Wellness Articles

Archive for 'Men’s Issues'

Prostate Health

Not very long ago, one of my male patients came in and said, “Doc, how about giving me the magic adjustment for my prostate.”  After I regained my composure and we laughed a lot, the real story came out.  He had been having some prostate difficulties for some time and was considering surgical options but was afraid of some of the complications from surgery.  He wanted to know if I knew of anything that would help.  In dealing with some herbalists in the past, I know of some herbal treatments but have had no real first-hand experience myself.  I did as I usually do – take a poll of my patients. Of course, none of them came forward and admitted any prostate trouble at all.  I knew then that I would have to do some leg work to help him out.  I have written on this subject before, but we are getting the questions about prostate health more frequently so it warrants repeating with some new and updated information.

First of all, there is of course no magic adjustment for the prostate.  All adjustments help keep the nervous system free of interference so that organs, glands, and tissues work better in general.  Sometimes, though, the body needs some assistance in its healing processes and prostate trouble is one of those things that need some gentle nudges.  I went to work digging up everything I could on the subject and here is what I learned.

Regardless of what my male patients have told me, 80 percent of American men can count on prostate problems in their lifetimes.  These problems come in three major categories: 1. prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, 2. benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlargement of the prostate, and 3. prostate cancer.  The prostate is a walnut-sized organ that is part muscle, part gland and sits under the bladder.  Urine passes from the kidneys to the bladder then through the urethra which passes through the prostate before exiting the body. If the prostate is enlarged, the urethra is narrowed by the enlargement.  According to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease, more than 50 percent of American males over the age of 50 have BPH.  Men with BPH have trouble urinating and can develop infections of the prostate.  Thousands of men seek medical attention for BPH each year and one out of four of them have surgery.  According to Michael Schacter, M.D., who wrote The Natural Way to a Healthy Prostate, 25 to 50 percent of the men who have prostate surgery experience complications such as impotence, urinary tract infections, and incontinence.

There are alternatives to the surgery, however.  Medications to shrink the prostate are available, but are not without side effects.  A natural alternative to medications is a phytonutrient, or plant extract, called saw palmetto.  Saw palmetto is a plant which grows near the coast in Georgia and Florida.  Its leaves are palm-like and its stems are saw-toothed, thus the name.  Unlike the pharmaceuticals used to treat prostate hypertrophy, saw palmetto has no known side-effects.  Saw palmetto has been shown to be as effective if not even more effective than prescription medications in shrinking the prostate.  The reason it is not more widely touted is twofold. The main reason is that there are not large numbers of controlled studies performed in the United States on the effectiveness of natural therapies.  The reason this is true is because pharmaceutical companies sponsor most clinical trials.  The reason they don’t spend much money on phytonutrients is because there is little profit in plant extracts.  Nature’s pharmacy cannot be patented, so we must study phytotherapy on our own.  In Europe, however, phytotherapy is widely used with great results.  It is recommended that men with BPH take 160 mg of saw palmetto twice a day in order to shrink the prostate with minimal or no side effects.

U.S. males have alarmingly higher rates of prostate cancer than men in other countries.  High levels of male hormones in the blood have been linked to prostate cancer in several studies.  The high intake of animal fat is a key influence on these hormone levels.  Japanese men reared in Japan eat a soy-based, low fat, high antioxidant diet and have less than half the incidence of prostate disease of Japanese men who live in the U.S.  Studies have shown that men who eat red meat daily are 250% more likely to suffer advanced prostate cancer than men who eat red meat only once per week.   In the year 2000, there were 125,000 prostatectomies (surgical removal of the prostate) performed in the United States, while only 3 were recorded in Denmark.  According to Otis Browley, M.D., head of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Special Populations, removal of the prostate is not necessarily a good choice in treatment of prostate cancer because, “We haven’t even proven that prostatectomies save lives.”  In one large study, men who developed prostate cancer late in life and had their prostates removed had about the same morbidity rate as men who did not have the surgery. There is a wealth of information available about diet and the role it plays in creating prostate disease, but it has to be sought by sufferers.  Once again, there is not very much profit in nutritional advice.

Prostate trouble is no fun to talk about, so many men suffer in silence.  Often they wait until their symptoms are unbearable before they seek treatment, then they will accept anything that comes with the promise of relief.  If this is you, do something before you get to this point.  Talk to your health professionals about alternatives to pharmaceuticals and surgery.  Make informed decisions about your healthcare, and explore all of your options.  Treat your body well.

Male Menopause

In recent weeks we have explored the issues surrounding menopause for women.  Many women have expressed their thanks for the information brought forth and others asked for information about their partners’ changing bodies and minds at the “change of life.”  I decided to take an unofficial poll of some of my male patients this past week to see just what symptoms they had and what changes they experience during mid-life.  We talked to rodeo cowboy wannabes, heavy equipment operators, college professors, factory workers, and hairdressers.  The information was interesting enough to make me do some research on the issue of male menopause and I discovered something profound.  We women do not own the domain of menopause.  As much as the males in our lives might not want to believe it, men suffer from menopausal symptoms too.

Doctors’ opinions are divided on the subject of male menopause.  While some of them say that the period of life between the ages of 45 and 55 is an emotionally charged one and that emotional state triggers a mid-life crisis complete with the red corvette syndrome, others argue that the physical changes are undeniable.  The physical symptoms reported by some men are part of a syndrome that is brought about by declining hormone levels in men and are not unlike those experienced by menopausal women.

Society says that menopause happens only to women, but men have been having symptoms like fatigue, depression, irritability, reduced libido, impotence, weight gain, and changes in hair and skin for years.  Some men just chalk up these symptoms as signs of aging or have not reported them at all.  There is some trigger in men that keeps health issues quiet in hopes that they will go away because, of course, no one else in the world could possibly have the same problems and there certainly is no treatment for them.  Pardon my sarcasm here, gentlemen, but it is indeed like pulling teeth for us women to get anything out of you regarding your health.

Some third year medical students at Monash University in Victoria, Australia have conducted extensive research on the issue of male menopause.  According to the student researchers, male menopause, also known as andropause or viropause, begins with hormonal, physical, and chemical changes that occur in all men between the ages of 45 and 55, though it can occur as early as 35 or as late as 65.  In the healthiest of men, by age 55 the amount of testosterone released into the bloodstream is significantly less than it was just 10 years prior.  By age 80, most male hormone levels have declined to those of pre-puberty.  When there is a rapid drop in testosterone levels, men experience symptoms similar to those experienced by menopausal women.  It is not altogether impossible for men to experience hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances very much like women do.  In addition to the misery of these symptoms, men often experience impotence, and that really complicates matters.  The advent of Viagra and the chic marketing that accompanies it have added spice back to many men’s sex lives and have made it socially acceptable to suffer from impotence.

The researchers at Monash University made some suggestions regarding lifestyle changes that have helped many men while going through this period of life. They include eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, decreasing stress and worry in your life, getting plenty of sleep, and changing your attitude about sex.  Start to view sex as part of a relationship rather than the main event.  Relationships also consist of friendship, companionship, love, and spirituality.

Research on hormone replacement therapy for men is relatively new, and you should exercise caution when you are making decisions about treating your symptoms.  Include your life partner and your healthcare team in your choices.  There are good books available on the subject.  Jed Diamond is the author of two of them: Male Menopause and Surviving Male Menopause – A Guide for Women and Men. As with everything else in life, viewing the glass as half full rather than half empty can make or break your entry into what Jed Diamond refers to as 2nd adulthood.  According to Diamond, “Some believe that male menopause is the road to oblivion, the end of our sexual power.  But for those who have the courage to take the road, male menopause is the passage to the most passionate, productive, and purposeful time of a man’s life.”  Take the high road – treat your body and your spirit well.

Love That Laptop

We should know by now that all of life’s little “conveniences” come with their prices.  We have all been warned about the dangers of standing too close to the now essential microwave.  The potentially harmful emissions from cellular phones have haunted some of us who use them regularly.  I treat many people who have fallen victim to what I call “computer neck” daily.  As I sit writing this on my laptop computer I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about the condition of my fertility while I work.  Earlier this month researchers at The State University of New York at Stony Brook revealed the results of a study they performed that warns men who might want to start families not to use laptop computers. The daily repeated use of laptop computers can threaten their fertility.

Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, an associate professor of urology, led a research team in the project which studied 29 healthy volunteers and measured their scrotal temperature before and after using laptop computers.  The subjects reported that their scrotal temperature rose 2.1 degrees Centigrade just from sitting with their knees together to balance the computers on their laps.  After switching the computers on the temperatures rose another 2.6 to 2.8 degrees.  The rise in temperature is significant enough, according to Dr. Sheynkin, to alter both the quantity and the quality of the men’s sperm.  “It is difficult to tell how long the computer can be used safely,” Dr. Sheynkin says, “It may not be at all, if the testicular temperature goes up high within a very short period of time.”

Laptop computers have changed significantly in recent years.  As users demand more and more performance from the mini but mighty tools, laptops have to be more and more powerful to keep up the pace.  The more powerful they are the more heat they put off as they are running.  This increase in operating temperatures does pose a hazard for regular male users.  Men who are looking to procreate are told to avoid regular prolonged visits to hot tubs, saunas, gyms, and anything else which might cause an increase in scrotal temperature.  The problem with laptop use versus sauna and hot tub use is that the use of saunas and hot tubs for most men is only occasional and the time between uses allows the effects of scrotal heating to be reversed, according to Dr.Sheynkin.  Laptop use is a part of everyday life for an increasing population of men.  Now the favorite pastime of surfing the web for hours might become something to do on your desktop.  Men who work regularly on laptops could find a cushion or portable desktop to hold their computers might come in handy.  While you’re at it you’d better watch out for those new portable DVD players Santa is bringing.  They heat up similarly and should be put on something besides your lap to absorb the extra temperature.  No expert has done a study on that one yet, but it will happen soon enough.

While doctors agree that prolonged scrotal heat does alter the fertility of men they do not all agree that the laptop study is one that can be linked to infertility at this time.  The study at Stony Brook was small and the research is preliminary.  More will surely come as laptops become more powerful which will create more heat and as laptop use becomes even more prolific.

If there isn’t enough to worry about out there, gentlemen, watch your laptops.  For some men who have sworn off being fruitful and multiplying at all costs there might even be a new business opportunity out there for you.  Can’t you just imagine renting laptops not only for web-surfing but for assuring that your sperm will become fewer and will swim much slower?!  I can see the lines of men sitting in internet cafes all over the world now – thighs firmly squeezed together balancing the hottest new laptops on the market for hours on end!  Happy holidays.  Treat your body well.