- Carina Harkin BHSc.Acu., BHSc.Nat., BHSc.Hom. Director of studies and lecturer at the College of Naturopathic Medicine Ireland – Galway.
Father’s day is an important time to treat Dad. It is also a good reminder to focus on men’s health and some of the big health issues affecting men. This is especially relevant as some Irish men can have difficulty talking about their health. Of course promoting adequate screening is important, particularly when it comes to the prostate, however I would like to discuss some general nutritional and herbal approaches that can assist every man.
Protecting the Prostate
Prostate enlargement is by far the most common health disorder affecting the male reproductive system, affecting 50-60% of men aged 40-59 and up to 70% of men over 70. Prostate enlargement is also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia BPH. This is where there is an enlargement of the prostate. As the location of the prostate is around the urethra which is the pathway for sperm and urine, enlargement of the prostate obstructs the flow of urine the flow of urine, causing urinary symptoms such as decreased force and strength. This can lead to further complications such as kidney infection.
Prostate cancer on the other hand is a silent disease. It is a common cause of death in men over 50 and the incidence is increasing. Unlike prostate enlargement seen in BPH, in prostate cancer, the prostate does not become enlarged. Instead the prostate hardens. This can be felt during a digital rectal examination. This is why screening is so important for men over 50.
Testosterone, zinc and the prostate
Why does this happen? In men over 50 there is a natural decline of the hormone testosterone. This leads to a natural increase of the hormones oestrogen and prolactin in men. Yes, men have oestrogen too, and environmental oestrogens such as found in chicken, pesticides and plastics negatively affect male health. This relative increase in oestrogen and prolactin has damaging effects on male health.
When testosterone levels decline, the prostate gland converts the testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This testosterone is 17 times more potent than testosterone. Unfortunately DHT is a big, bad and nasty form of testosterone that not only causes the prostate to enlarge, but may also contribute to prostate cancer and damages the hair follicles, leading to male pattern baldness.
Zinc and the prostate
So, what can you do? Maintaining adequate zinc levels is of primary importance. Sperm is naturally high in zinc, so men are naturally prone to zinc deficiency. Of course, modern farming methods have led to zinc deficiency in the soil too.
Zinc inhibits the enzyme (called 5-alpha reductase) that converts testosterone to the big, bad and nasty DHT. Zinc increases sperm count and sperm motility. High zinc levels also mean lower levels of oestrogen and prolactin thereby reducing the risk of prostate disease. So taking zinc and eating foods high in zinc can both decrease the risk and treat the symptoms of prostate disease. Try a Quest Synergistic Zinc 15mg or Solgar Zinc citrate 30mg capsules.
Just on prolactin quickly, increases of this hormone can lead to the formation of man boobs. This is commonly seen in beer drinkers. Beer is made from hops, which is oestrogenic and excessive beer consumption leads to a rise in prolactin. So drink less beer and take more zinc!
Food sources of zinc
Oysters are naturally high in zinc. 1 dozen oysters are equivalent to 120 mg of zinc so be sure eat plenty of oysters all year around and not just at the Guinness and oyster festival. Oysters of course are a reputed aphrodisiac!
Another great source is pumpkin seeds. These tasty green nuts are also high in the proteins glycine, alanine and glutamic acid, which are prescribed for prostate conditions. Pumpkin seeds can relieve frequency, urgency, night time urination and dribbling associated with enlarged prostate. Rye and sourdough breads are also high in zinc.
Common herbal medicines include Saw palmetto. Saw palmetto also stops the conversion of the male hormone testosterone to the more potent form associated with prostate disease. A Vogel has a range of Saw Palmetto either in liquid or capsule form. For herbal advice see a qualified herbalist.
Going on holiday-Tips for the Male Toiletry bag
For those men planning a holiday this summer, either here on the Emerald Isle or indeed further abroad, the following suggestions are items to pack in your toiletry bag to ensure you have an enjoyable holiday. If you are looking for Fathers Day gift ideas, think of treating the man in your life to the following.
Lotions and Potions
Men are fast cottoning on to the benefits of moisturising. The skin is the largest organ in the body and readily absorbs toxins including the petrochemicals, artificial preservatives, fragrances and colourings. Petrochemicals are, as their name implies, derived from petrol. Jason Aloe Vera All purpose Moisturiser is an economical fragrance free, petrochemical free moisturiser for every day use. Remember to moisturise your skin daily on holiday, particularly after sun exposure.
Jason also has a great natural range of Mens products including Jasons Shaving Cream and After Shave Tonic. If you are prone to dry lips try a Jason Lip balm. For a great aluminium free deodorant, try Toms Unscented Stick or the masculine smelling, Woodspice Stick. Go ahead, treat the man in your life!
The rate of skin cancer is rising worldwide, even here in Ireland. Besides watching out for any suspicious changes in moles, prevention is definitely the best cure. The best protection is to slip, slop, slap. That is, slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. For a good natural sunscreen try Optima Healthcare Aloe Vera Sun Lotion SPF 25 and between 11 and 3 slip under a tree.
Many people are looking to avoid fluoride as it has negative effects on health. There is a wide range of effective, fluoride free toothpastes. For that extra boost in the morning try Optima Healthcare Aloe Dent Wake-up Toothpaste.
To avoid bites use Jungle Formula insect repellent, however, if you do get bitten, try lavender oil or tea tree oil directly on the bite or sting. For mosquito bites in particular, there is a great Homoeopathic remedy called Ledum. Try Weleda 30C, 3 times a day.
Lumps and Bumps
If you do happen to hurt yourself, a remedy called Arnica can help. It can be taken in both homoeopathic form and externally as a cream. Again try a Weleda Arnica 30 C 4-5 times a day for lumps and bumps, strains and sprains. A good arnica cream is A Vogel Arnica gel. Dont forget to pack some Tiger Balm for headaches and muscle strain.
In an ideal world moderation is recommended but you are on holiday. Try Milk thistle either in the A Vogel liquid or Solgar capsule form, both before and after you drink. This will help your liver detoxify the alcohol. By far the greatest hangover cure is a homoeopathic remedy called nux vomica, for when you feel like a bear with a sore head. Try Weleda Nux vomica 30C, 1 dose every half hour, if symptoms persist take 3 more doses in a day and drink water!!!
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The advice in this column is given as information only. Please consult your doctor before beginning any nutritional regime. To get specific advice on nutrition or herbal medicine, see a nutritional therapist or herbalist. If you have any specific health questions, email them to Carina at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer them, anonymously if requested. Enjoy your food life!