The Symptoms No Man Should Ignore
Though it seems politically correct these days to portray men as de-masculinized buffoons in TV commercials, no man should add credence to these portrayals by ignoring the signs of prostate trouble. It’s easy to tune out health advice, but ignoring urinary tract symptoms can have dire consequences. Do you have trouble urinating, feel like you can’t completely empty your bladder, have the urge to go frequently, awake during the night repeatedly to urinate, or have chronic pain or discomfort? If so you’d be wise to see your doctor.
Men are notorious for ignoring symptoms and avoiding doctors. Perhaps it’s our drive to be self-sufficient, or subconsciously we are fearful of learning something is seriously wrong. Maybe it’s pride or the fact that our culture has conditioned us to think we need to be bulletproof and doctors are for woman and children. Ironically, it is when early symptoms occur that things are usually most treatable. Just hoping a problem will go away is not a good self-care plan. Knowledge can remove fear, so let’s remove some of the mystery surrounding men’s health.
BPH is very common in older men, affecting about 50% of men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90% of men over the age of 80. It develops slowly and may never produce symptoms, but can make it difficult to urinate, cause dribbling, increased frequency, urgency, and the need to strain. Hormones play an important role, namely testosterone, DHT, and estrogen, along with sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG). In aging men BPH increases in association with increased SHBG and estrogen. Men can have increased levels of estrogen due to excess weight and environmental exposures. BPH causes the prostate to enlarge around the urethra, affecting the bladder’s ability to empty. Left unchecked, backpressure on the kidneys can lead to permanent kidney damage. It can even cause kidney failure and the need for dialysis. Reducing an enlarged prostate naturally can be challenging. Using lifestyle modifications and plant medicine, the progression can be slowed or stopped. Prevention is the best medicine.
It’s estimated as many as 10% of men currently experience prostatitis-like symptoms and up to 16% of men have had a diagnosis of prostatitis. Whereas BPH affects older men, prostatitis can affect men of any age, but often is seen in men in their 30’s and 40’s. Like a bladder infection in women, prostatitis can be associated with a urinary tract infection, but can become a recurring problem with no infection detectable. Men with prostatitis may experience the sensation of pressure in the rectum, pain in varying areas, or symptoms associated with urination and sexual function. It is important to see your doctor to rule out an infection and to determine the best treatment. Many factors can contribute to prostatitis, including a weakened immune system or nutritional deficiency. Naturopathic treatments can help decrease symptoms and avoid recurrence. In can be as simple as increasing water intake, getting regular exercise, and reducing chronic stress. Foods that can contribute to prostate inflammation include sugar, wheat, milk, hydrogenated oils and fried foods. Substantially limiting these foods, while consuming colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, is beneficial. I have found herbal medicine to be helpful in these cases. Identifying the unique factors that contribute to your health is what sets naturopathic medicine apart from conventional approaches that have failed.
Prostate cancer (PC) is the most common cancer in men in North America and is less likely to cause symptoms like BPH or prostatitis. As it becomes advanced it may cause some of the symptoms discussed above. It is rare in men under age 40 and like other conditions of the prostate, certain environment and lifestyle factors increase your risk; for example a diet high in animal fat and low in nutrient-rich plant foods. As with any cancer, prevention is everything. Talk to your doctor about how you can reduce your risk and ask him if screening is appropriate for you. There are now a number of large studies showing that the conventional medical approach to detecting and treating prostate cancer hasn’t improved overall long-term outcomes, while substantially reducing quality of life. For many cases ‘watchful waiting’ is appropriate. Taking a holistic approach by utilizing naturopathic medicine can be of great value, whether you are undergoing aggressive conventional treatments or just ‘watchful waiting’.
Low testosterone & hormone health
Hormone imbalances are epidemic. Modern life has conspired to disrupt the delicate balance of communication within the body. Hormones are like data lines within your body. Imagine what happens if something disrupts your cell phone signal or internet connection. Information exchange can slow to a crawl or stop all-together. When hormones are disrupted by chemical pollutants, chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies, or excess weight, the effects can be widespread. Do you have low energy, low libido, and difficulty losing weight or building muscle? You may have low testosterone, too much estrogen, or imbalances of cortisol, the stress hormone. There are simple tests to determine your hormone levels, as well as ways to correct common imbalances.
CDC estimates indicate men make up less than 25% of all office visits to doctors. Sometimes it’s only after a serious problem occurs like a heart attack or severe pain that men seek medical attention. Recently, one naturopathic doctor wrote about how we might change this disparity this way, “It really comes down to love: if the man does not love himself enough to get help, does he love someone else enough to do it? If not for love, what about out of compassion?” Often a loving spouse who builds up her partner by communicating heartfelt admiration and respect for his inherent talents, increases his feelings of self-worth. Knowing you matter to others can be the motivation some men need to take better care of themselves. Having a belief in God and higher authority can also demonstrate the value and gift of one’s life. To take care of oneself is to respect and love others who count on you, and the one who created you….
The Naturopathic Paradigm
Are you ready to take the leap to be the prime mover in your health care? It has been my observation that those who thrive and become healthy do so by their own motivation. It is the will to be well. A naturopathic doctor (ND) attempts to harness scientific advances while respecting the fact that life has its own intelligence and healing power. Healing comes by removing obstacles to allow the healing power in all living things to do its job. Naturopathic medicine is a partnership between the doctor and patient. As your doctor I give you my expertise and time. As patient you must invest in yourself. For most illnesses there is no quick fix or pill. If you’re looking for a different approach, a second opinion, a doctor who is interested in figuring out what is going on with you, consider consulting with an ND. After all, how much is your health worth to you? To your family?