Malespecific Health Considerations

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Often, men lose sight of the fact that prostate health can play a vital role in sexual functioning. Some researchers believe that the sensations in this walnut-sized organ can actually increase sexual excitation. It is never too early to address prostate health; by the age of 30, approximately 5%-10% of men are affected by an enlarged prostate; by age 85, 90% of men are affected. Early warning signs of prostate enlargement often include an altered urinary stream. Classically, there might be dribbling after urination, hesitancy at the onset, a sense of incomplete voiding, and the classic forked stream. It is best to pursue prevention of prostate problems before they happen. Thus, ensuring that your patients maintain optimal sexual functioning includes advising strongly that they should pamper their prostates. Numerous multivitamins designed for specific male health problems include such herbs as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and pygeum (Pygeum africanus), as well as therapeutic doses of zinc to help maintain prostate health.

Lifestyle choices can also affect prostate health. One large study5 showed that consumption of alcohol can dampen a man's sex life in more than one way. A study of more than 6,500 men revealed a strong correlation between the consumption of 25 ounces or more of alcohol per month and prostate enlargement. Beyond the prostate effect, alcohol is a sedative that can dampen sexual function in a direct fashion, even when consumed in relatively small quantities.

No single nutrient is more important than zinc for maintaining a man's overall reproductive and sexual functioning. In fact, the prostate is the richest reservoir of zinc within the body. Zinc helps to ensure overall virility, including erectile function and sperm quality.6,7 Diet also can play a critical role in prostate health. Eating a diet high in protein can inhibit the enzyme, 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into the more potent hormone dihy-drotestosterone (DHT), which when levels are elevated, causes the increased growth of the prostate, leading to pelvic congestion and an obstructed flow of urine. In contrast, a diet that is high in carbohydrates can actually contribute to a buildup of DHT. Recommendations for maintaining a healthy prostate call for a dietary balance of protein, 44%; complex carbohydrates, 35%; and mostly unsaturated fats, 21%.8

A combination of a specifically targeted diet as described previously, avoidance of alcohol, and the possible addition of one or more of the following natural medicines can help to prevent prostate-induced urinary and sexual difficulties. Among the most popular supplements for enhancing prostate and reproductive health are zinc, saw palmetto, stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), pygeum, essential fatty acids, and flower pollen. It would also make sense to advise men to stop smoking, to exercise, and to diet.

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