a definitive diagnosis, but the following signs could indicate it’s time to schedule an appointment.
- Lagging libido
- Unexplained fatigue
- Male breast tissue growth or man boobs
- Loss of muscle tone
- Increased body fat
- Loss of body hair
Causes of Low Testosterone
The following may cause low testosterone:
- Being overweight
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High sugar intake
- Insulin resistance
- Excess estrogen/chemicals that are estrogen-like, such as BPA from plastic
- Inadequate sleep
- Underactive thyroid
- Mercury exposure
- Underactive mitochondria
- Excitotoxins – MSG, aspartame
Varicocele requires a visit to a urologist for treatment. Otherwise, the rest of these are all factors that can be addressed through naturopathic medicine and improved naturally.
How Can You Protect Your Testosterone Levels As You Get Older?
Working out is one of the more direct ways to give your testosterone levels a boost. There’s a reason many men feel “pumped up” after a workout. Weight training is the most effective activity for raising testosterone levels. Recent studies show that high-intensity interval training HIIT workouts help lower insulin, which then helps improve testosterone.
Keep stress levels in check
When you’re stressed, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise. When cortisol rises, testosterone drops. So avoid chronic, long-term stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, schedule some mini-breaks for yourself. Calling a time out on a hectic schedule to take some deep breaths or simply go for a short walk pays off in the long run.
Missing even a few hours of sleep quickly causes your levels of testosterone to drop. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Practice good “sleep hygiene” by getting off screens by 8 p.m. and ensuring that your bedroom is dark.
Eat a balanced diet
Include plenty of good quality protein, unrefined low glycemic index carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Watch your vitamin D levels
Spending time in the sun, or taking vitamin D supplements during the winter, gives your body a key component needed to raise your testosterone levels if they are low.
Talk to your healthcare provider about supplements
Studies suggest that both ginger and Ashwagandha help to raise testosterone levels.
Avoid estrogen-mimicking materials
Many compounds found in daily life affect your hormones because they mimic estrogen in your body. In particular, avoid materials made with BPA, parabens, and phthalates. That means not using things like plastic water bottles, air fresheners, and scented grooming products.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death regardless of gender. However, the average age of a first heart attack is about seven years younger for men. This is largely due to the fact that women get a protective effect from their hormones before menopause. Things even out when the female hormones decline at menopause.
Men should take steps to protect their own heart health at any age. Some commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications have adverse side effects. Taking a daily aspirin can contribute to stomach ulcers. Nutritional therapies show promising results in research. Dietary changes and nutritional supplements are safe to use alongside conventional medicine to support your body.
Men’s Health Factors That Affect Your Heart
Omega-3 fatty acids
Several studies have found that men who consume a lot of foods high in essential fatty acids have lower mortality rates from cardiovascular events. Foods that are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids include oily fish like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, fish oil, and flaxseeds.
Magnesium is a mineral that is used by all of the muscles in your body to relax. That includes your heart. A recent study found that magnesium also helps your heart repair existing damage. Foods high in magnesium include dark chocolate, avocados, tofu, and beans.
Of course, one of the best things you can do for your heart muscle is to exercise it. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to run a marathon or spend hours in the gym. The movements of daily life (like gardening, vacuuming, and walking to the store) all contribute to a healthy heart.
Your heart is yet another body part that suffers when you’re stressed. Think about it: When your stress hormones kick you go into “flight or fight mode,” your blood pressure rises and your heart beats faster. You’re also more likely to engage in behaviors that hurt your heart, like overeating or drinking alcohol. Yes, drinking small amounts of alcohol has been shown to help heart health. But don’t forget that moderate drinking for men is two drinks a day or less.
Signs of depression can be different for men than they are for women. Men are more likely to appear angry when they are suffering from depression. But the effects of this tendency to hide depression can be devastating. Consider these stats: over 30 percent of men say that they have felt depressed. The rate of suicide in men is four times that of women. You may be surprised to learn that men over 85 years of age have the highest rate of suicide of all.
If you experience any of the signs below, talk to someone immediately. Depression is treatable. There is lots of help out there.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Agitated repetitive movements like pacing or drumming with your fingers
- Unexplained aches and pains
If you’re a man with any of the symptoms or health concerns mentioned, don’t hesitate to come in and talk about them. Our health experts are non-judgemental and have many years of experience helping men and women. Taking charge of your health can help you get back to living with vitality and energy at any age. It’s time to get started!
Authored and medically reviewed by Naturopath Dr Pamela Frank