Natural Solutions for Common Men’s Health Issues
The most effective natural approaches to preventing and treating prostate enlargement, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, and more.
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1. Enlarged Prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia)
The all-too-common problem of prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), affects almost half of men over the age of 45. It is characterized by problems with urination, including difficulty starting and stopping, a sluggish stream, the need to urinate frequently at night, and the tendency to dribble.
As men age, their hormone status changes. Testosterone levels decline, while levels of estrogen and a metabolite of testosterone known as DHT increase-and this fuels prostate growth. To make matters worse, toxins such as pesticides and herbicides, plasticizers such as BPA, and other environmental pollutants known as xenoestrogens mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and exacerbate the problem. So the key to successful treatment is to reduce their effects on the prostate.
To prevent and treat prostate enlargement, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, that promote hormone balance by detoxifying estrogen. Also consume foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce prostate inflammation. Cold-water fish (salmon, sardines), flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, fermented soy (miso, natto, tempeh), and nuts and seeds are all good sources. Zinc-rich foods, including pumpkin seeds, are also helpful. And limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, all of which can inflame the prostate.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, promote hormone balance by detoxifying estrogen
Supplement-wise, saw palmetto extract has been shown in several studies to help BPH. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed 18 randomized, controlled trials involving 2,939 men with BPH and found that saw palmetto can improve urinary flow as effectively as the commonly used drug Finasteride.
Pygeum africanum is an herb that works well with saw palmetto to improve prostate health and nightly urination; beta sitosterol is a phytonutrient that reduces symptoms of BPH; and indole-3-carbinol is an extract of broccoli that helps the liver metabolize hormone metabolites that may cause prostate swelling. And don’t forget zinc, which is an invaluable mineral for treating prostate enlargement.
What to take
- Saw palmetto: 320 mg daily of an 85-95 percent fatty sterol standardized extract
- Beta sitosterol: 60-130 mg daily
- Pygeum africanum: 120 mg twice daily
- Indole-3-carbinol: 300 mg daily.
- Zinc: 25-50 mg, along with 1-2 mgof copper
2. Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
Problems with libido and sexual function may be symptoms of underlying health conditions. Hormone balance is often the cause, while circulatory and psychological issues can also be factors.
If you experience such difficulties, consider a hormonal assessment by a holistic doctor. Hormone deficiencies such as DHEA and testosterone may be contributing factors. Also note that pharmaceuticals, including those prescribed for high blood pressure, depression, and high cholesterol, may be the cause of your problems.
There are several herbal supplements that can help. Tribulus, better known as “puncture vine,” is thought to be effective because it turns on the body’s natural testosterone-making process. Tribulus seems to increase the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), which may raise testosterone levels. Also, maca root and fenugreek extract have been shown in preliminary research to improve libido and sexual function. They help increase the bioavailable form of testosterone in the body.
If erectile dysfunction is related to circulation problems, consider the amino acid L-arginine. In addition, Chinese (Panax) ginseng has a rich history of use by herbalists to help improve sexual function.
What to take
- Tribulus terrestris: 1,500 mg daily
- Maca: 500 mg two to three times daily
- Fenugreek: 1,200 mg of an extract daily
- L-arginine: 1,000 mg three times daily on an empty stomach
- Chinese ginseng: 300 mg daily of an extract containing 4-7 percent ginsenosides
See Also Guide to Adaptogenic Herbs
3. Heart Disease
One in three men can expect to develop some form of major cardiovascular disease before age 60. The most common form is coronary heart disease, where plaque starts to occlude the heart arteries and restrict blood flow.
Research in the past decade has shown that chronic inflammation in the arteries is at the root of heart disease. This chronic inflammation can be normalized by a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and cold-water fish. A Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower incidence of coronary heart disease and improves the prognosis of those with existing coronary heart disease. Exercise is also important, as is the use of some key supplements. And note that testosterone deficiency may also be a risk factor for heart disease in men.
See Also 5 Tips for a Healthy Heart
There are many well-studied supplements that help to prevent and treat heart disease.
- Magnesium is necessary for a normal heart rhythm and blood flow. Unfortunately, up to 70 percent of people are deficient in this important mineral.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is key to the chemical reactions that produce cellular energy, including in the cells of the heart. CoQ10 soaks up free radicals and is particularly good at protecting low-density lipoproteins (the bad cholesterol) from oxidation, a process that contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries. Many studies show that CoQ10 helps strengthen heart muscle and improves a variety of heart conditions. It may also lower blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease.
- Fish oil reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and keeps artery walls from becoming sticky. It also reduces the levels of fats in the blood. One review found that consuming dietary fish oil or taking fish oil supplements is associated with a 24 percent reduction in deaths from heart attack in people with or without cardiovascular disease.
- Be aware that B vitamins such as B12, folate, and B6 are important for preventing heart disease. All three of these B vitamins help reduce homocysteine, which is associated with increased stroke risk.
- Cholesterol levels should not be the sole focus of cardiovascular health, as is often the case in conventional medicine. But there are some people who need nutritional support in this area, often due to genetic reasons. Red yeast rice extract and niacin have excellent track records in balancing lipid levels.
What to take
- Magnesium: 500 mg daily
- Coenzyme Q10: 100-300 mg daily
- Fish oil: 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA combined
- B-complex vitamin: take daily according to label directions
- Red yeast rice extract: 1,200 mg twice daily
- Niacin: start with 500 mg and work up to 1,000-1,500 mg daily
Male pattern baldness is characterized by a receding hairline and loss of hair, especially on the crown of the head. By age 40, two-thirds of Caucasian men are noticeably bald. Research demonstrates that balding appears to be related to overactivity of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the hair follicle. While drug therapies are aimed at reducing the effects of DHT, there are some safe, nontoxic ways to approach hair loss in a similar manner
Saw palmetto helps more than just the prostate gland. Since it has a blocking effect on DHT, it can also help balding. A study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a product containing saw palmetto and a plant compound called beta sitosterol (also found in saw palmetto and other plants) may increase hair growth in men.
There are several nutrients that could be potentially involved with hair loss. For a comprehensive approach, I recommend supplementing with a multivitamin/multimineral, as well as extra biotin and silica.
What to take
- Saw palmetto: 320-400 mg of an 85 percent liposterolic daily
- High potency multivitamin and mineral formula without iron
- Biotin: 3,000 micrograms daily
- Silica: 1-2 capsules daily, according to package directions