A Guy’s Guide to Men’s Health

 
Learn about natural options for the most common male sexual health concerns, including what to look out for and your best bets for all-natural treatments.

Erectile dysfunctionGuy’s Guide to Sexual Health: Main Image

Erectile dysfunction (ED), or impotence, is the inability to obtain or maintain an erection for sexual activity.

Depression, anxiety, and stress can all play a role in ED, but for most men, ED is from physical causes, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, spinal cord injuries, neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, and overweight or obesity. Alcohol, some drugs, and treatment for prostate or bladder problems may also lead to ED.

Be sure to speak with your doctor about ED. Your doctor may discover an underlying condition that needs to be treated. In many cases, treatment can return you to normal sexual activity.

Lifestyle recommendations for ED

  • Lose some weight. Excess weight means less testosterone is available for getting and keeping an erection. Penile blood flow is also impeded in overweight men. ED can often be corrected by shedding some extra pounds.
  • Quit smoking. Blood vessels, including those that supply the penis, are especially susceptible to damage from cigarette smoke. Quitting smoking may completely restore normal sexual function in men with ED.
  • Drink less. Even though having a drink might help you relax, alcohol can interfere with maintaining an erection that allows sex. Alcohol abuse can decrease testosterone production and damage the nerves involved with getting an erection.
  • Move more. As little as 30 minutes of walking three times per week can reduce the risk of ED by improving blood flow throughout the body.

Top-rated supplements for ED

  • Asian ginseng. This traditional herb may be used to improve libido and the ability to maintain an erection. Suggested dose: 900 mg of concentrated extract 2 to 3 times per day.
  • Yohimbe. Yohimbe and a derivative drug, yohimbine, appear to improve blood flow to the penis and help with ED related to any cause. Suggested dose: A tincture of yohimbe bark is often used in the amount of 5 to 10 drops three times per day. It is best to use yohimbe and yohimbine under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Arginine. This amino acid may help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow especially in men whose ED is related to abnormal nitric oxide metabolism in the body. Suggested dose: 1,670 to 2,800 mg per day.

“Arginine has earned the nickname, herbal Viagra, as it has the ability to “pump up” the vascular system, including blood vessels in the penis,” says Dr. James Mullane of Natural Family Medicine in Danbury, CT. It is not an “on-demand” treatment like true Viagra, but rather takes ongoing use for effects to be seen. According to Mullane, time-release arginine seems to have the dual effect of lowering blood pressure and improving ED symptoms.

MALE FERTILITY

A couple is considered infertile if they’ve had unprotected sex for more than one year without achieving pregnancy. Male and female causes are equally likely to contribute to infertility.

Sperm factors—including abnormal sperm movement (motility), quality, and quantity—account for most cases of male infertility. Environmental toxins, drug or alcohol abuse, chemotherapy or radiation to treat cancer, cigarette smoking, and overheating of the testicles can all affect male fertility.

Struggling with infertility?

Before trying different options to treat infertility, it’s important to visit your doctor to get to the root of the issue.

Lifestyle recommendations for male infertility

  • Keep cool. Wearing tight-fitting underwear or soaking in a hot tub for extended periods can decrease sperm function.
  • Get clean. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid recreational drugs, smoking, and environmental toxins when you’re trying to get pregnant. If your house has lead paint, you might want to consider having a lead abatement company do work for you so that you, your partner, and your future baby stay lead-free.

Top-rated products for male infertility

  • Zinc. Taking a zinc supplement may improve sperm count, motility, and quality in infertile men. Suggested dose: 30 mg of zinc two times per day, plus 2 mg of copper per day to prevent zinc-induced copper deficiency.
  • Ginseng. Preliminary studies suggest that Asian ginseng may improve sperm count and motility. American ginseng may help protect against the toxic effects of some chemotherapy drugs on sperm quality. Suggested dose: 900 mg of concentrated extract 2 to 3 times per day.

PROSTATE HEALTH

BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate.

When the prostate enlarges, it puts pressure on the surrounding structures, causing symptoms like frequent urination (especially at night), dribbling stream, and inability to completely empty the bladder. Urinary obstruction may lead to bladder and kidney infections.

About one half of all 50-year-old men have BPH, and the number rises with the passing years.

Think you have BPH?

Other conditions may cause similar symptoms to BPH. See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Lifestyle recommendations for BPH

  • Take up exercise. Studies have shown that men who are physically active are less likely to develop BPH. Just two-to-three hours of walking each week may lower BPH risk by 25%.

Top rated products for BPH

  • Beta-sitosterol: Taking this plant-derived compound may improve urinary flow and other symptoms in men with BPH. Suggested dose: 60-130 mg per day.
  • Nettles: Men with early-stage BPH may increase their urinary volume and flow rate by taking nettles. Suggested dose: 120 mg of root extract (capsules or tablets) twice per day
  • Saw palmetto: This herb may limit the amount of testosterone that can bind in the prostate, thereby lessening BPH symptoms. Saw palmetto seems to be especially helpful for reducing nighttime urination and improving urinary flow rates. In some studies, but not all, saw palmetto was as effective in relieving BPH symptoms as the prescription drug, finasteride, without the negative side effects. Suggested dose: 160 mg of saw palmetto extract standardized to contain 80 to 95% fatty acids, twice daily.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, but most men who are diagnosed with it will not die from the disease.

Prostate cancer risk increases with advancing age and is greater in African American men, obese men, and those with a strong family history of the disease.

Early-stage prostate cancer is rarely accompanied by noticeable symptoms. In later stages of the disease, symptoms can be similar to those of BPH, including increased urinary frequency, dribbling, and inability to empty the bladder.

Concerned about prostate cancer?

To screen for prostate cancer, your doctor will perform a physical examination of your prostate and may order lab work.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by cells in the prostate. Higher PSA levels may be associated with the presence of prostate cancer, but they can also be caused by other factors. The PSA test has fallen out of favor in recent years due to lack of sufficient evidence to support its widespread use.

Lifestyle recommendations for prostate cancer

  • Be trim. Help lower your risk of developing prostate cancer by maintaining an ideal weight.
  • Go red. Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant nutrient, lycopene, which may reduce prostate cancer risk. Cooking tomatoes with some oil increases lycopene’s absorption.
  • Get crunchy. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts may help prevent prostate cancer.
  • Be sunny. Men with low vitamin D levels may be at higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Expose your face, arms, hands, and legs to the sun for about 15 minutes several times each week to help ensure adequate vitamin D levels.
  • Go green. Drinking green tea may help prevent prostate cancer, especially in those at risk for the disease.

 

by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND,

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Bolstering Skin’s Defenses with Green Tea

 

Bolstering Skin’s Defenses with Green Tea: Main ImageGreen tea nutrients can make their way into our skin, and may protect against sun damage. For the fairest among us, sunburns are more than a painful nuisance; they cause skin damage, promoting premature aging and increasing skin cancer risk. The most common steps to reduce those risks include regular use of sunscreen and staying in the shade when the sun is strongest. Now we may be able to add tea time—specifically green tea time—to our sun-care routine.

Quell the flames with green tea

Researchers invited 16 people into a study examining whether green tea nutrients—called catechins—are absorbed by the body and into the skin, and if these nutrients protect against sun damage. The study participants had type I or II skin on the Fitzpatrick phototyping scale. A person with type I skin is characterized as burning easily and never tanning, while type II skin burns easily and tans minimally, with difficulty.

Fourteen participants completed the study, during which they took a daily supplement providing 540 mg of green tea catechins and 50 mg of vitamin C for 12 weeks. A portion of each person’s skin was exposed to UV radiation sufficient to cause a sunburn at the beginning of the study, before supplementation, and again, after 12 weeks. Tissue samples of both UV-exposed skin and unexposed skin were collected.

Compared with the skin samples collected before supplementation, the samples collected after had measurable levels of green tea catechins, and showed significantly lower levels of inflammation after UV radiation exposure.

 

A couple of cups per day

This study suggests that green tea nutrients can make their way into our skin, and may protect against sun damage. The study was small, it did not assess sunburn directly, and it only tells us that inflammation, which is one marker of damage, can be lessened by green tea catechins. Still, these findings agree with other research on the sun protective effects of green tea, and there are few downsides to and other potential health benefits from drinking green tea.

According to John Weisburger, PhD, a tea researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, New York, green tea has up to ten times the polyphenols—the family of nutrients to which catechins belong—compared with many vegetables and fruit. Our tips will have you brewing in no time:

  • Count to three. A cup of green tea has around 200 mg of catechins. Three cups daily will supply about the same amount of catechins as the study supplement.
  • Go low. If green tea tastes bitter to you, try brewing it at a temperature slightly less than boiling.
  • Time it. Steep your tea for between two and four minutes. Longer times make for a stronger, sometimes more bitter brew.
  • Squeeze it. After brewing, dip your teabag up and down in the cup, then squeeze the liquid out of the bag as you remove it, to maximize catechins in your cup.
  • Add citrus, avoid milk. Sip green tea with a squeeze of lemon to help your body best use the healthy nutrients, and don’t add milk to your tea, because it may decrease the benefit by blocking catechin absorption.

by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Psyllium Fiber Decreases Metabolic Syndrome Risk

Adding some psyllium fiber to your diet might lower your chances of developing a set of risk factors for heart disease called metabolic syndrome, says a study in Obesity Reviews.

A risky condition
Metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following:

  • Alterations in blood fats (high total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides,
  • Psyllium Fiber Decreases Metabolic Syndrome Risk: Main ImageAbdominal obesity
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Elevated blood pressure

People with metabolic syndrome are at significantly higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and developing diabetes than people without the condition. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is steadily increasing worldwide in parallel with rising obesity rates.

Fiber fights against metabolic syndrome

High-fiber diets are associated with lower body weight and smaller waist size, better blood fat (lipid) profiles, and lower blood sugar levels. But many people don’t get the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber they need each day.

Psyllium, a soluble fiber, can be taken as a supplement. When added to water, it takes on a gelatin-like consistency that may help create a feeling of fullness and decrease cholesterol and glucose absorption. Psyllium tends to cause less bloating and gas than many other fiber supplements since it doesn’t ferment in the intestines as easily.

A review of studies conducted over the past 32 years showed that taking a psyllium supplement helps decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. It seems to improve blood sugar levels, insulin response (how much insulin is released into the bloodstream after a meal), and blood fats. More studies are needed to determine if psyllium can help lower blood pressure and aid in weight loss. “Research to date does support the notion that the consumption of psyllium may provide benefits to many components of metabolic syndrome,” concluded the researchers.

Seize the reins

If you have metabolic syndrome, look at it as an opportunity to change the course of your health. There are plenty of things you can do in addition to adding psyllium to your daily regimen. To get out of the risk zone and into well-being:

  • Be active. Exercise helps lower your blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, and enhance your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you’re at rest. It’s one of the single best things you can do to stop metabolic syndrome in its tracks!
  • Clean up your diet. Switch out white bread and pastas for whole grain versions, skip the sugar in your coffee, opt for fiber-rich protein sources like beans and nuts in place of meat, and make sure you eat some fruits and veggies at every meal. Every little change helps add up to a healthier you.
  • Quit smoking. This is often easier said than done, so get the help you need to quit for good. Smoking increases your risk for countless health problems; quitting helps lower your risk of many of these right away.

 

By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

 

 

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Go with Your Gut

Easy ways to improve digestionWoman's Fingers Touching her body parts, heart shaped fingers

If you have problems with your digestion, you’re in good company. More than 100 million Americans have digestive problems. Whether it’s irritable bowel syndrome,

bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, reflux, or gas, getting your digestion in order will bring you much needed relief and save you from potential embarrassment. Don’t let digestive discomfort become a fact of life. By making five simple changes, you can help your digestive system find its groove again so it can absorb nutrients and keep things running smoothly.

1. Stay hydrated
The best way to stay regular is to keep hydrated and encourage the flow of food through your intestines. If there’s any remedy for overall digestive health, it’s water. Dehydration is one of the most common culprits of constipation. Not drinking enough water slows your digestive system down, forcing it to get water from your food waste. The result is hard, difficult-to-pass stools. You know you are getting enough water if your urine is clear (as opposed to yellow) all day long.

2. Keep on moving
Exercise may be the next best thing for your digestion, as it stimulates all the muscles in your GI tract. Brisk movement speeds up digestion, makes your organs work more efficiently, and signals your intestinal muscles to contract. A toned colon pushes out stools better and

3. Choose healthy fats
Fried and rich foods throw a wrench into your digestive tract, making it sluggish. Instead, opt for healthy fats to help support the GI tract. One great source of healthy fat is coconut oil, which can help increase metabolism, aid in digestion and help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

4. Choose bulk
Fiber is constipation’s sworn enemy. The typical American’s low-fiber diet causes all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in the gut, damaging its delicate ecosystem. Fiber quickly plows its way through a plugged-up gut by softening stools and adding bulk. Seek out fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes such as beans and lentils. The fiber found in plant foods stimulates the growth of healthy intestinal flora.

5. Probiotics
Gut-dwelling, “friendly” bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid nutrient absorption, reduce bloating, and boost immune function. Especially relevant is their ability to normalize bowel movements. Some experts recommend eating probiotic- rich foods (such as yogurt or other cultured foods) or taking a probiotic supplement for a minimum of two weeks in order to notice a difference in your digestion.

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Food Focus: Flavonols for Heart Health

Food Focus: Flavonols for Heart Health: Main Image
Flavonols are a group of nutrients found in foods such as tea, onions, chocolate, and berries. While health experts have long known that flavonols may offer general health benefits, the heart appears to be one of the specific areas where flavonol-rich foods may enhance health.

Flavonols offer cardiovascular benefit to older women

Researchers collected diet and health information, including use of blood pressure medications, existing heart disease, height, weight, diabetes, and smoking and drinking habits, from 1,063 generally healthy, older women living in Perth, Australia. The group was followed for five years to track who died due to atherosclerotic heart disease—the type of disease that leads to blocked blood vessels and heart attacks.

  • Women who got the most dietary flavonols from all foods and beverages were 73% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic vascular disease compared with women eating the least.
  • Women consuming the most flavonols from tea were 68% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic disease compared with women who had the lowest intake.
  • Women consuming the most flavonols from non-tea sources were 59% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic disease compared with women with the lowest intake.

Feasting on flavonols

This study is observational, and cannot prove cause and effect. Still, it uncovered a strong connection between flavonols and reduced risk of developing atherosclerotic disease, a major killer in the developed world. Further, there are few downsides to getting more flavonol-rich foods into your healthy eating plan.

  • Sip smartly. Tea accounted for about 65% of the flavonol intake in the study, suggesting that the beverage is a smart addition to any heart-healthy diet.
  • Brew tastiness. Black tea is a rich source of flavonols, though both green and white teas contain the nutrients too. Regardless of the type, don’t overbrew: steep for two to four minutes, and use water that is just below boiling temperature to avoid bitter flavors.
  • Pick the plant. True tea comes from a plant known as Camellia sinensis. While herbal infusions such as chamomile, licorice, valerian, and other herbal blends taste great and can have their own health benefits, only the Camellia sinensis plant yields true tea—black, green, or white.
  • Focus on food. Don’t forget to think beyond tea too. Great food sources of flavonols include onions, scallions, kale and broccoli, other green leafy vegetables, apples—especially the peels—raspberries, blackberries, dark red cherries, strawberries, grape juice, and red wine.
  • Add it up. Don’t rely only on food and beverages for heart health. No heart-health plan would be complete without regular aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, vigorous dancing, basketball or soccer, and good social support that bolsters you when you’re down and helps you keep the stresses of daily life in perspective.
By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Meat, Carnitine, and Cardiovascular Health—A Complex Relationship

Meat, Carnitine, and Cardiovascular Health—A Complex Relationship: Main Image
New preliminary research suggesting that a nutrient in red meat—carnitine—may play a role in atherosclerosis, the process by which cholesterol-rich deposits form inside blood vessels. While the research has recently made headlines, a closer look suggests that the potential harm likely affects only certain people. Further, carnitine supplements have a solid history of safe use to address a variety of cardiovascular conditions, an indication that there’s no need for people who are taking the supplement for a particular health condition to drop it.

Exploring an important feedback loop

The bacteria in our digestive tract interact with our diet in complex ways. What we eat affects gut bacteria, and gut bacteria affect how we metabolize what we eat. Some gut bacteria process carnitine, found in abundance in red meat, into a substance called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).

Researchers found that TMAO, which forms after carnitine intake, contributed to atherosclerosis in mice, prompting them to look at how carnitine is metabolized into TMAO in people.

The carnitine challenge

Researchers enrolled five people, including one long-term vegan, and four omnivores—people who reported eating meat (beef, venison, lamb, mutton, duck or pork) nearly daily—into several “carnitine challenges.” For the challenge, study participants (including the vegan) ate an 8-ounce steak providing 180 mg of carnitine, and took a 250 mg carnitine capsule.

Compared with blood and urine carnitine and TMAO levels before the challenge, levels after the challenge:

  • increased significantly in the omnivores
  • did not change measurably in the vegan participant
  • did not change after the omnivores had taken antibiotics for one week to decrease the bacteria in their guts, and
  • again increased significantly in the omnivores after several weeks off of antibiotics, after the gut bacteria had time to recover.

These results suggest that if certain types of gut bacteria are absent from the body, carnitine may not be processed into TMAO, and that differences in gut bacteria between the vegan and the omnivores affected TMAO formation.

The researchers also evaluated blood carnitine and TMAO levels in 2,595 people who had undergone cardiac evaluation. Although high TMAO blood levels were associated with more advanced cardiovascular disease, and a higher likelihood of having experienced a heart attack, stroke, or death, a closer look at the details suggests that TMAO, rather than carnitine, was the primary reason for the association between carnitine levels and cardiovascular risk.

Complex analyses yield complex answers

Red meat has long been considered a contributor to atherosclerosis due to its saturated fat content, so whether or not carnitine is an additional factor in developing atherosclerosis, it is prudent to follow the standard advice of health experts and eat meat in moderation—no more than a couple of 3-ounce servings per week—for best heart health.

Carnitine’s role in all this is less straightforward. While this research suggests that carnitine may promote atherosclerosis, Alan Gaby, MD, Chief Medical Editor of Aisle7, submits that more information is needed to interpret these results, pointing out, “Carnitine supplements have been successfully used therapeutically in people with angina, intermittent claudication, and congestive heart failure, and have been shown to improve the odds of survival when given after a heart attack.” Interpreting these latest results, he notes that “carnitine might conceivably be harmful for a subset of people with a certain type of gut bacteria, but this study is very preliminary, and it doesn’t provide enough evidence to justify dropping carnitine supplements for people who can benefit from them.”

While the debate continues, in addition to limiting your meat intake, consider the following sensible advice to create your heart healthy, self-care plan:

  • Track your ticker. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, and if needed, come up with ways to ensure they stay in a healthy range.
  • Dig deeper. Consider getting a high-sensitivity, C-reactive protein (hsCRP) blood test, which can add to a more complete picture of your heart disease risk.
  • Take smart steps. Take sensible measures to protect heart health: exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains, and keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • Ask the expert. If you are interested in, or already taking carnitine supplements, talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about heart disease risk.
by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Herbal Extract May Promote Heart-Healthy Weight Loss

CarallumaLosing weight not only helps you look and feel better, it can also help you avoid heart disease, especially if the weight you lose comes off your middle. In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, people on a calorie-restricted diet and an exercise program who also used an extract from the plant, Caralluma fimbriata, reduced their waist circumference more than people on the diet and exercise program alone.

Adding caralluma to a weight loss program

Caralluma fimbriata, a cactus that grows in India, has been eaten as a vegetable for centuries. Because it has also been used traditionally to suppress hunger and increase stamina, it is sometimes referred to as “famine food.”

The 12-week study included 33 people who were either overweight or obese. Each was given guidance on how to reduce their caloric intake to a level that was 500 calories lower than the amount recommended to maintain a normal weight for their height. They participated in regular exercise, attended weekly support sessions, and were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg of Caralluma fimbriata BID or a placebo.

Caralluma users’ bellies shrink

Food diaries showed that both groups ate approximately the same amount of calories and lost the same amount of weight (about 5.25 pounds) during the study; however, people in the caralluma group experienced some extra positive changes:

Waist circumference: The caralluma group lost an average of 6.5 cm of waist circumference compared with a loss of 2.6 cm in the placebo group.
Waist-to-hip ratio: The waist-to-hip ratio declined by 0.03 in the caralluma group and 0.01 in the placebo group, indicating a greater loss of abdominal fat in the treatment group.

Together these findings suggest that the caralluma group lost more abdominal fat than the placebo group. Increased abdominal fat is part of a condition known as metabolic syndrome and is closely associated with cardiovascular disease. The caralluma group also had less desire to eat, as measured by surveys done during the study, than the placebo group. Whether the herb’s effect on appetite might support long-term dieting and weight loss could not be determined from this study.

“The decline in waist circumference following Caralluma fimbriata supplementation is vital as it implicates the potential role of this plant extract in the treatment of central obesity and the prevention of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle related diseases,” the study’s authors said.

Use weight loss products wisely

While these findings add support for use of Caralluma fimbriata as a dieting aid, it is important to bear in mind that inaccurate marketing, sometimes to the point of deception, is common in weight loss products. If you decide to talk to your doctor about adding a caralluma extract to your weight loss program, here is some advice:

Do your research. Look for trusted brands that use independent labs to verify their ingredients.

Read labels carefully. Check both active and inactive ingredient lists to be sure you know what other nutrients and herbs are included, as well as their amounts.

Keep your wits about you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—there is no miracle cure for overweight and obesity, so make sure your expectations, and the product price, remain reasonable.

Lay a heathly foundation. While caralluma and certain other nutrients and herbs may support healthy weight loss, dietary change and exercise are the foundation of all effective weight loss programs.

By Maureen Williams, ND

Posted in Emerson Ecologics