A Hill for Men (NOT) to Die On
This information was originally printed in a slightly different form in our Fall 2008 Catalog.
A few years ago, I turned half a century old. Our family celebration was thoroughly Cajun style, with “blackened” everything: streamers and balloons, over-the-hill signs, even a cake noir. My son presented me with a pair of “old man” Velcro shoes, while my sisters provided rotten false teeth and a cane. One especially caring card announced that the time had come for regular colonoscopies.
The significance of my age milestone was not lost on my wife. As I’ve come to realize about most loving wives and their husbands, she worries more about my health than I do. Not long after the party, she and I enjoyed some quiet moments one evening on our deck, reminiscing about backpacking trips through the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park two decades earlier.
“You know,” Nancy spoke into the darkness, “your birthday cards joked about old man diseases, but you need to take good care of yourself so we’ll still be healthy enough for backpacking when we get the chance again.” Naturally, my first reaction was to point out that I’m still in much better shape than she is, so I’m not the one to worry about. But to leave it there ignores a small part of me (and every aging male) that can cause big problems if not managed correctly.
While men have carried a prostate gland around all their lives, most have little idea what it does for them (and arguably for their wives too). A walnut-sized gland situated just below the bladder, it wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. It produces a fluid that is a major ingredient in semen, while defending the genital and urinary tract against infection. You may have seen the prostate diagrammed at some point as part of the male reproductive system, but as a back-stage player, its function is much less exciting than some other components in the array.
Great. So, the prostate is an unsung hero of things male. What’s that got to do with turning 50? Well, when a man reaches middle age, his hormones change, causing the prostate gland to grow. And its proximity to the urethra can cause problems, kind of like how a python causes problems for small animals! The expanding gland can constrict the urethra and make bad things happen like:
- Frequent urge to urinate (or difficulty in doing so)
- Blood in urine or semen
- Painful or burning urination
- Dribbling of urine
- Difficulty having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
These problems can be caused by prostate inflammation or infection (prostatitis), enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), and/or cancer. Health-gloom-wise, prostate cancer is to men what breast cancer is to women. The second leading cause of cancer death in men, 90% of cases go undetected until it is untreatable and has spread to the lymph system (most men don’t worry about their health, remember?).
This disaster is just waiting to happen in most adult males. By age 50, 35% have developed some cancer cells in the prostate. The result is that 97% of all men will be affected with some manner of prostate problem at some point in life. The typical solution is surgery. Yet even in successful cases the outcome can be, shall we say, unhappy.
The two big “I” words, incontinence and impotence, happen every year to a large contingent of the 400,000 American men who undergo prostate surgery. Unfortunately, the drugs most popular for treating the ailments are similarly ripe with dangerous side effects. But then, the alternative to treatment is pretty dangerous, too: lethal, in fact.
NEW TWIST ON AN OLD PRESCRIPTION
The discouraging facts about my potential health could make a man my age wonder if thoughts of future backpacking adventures are nothing more than pipe dreams. But taking care of the inner piping is possible!
While the prescription for good health is familiar (maintain an active lifestyle, eat a nutrient-rich diet, and take high-quality supplements), there are a number of elements in this typical health recommendation that especially benefit prostate functioning.
Sedentary men are 30% more likely to get prostate cancer and 40% more likely to have BPH, a non-cancerous condition. The same stats apply to highly stressed men. Both experience low levels of glutathione (an antioxidant produced inside the body and induced by exercise) in their cells, a situation that lowers the body’s resistance to cell and DNA damage.
Sitting for long periods also pinches nerves in the vertebrae that transmit messages from the brain to the prostate. This reduces the flow of fresh blood to the gland, allowing toxins to build up. Prostate-specific exercise can free up nerves and blood flow. And routine outdoor exercise adds a winning touch, since Vitamin D, essential to prostate well-being, is manufactured naturally by the body when exposed to sunlight.
Foods rich in antioxidants, the cancer-fighting wonders found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, are crucial. In addition, lamb, pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast, and oysters and other shellfish contain zinc, an important mineral for prostate health and replacement of seminal fluid.
The Weston A. Price Foundation (an organization committed to education about natural, healthful eating) encourages the use of raw milk from grass-fed cows. It’s high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) for powerful protection against cancer of all types. If raw milk is not available, whole (not low-fat) organic milk can be a good second choice.
Excessive caffeine or alcohol should be avoided since both are immune suppressors. And contrary to some dietitians, processed soy products have been linked to increased prostate cancer risk and should be avoided. Although soy manufacturers often brag that Asian men (who eat a lot of soy) demonstrate a low incidence of prostate cancer, they don’t point out that soy mostly consumed by Asians is fermented into healthful tempeh or miso, very different from the processed Americanized form. Regular consumption of meat substitutes, energy bars, and protein shakes made with soy can mean a person ingests 100 times the level of soy intake considered safe.
Only a few supplements directly improve and maintain prostate functioning, and none better than Beeyoutiful’s Clinical Strength Prostate Health. As men age, the body’s ratio of estrogen (yes, the female hormone!) to testosterone increases, but Prostate Health contains Stinging Nettle Root Extract to counter the effects of excess estrogen production. Many cheaper health products use only the stems and leaves, not the root of this herb, which renders it significantly less effective.
That ingredient is only the beginning. The complete rundown on what Clinical Strength Prostate Health delivers is impressive.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) supports normal urinary flow and calms inflammation. Berries from the saw palmetto plant, which grows in the southeastern United States, are used to inhibit production of an unwanted form of testosterone suspected of contributing to enlargement of the prostate. “Bargain brands” use a powdered form of the plant which does not perform as well as berry-based formulations like Beeyoutiful’s. Clinical Strength Prostate Health, in fact, contains an especially high percentage of healthful fatty acids. And while saw palmetto’s blocking of the enzyme responsible for prostate enlargement can cause another enzyme to kick into high gear and make estrogen, the stinging nettle root in this formula counter-balances this tendency.
Pygeum, made from the bark of an evergreen tree found in the higher elevations of Africa and used by the natives for centuries for what they call “old man’s disease,” enhances the saw palmetto/stinging nettle combo, facilitating urination and helping the bladder empty completely.
Pumpkin seed oil is high in four free fatty acids and is now considered as vital to prostate health as lycopene.
Lycopene, the natural pigment that makes tomatoes red, has been shown to slow or even halt the advancement of BPH.
Zinc offers an anti-bacterial effect to help stave off genito-urinary infections. (In prostatitis, zinc levels are only one-tenth of those in a normal prostate.) Men are more vulnerable than women to having low zinc because they lose that particular mineral in every ejaculation.
Vitamin B6 supplements the zinc and stinging nettle in regulating the enzyme which makes “bad testosterone.” B6 helps control inflammation of the bladder and counteracts the development of prostate tumors.
Clinical Strength Prostate Health offers all-in-one prostate protection. If someone you know isn’t already taking it by the time he turns 50, add a bottle to the gag gift pile. The name will fit with one of the “kind” cards he’s certain to get, and the pills are just the color you’d want: basic black. This is one over-the-hill gift to keep on giving so men can enjoy celebrating not only 50, but 60, 70, and beyond.
Greg Webster is a freelance writer, homeschooling father of eight, and owner of The Gregory Group advertising, marketing, and design firm. He and his family enjoy natural country living near Columbia, Tennessee.
Stand and take a few deep breaths. Exhale until all the air is gone from your lungs. Without breathing in, suck in your stomach, pulling it up as high as possible into your chest. Use hands to help lift it and squeeze your sides as well. This reverses the negative effects of gravity, which is constantly pulling down on your organs, with the prostate gland at the bottom of the heap. Feel the muscles in the lower back and side tighten. Then relax and inhale. After a minute or two, repeat.
If you notice any pain (very possibly your prostate), do this exercise 10 times throughout the day. You’re likely to feel some soreness after the first few sessions because toxic blood trapped in the prostate area is now moving out, irritating the surrounding tissues. Stick with it, and within days there should be only a feeling of relief and refreshment after exercising. Three to four sessions a day is a good maintenance routine.