November is men’s health awareness month, with a specific focus on prostate cancer.
We think it’s also important to discuss other common men’s health concerns, including andropause and cardiovascular disease (aka heart disease).
Prostate Health – Benign Prostate Hyperplasia
BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia – non-cancerous prostate growth) is a common men’s health concern, especially as men enter andropause in their 50s.
BPH can cause a variety of issues with urination including:
- Incomplete urination
- Urinary frequency and urgency
- Night time awakenings to urinate
The most common root cause is increased BHT – a type of testosterone.
Nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements can support the body in balancing testosterone levels, managing inflammation, and to support the production of the type of testosterone that does not cause prostate hyperplasia.
- Exercise: even 2 to 3 hours per week of walking
- Eat your veggies: increased intake of veggies is linked to reduce
- Reduce toxic products: contain xenoestrogens that dysregulate hormones and promote prostate inflammation
One herb that has shown promise for helping manage BPH is saw palmetto. We love Prostate-Pro by CanPrev – it contains a blend of prostate supportive herbs and nutrients including saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto has an anti-androgenic effect that helps lower overall BHT levels. It also helps by reducing inflammatory cytokines (immune signaling molecules) that promote inflammation of the prostate.
Just like women have menopause where certain hormonal shifts take place, many men experience andropause.
There is a steady decline in testosterone of 2% per year starting in the 30s and 40s, however, for some men, testosterone levels can decrease rapidly, causing a variety of symptoms including:
- mood swings and irritability
- loss of muscle mass and reduced ability to exercise
- fat redistribution, especially around the mid-section or increased breast tissue
- a general lack of enthusiasm or energy
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or increased tiredness
- poor concentration and short-term memory
It’s important to get your hormone levels tested, as low testosterone puts you at risk for other health problems, such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, low HDL, elevated triglycerides, and osteoporosis.
Factors that contribute to reduced testosterone:
- lack of sleep & adrenal fatigue (aka burnout)
- a poor diet
- lack of exercise
- drinking too much alcohol
Supplements for Andropause
There are numerous supplements that may help with andropause and low testosterone, however, it’s important that you work with your practitioner and do not self-prescribe.
- Zinc: high in shellfish and pumpkin seeds
- Vitamin D: helps produce sex hormones. Most North Americans are deficient, and the new RDA is 2500 IU per day.
There are numerous herbs that claim to boost libido and testosterone levels, however, there is not sufficient evidence for any of them.
It’s best to work with a practitioner such as a naturopathic doctor, to get testing and personalized care.
Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease)
Cardiovascular disease is one of the top killers of men.
It includes high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), stoke, heart attack and blood pressure dysregulation.
Our top lifestyle strategies:
- Stress management: long term, chronic stress contributes to heart disease by causing systemic inflammation and raising blood pressure. Be sure to incorporate stress reducing activities into your daily routine, including exercise, meditation, deep breathing. You may also want to reach out for support from loved ones or try counseling.
- Exercise: aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week.
- Sleep: ensure you’re getting adequate, good quality sleep. Sleep before 10pm has been proven to reduce your risk. If you snore, get a sleep study – untreated sleep apnea increases your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Supplements for Cardiovascular Health
Fibre is incredibly important for cardiovascular health.
Oat fibre, in particular, has been proven to lower cholesterol. It also contains beta glucans which help with cholesterol, and have a beneficial impact on gut bacteria which further reduces inflammation.
Mushrooms are also rich in beta glucans.
Fibre also helps balance blood sugar – high blood sugar contributes to heart disease by causing systemic inflammation and damaging blood vessels, contributing to atherosclerosis. It directly raises triglyceride levels.
Many people do not get the recommended 30 g or more of fibre per day, so a fibre supplement may be helpful.
We recommend Trifibe SAP by NFH. It contains an blend of oat fibre, psyllium and glucomannan that is proven to help manage blood sugar and reduce cholesterol levels.
It’s also important to optimize your digestive health by working with a practitioner on your gut microbiome, as it directly impacts your cholesterol levels and heart health as well.
Our top dietary tips for preventing and managing men’s health concerns:
Ensure you’re getting protein throughout the day to keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid spikes and crashes. Imbalanced or chronically high blood sugar puts you at higher risk and contributes to weight gain, especially in the midsection.
Sources: aim to increase plant based protein (soy, legumes), lean meat and fish and reduce high fat cuts of meat.
Aim for at least 30 g of fibre per day from a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Legumes are one of the best sources – they contain up to 18g of fibre per cup
Oats are especially important as they contain beta glucans, which are proven to lower cholesterol and has a beneficial impact on gut bacteria which further reduces inflammation.
Focus on unsaturated and omega 3 fats, and reduce your intake of saturated fats from meats and dairy products. Omega 3 rich foods include fatty fish, olives and olive oil, and nuts and seeds including walnuts.
Avoid highly processed seed oils such as canola, soy and “vegetable” oils and instead, opt for cold pressed oils only such as avocado and olive.
Limit processed foods:
Processed foods are often high in salt, preservatives and sugar, all of which promote inflammation in the body. Make home cooked meals with whole food ingredients as often as possible.
Watch your salt intake, especially if you already have high blood pressure.
Limit processed foods, which are typically high in salt. Be sure to read labels and check the sodium content: look for products with less than 5% or less sodium per serving.
Fruits & Vegetables:
Fruits and vegetables lower your risk as they are high in fibre, which balances blood sugar and cholesterol, and they’re high in antioxidants and vitamins that help reduce inflammation and prevent hardening of the arteries
Tomatoes are especially helpful for men’s health as they are high in lycopene, which is increased when cooked. Lycopene is a potent anti-oxidant that supports prostate health.
Choose whole grains such as oatmeal, brown or wild rice, barley, legumes and quinoa more often. Reduce your intake of refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, crackers and snack products.
Include anti-inflammatory spices in your cooking including garlic, curry, turmeric, fresh herbs, and chili peppers.
Enjoy coffee and green tea: both high in antioxidants, dark chocolate, and bright and dark fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants help prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and reduce inflammation which prevents prostate enlargement, and reduces your risk of other chronic diseases.