Men's Health

We have covered common problems like Stress and Insomniaand Joint or Muscle Painin other sections. Below are some specifically male conditions.

Enlarged Prostate

The prostate gland is inside your pelvis, at the top of the urethra (the tube that carries urine) which is connected to your bladder. It is usually the size of a walnut. As you pass 60 years old it is very common for it to grow in size, and this may start in middle age as well. As the prostate gland is wrapped around the urethra, any inflammation or swelling can cause narrowing of the urethra, leading to interrupted or difficult urination, characterised as dribbling. It is also common to experience sudden or frequent urges to urinate, especially at night, which often don't result in full flow. This is not always painful but can be. Herbs and supplements that can help include the well-researched, saw palmetto to reduce prostate swelling and cornsilk to soothe the urethra. Uva-ursi and Sarsaparilla are also used by some herbalists.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)

If you realise that your prostate is probably enlarged, you should have it examined by your GP, especially if you experience pain or burning while urinating. In some cases, an enlarged prostate can develop into BPH or you can miss the signs of prostate cancer. Researchers think BPH happens when testosterone builds up in the prostate where it is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is a normal process but in BPH it can cause the swelling of the prostate to become so large that urine backs up in the bladder and stagnates. This can cause urinary infections and other complications.

This can be exacerbated by some drugs, such as antidepressants, some tranquilisers and antihistamines. Frequent ejaculation can help to alleviate some of the symptoms. Herbs and supplements used are also saw palmetto, corn silk and uva ursi.

Low Libido

Your libido often lowers as you age but it is far more common in younger men as well. It is a circular condition as the more you worry about it, the more likely it is to occur. Common causes are stress and side effects from pharmaceutical drugs. Although herbs and supplements like damiana, maca and horny goat weed can help, there is no magic answer. Get to the bottom of what is causing it: Address the stress and anxiety - the herb valerian can help - and damiana also helps with the mental anxiety about performance or speak to your GP about your medication.

Also reduce your alcohol intake as alcohol also depresses the central nervous system (CNS) and men who drink regularly find that associated low libido is common, even though occasional use can seem to stimulate desire. Being overweight is also a contributing factor.

Stress counselling is often helpful, combined with herbs and supplements too. 

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile impairment (trouble getting or sustaining an erection) is also far more common that many realise but affects millions of men. The causes are similar to low libido but artherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) which can cause heart disease can also play a part. This is why smoking and diabetes, which both trigger narrowing of the arteries, are often implicated. Again, avoid narcotics and alcohol. As Shakespeare says of alcohol in Macbeth "It provokes the desire, but takes away the performance." 

Occasionally erectile dysfunction is caused by a deficiency of testosterone but this is not particularly common. Your GP can test for this and also for diabetes to rule them out. Or discuss any medication side effects.

Emotional stress is again a significant factor. Money worries, work pressure and marital strife can all undermine sex drive.

Do not be tempted to take quick fix drugs like sildenafil (Viagara) if you are on medication. With some nitrate drugs for angina and heart disease this can cause a potentially fatal drug interaction.

Herbs and supplements that support the adrenal system like ginseng, ginkgo and ashwagandha have a role to play, as do plants that help to lower cholesterol like wild oats and garlic.

Herbal stimulants are widely advertised but need to be treated with caution. Herbs like ephedra (ma huang are banned in the UK. Many of the widely advertised ones are high in caffeine like coffee, tea, cocoa, guarana, maté and kola nut.

The best approach is a long term one of improving your diet, increasing exercise levels which can help significantly, reducing stress levels and using herbs to support this process not to replace it.

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