Men and women have more in common health wise than you might think. Most of our organs are the same, though they may be shaped a little differently. Men and women both have thyroids and adrenal glands and livers and elbows. We all need essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids for optimal health. Therefore, to talk about men’s health is 90 percent talking about human health.
The biggest point where men and women diverge is with sex hormones and organs. For example, men have a prostate gland and women do not have a prostate (though they have a Skene’s gland, which is a little similar).
The prostate creates and helps expel the fluid that carries sperm to ejaculation. The prostate surrounds the urethra just below the bladder. That means that increases in prostate size can interfere with urine flow and bladder activity.
The most common problem with the prostate is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (or hypertrophy) usually referred to as BPH. Nearly all men experience prostate enlargement as they age, and this can cause problems with bladder function, including urgency, incomplete bladder emptying, and nocturia—getting up frequently at night to urinate. Therefore, when men complain about prostate problems, what they often mean is they are experiencing a bladder dysfunction.
Because of differences in health, lifestyle, and genetics, some men may experience these problems in their early forties, while others may not have these issues until their late fifties or older.
How to Delay Prostate Problems
There are some activities that can help slow or delay prostate problems.
Eating a diet rich in clean fruits, vegetables, and protein sources, with fewer carbohydrates, especially sugar, can help keep the prostate healthy.
Maintaining a healthy weight is preventive.
Another consideration is to avoid exposure to toxins called xenoestrogens, which can accelerate prostate enlargement and potentially, prostate cancer. The best known example of this toxin is BPA, or bisphenol-A, a plasticizer found in water bottles, can liners for acidic foods, and some food storage containers. If you use plastic, make sure it is BPA-free.
Herbs for Prostate Health
There are very effective herbal interventions for prostate-related bladder issues. A clinically studied herb that provides significant benefits is called Angelica archangelica, also known as Icelandic Angelica.
The angelica leaf extract shows remarkable potential for patients suffering from urinary urgency. In an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, men suffering from nocturia used an extract of Angelica archangelica or were given a placebo. Individuals in the angelica group saw up to a 50 percent reduction in waking up at night to urinate. It also nearly tripled the time that men slept before first having to wake for urination. The most significant results were in men with the lowest bladder capacity, meaning their bladders could not hold very much urine at a time. Not only did Icelandic angelica increase the bladder’s strength and ability to hold more urine, it also helped them get a better night’s sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is not just about feeling refreshed upon awakening. Poor, interrupted sleep is linked to weight gain, mood disorders, blood sugar instability, slow wound healing, accelerated aging, and musculoskeletal pain.
Pharmaceuticals for Prostate Issues
The pharmaceutical approach to bladder problems like urinary frequency or urgency is to prescribe anticholinergic drugs like Detrol, Ditropan, Vesicare or others. However, anticholinergic drugs can cause cognitive impairment after only two months of use. Anticholinergic drugs deplete choline, which is needed to make the crucially important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is greatly depleted in Alzheimer’s disease.
What can be even more problematic is if a person is using a bladder drug, and then also takes an over-the-counter drug like Benadryl (diphenhydramine, also an anticholinergic) for allergies, or Advil PM, Tylenol PM, or other analgesic combinations containing diphenhydramine for sleep, the potential for dementia is magnified even more.
Unfortunately, the list of drugs with anticholinergic activity is very long and also contains certain drugs used for diarrhea, intestinal issues, anxiety, depression, dizziness, and other health problems, so the chances of using two or more drugs that diminish choline simultaneously is quite common. If you are concerned about a medication you are currently using and whether or not it depletes choline, ask your pharmacist.
Therefore, given these considerations, it becomes even more important to find safe and effective interventions for prostate-driven bladder problems that can diminish comfort and quality of life.
“Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Association Between Anticholinergic Medication Use and Cognition, Brain Metabolism, and Brain Atrophy in Cognitively Normal Older Adults” by S.L. Risacher et al., JAMA Neurol, 6/1/16
“Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study” by S.L. Gray et al., JAMA Intern Med, 3/15
“Long-term Anticholinergic Use and the Aging Brain” by X. Cai et al., Alzheimers Dement, 11/22/12
“A Parallel, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Study to Investigate the Effect of a Proprietary Angelica archangelica Extract on Nocturia in Men” by S. Sigurdsson et al., Scand J Urol, 2/13