Balancing Men's Health Naturally - Go Magazine Feb 2013

Balancing Mens Health

Naturopath Paul Keogh explores some common men’s health concerns and explains how Chinese herbs and essential nutrients can help restore balance.

Healthy hormone balance is essential to male health throughout adult life and underpins healthy prostate and reproductive function as well as optimal libido, energy levels, mood, mental performance, body composition and physical performance.

Testosterone is the primary male hormone that maintains male sex organs, builds muscle mass and increases bone density. It is also crucial for mental sharpness, concentration, and memory. Testosterone promotes drive, libido, sexual potency, energy levels and physical performance including flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination. Although progesterone and oestrogen are commonly regarded as ‘female hormones’, they also serve vital functions for men. For example, progesterone is a precursor to testosterone, while oestrogen supports libido, sperm maturation and bone strength.

Common men’s health concerns

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a highly prevalent condition with around 50 per cent of men experiencing symptoms by the age of 50. The incidence of BPH increases to 90 per cent by the age of 85. As men age, testosterone is converted to the potent form dihydrotestosterone (DHT) at an increased rate. Increased DHT can cause proliferation (hyperplasia) of prostatic cells and the enlarged prostate compresses the urethra leading to typical urinary symptoms including frequency, urgency, hesitancy, nocturia, weak urinary stream, dribbling and incomplete bladder emptying. Abnormal prostate enlargement can be a sign of cancer so it is important to seek medical diagnosis if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Reproductive health is largely dependent on hormone balance. Problems with impotence, ejaculatory dysfunction, low sperm count and poor sperm motility all impact on male reproductive health. After reaching sexual peak at around 24 years of age, men begin losing potency at two per cent each year. Sperm quality and count are affected by many factors including heat, stress, lifestyle and diet. By way of example, it takes three months to improve nutritional status for healthy sperm production and function. Erectile dysfunction is often associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Stress and emotional upset can also trigger impotence and premature ejaculation.

Andropause or ADAM (androgen deficiency in ageing males) is part of the normal ageing process and refers to the steady decline in testosterone production in males from their late 40s or early 50s onwards. Andropause is associated with decreased virility, libido, sexual performance, muscular strength, physical performance and energy levels. Stress resistance, memory, joint health, cardiovascular health and immune function may also be impaired. Other common symptoms of andropause include insomnia, hot flushes, sweating, sleep disturbances, mood swings and changes in body composition including increased body and visceral fat and reduced muscle and bone mass – symptoms similar to menopause in women.

Excess DHT in ageing men can not only cause benign prostate enlargement but also contributes to the development of male pattern baldness. This form of hair loss has a genetic basis and is by far the most common type of hair loss in men.

Physical performance, muscle mass and strength are all supported by healthy testosterone levels, which regulates skeletal muscle growth and function. Interestingly exercise in itself actually helps to promote healthy testosterone levels, as well as the release of endorphins to help support mood and reduce stress levels.   

Chinese medicine perspective on men’s health

According to Chinese medicine principles, men’s health and male physiology are particularly reliant on energy balance within the Kidney organ-meridian system. Abundant Kidney Jing (constitutional energy) and balanced Kidney Yin and Yang underpin male hormone and reproductive function. The Kidney organ-meridian system is regarded as the ‘foundation of health’ and governs growth, development and reproduction throughout life. Men’s health is also particularly reliant on the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) and Blood, and harmony between the Liver and Spleen organ-meridian systems, which support prostate function, invigorate the sexual organs and promote healthy ageing.

Herbal medicine for men’s health

As well as supporting healthy hormone balance and reproductive function, the following herbs promote general health of the immune, cardiovascular, liver and urinary (bladder) systems.

Serenoa repens (saw palmetto) is one of the best known herbs for promoting male hormone balance. Clinical evidence supports the use of standardised saw palmetto for the management of medically diagnosed BPH and its associated urinary symptoms. By inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, saw palmetto reduces the build-up of DHT, which causes prostatic cells to enlarge. It can also benefit male pattern baldness.

Curcuma zedoaria (white turmeric) invigorates the circulation of Blood and Qi, and helps to break up Blood stasis, which is associated with prostate enlargement. This is one of the most important Chinese herbs for BPH. Scientific research demonstrates it has anti-inflammatory effects and helps to protect the liver.

Epimedium sagittatum (horny goat weed) tonifies the Kidney and fortifies Yang or ‘masculine energy’. It is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and for impotence, and modern research shows its effects mimic those of testosterone. It also helps to improve energy levels, mood, mental performance, stress resistance and bone strength.  

Cuscuta hygrophilae (tu si zi) tonifies the Kidney and Spleen, and strengthens Kidney Jing or constitutional energy. It assists impotence and urinary symptoms such as frequency, dribbling and incontinence. Research shows it also improves immune function, bone formation, energy levels and protects the liver.

Morinda o­fficinalis (ba ji tian) nourishes Kidney Jing and Blood, and tonifies the Kidney and Liver. It is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac, to improve stress adaptation and relieve impotence. 

Ligustrum lucidum (nu zhen zi) tonifies the Kidney and Liver, and helps to clear heat. It can help to relieve some specific symptoms of andropause including hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. It also helps to relieve joint pain and inhibits hair greying.

Scrophularia ningpoensis (black figwort) clears heat and nourishes the Yin. It is another principal Chinese herb for prostate health, and helps to relieve symptoms of andropause such as hot flushes, insomnia, anxiety and irritability.

Cullen corylifolium (psoralea) stabilises Kidney Jing and strengthens the Spleen. It helps to improve reproductive function by increasing sperm count and potency. It is also traditionally used to treat urinary symptoms including nocturnal frequency and incontinence.

Nutrients for men’s health

Pumpkin seed oil is rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It promotes healthy hormone balance by inhibiting excessive conversion of testosterone to DHT and is therefore helpful in managing BPH. The essential fatty acids help reduce the urinary symptoms of BPH and promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Zinc is a principal nutrient for supporting male health. It is vital for healthy sex hormone production, sperm quality and motility, prostate health and immune function. Interestingly, high levels of zinc are released during ejaculation. Zinc also inhibits excessive conversion of testosterone to DHT and is therefore beneficial in preventing and treating BPH. Some forms of zinc are better quality than others. For example, zinc glycinate is very easily absorbed and exceptionally stable during digestion, so it won't react with other nutrients or interfere with nutrient absorption as other types of zinc can do.

Lycopene is the antioxidant which gives tomatoes their rich red colour. It especially benefits the prostate and inhibits proliferation of prostatic cells. Research shows that it helps to promote healthy prostate cell growth and division. Lycopene also promotes heart health and healthy blood pressure.    

Selenium is another antioxidant nutrient that encourages healthy sperm maturation and motility, testicular function, testosterone metabolism and some studies have found it has protective effects on DNA and supports healthy ageing.

Lifestyle tips for healthy male hormones 

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop smoking
  • Moderate alcohol intake
  • Maintain sensible sun exposure
  • Get quality sleep
  • Consider a Chinese herbal and essential nutrient supplement
  • Have regular health checkups including prostate

Paul Keogh is the executive and technical director for Global Therapeutics P/L trading as Fusion Health. Paul is a qualified naturopath and medical herbalist with 25 years combined experience in clinical practice and the development of integrated Chinese and western herbal medicines.

This article featured in Go Magazine Feb 2013 produced by Go Vita


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