I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Bay Prostate support group. The group was warm and welcoming, and I’m delighted to say that the room was crammed full of bums on seats.
There is often a stigma around men’s health, with it being much less common for a man to visit his GP than it is for a woman.
This reluctance can be dangerous, especially if treatable conditions are left too long.
Prostate health is especially important, with one in eight men developing prostate cancer, a condition that is very treatable when caught early enough.
So when I saw a room filled with men, supporting each other openly, I felt lucky to be invited to be a part of it.
As a herbalist, I don’t treat prostate cancer, but I do help men with an enlarged prostate, usually caused by a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.
BPH is irritating and can negatively affect your quality of life, but it is not dangerous.
Nevertheless, the symptoms of BPH can be very similar to those of prostate cancer, so if you feel you may have BPH, it’s important to visit your GP.
Nightly visits to the loo, the frequent or urgent need to urinate and a weak or uninterrupted flow are all symptoms of BPH.
If you suffer with any of these a quick examination can confirm BPH and rule out more sinister causes and your doctor may offer you some medication to ease the symptoms.
Alternatively, as herbalists, we have a number of herbs at our disposal to help with benign prostate problems and over frequent urination.
As men age, it is common for the prostate to enlarge, causing it to restrict the flow of urine. This means that with each visit to the loo, you pass less water and the bladder does not drain completely, making more frequent trips necessary.
You may also find yourself sensitive to drinks such as tea, coffee or alcoholic beverages which have you rushing back and forth to the loo, restricting you from enjoying these drinks just to stop your schedule being interrupted.
If you have a diagnosis of BPH, there are number of things you can do to help to help yourself.
Reduce consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol, especially before bed. Regular exercise and a diet rich in vegetables have been linked to a lower risk of prostate enlargement so keep active and fill your fridge with your favourite veggies.
Add some zinc to your diet with foods like pumpkin seeds, shellfish, beans, nuts, eggs and red meat. Avoid drinking tea with these meals as this can affect your mineral absorption.
In my clinic I use a herb called Saw palmetto for BPH which helps to regulate the hormones that increase prostate enlargement.
Saw palmetto is now a licensed herbal medicine for relieving the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, so it is well backed by research, as far as herbal medicines go.
If you can reduce the prostate enlargement, the bladder can empty more fully, meaning fewer toilet trips, less waking in the night and greater bladder control.
Untreated BPH can lead to regular water infections as one gentleman I treated, once found out.
I had been helping his wife with recurrent cystitis and since he also suffered with bladder infections, he’d started using her medicine.
Although it worked initially and alleviated his pain and discomfort, he was still getting up four to six times a night to pass water.
When he asked me if I had anything stronger, I suggested that maybe he would benefit from a prostate check.
One quick trip to the doctor confirmed a diagnosis of BPH and he now uses Saw palmetto regularly, while benefiting from an infection free bladder and a good night’s sleep.
So if you or someone you know is always looking for the nearest loo, don’t just put it down to getting older or just another infection.
Reach out, take the plunge and get your doctor to check things out.
If it turns out to be BPH, you are definitely not alone and if you decide to use medication or a remedy like saw palmetto, you’ll be joining thousands of men that decided to put their health first.