Chinese Medicine & Men's Health: A Series
By Michael Pingicer, L.Ac., Dipl. NCCAOM
In the US, men are coming out of their shell to talk about the variety of issues encompassed under the phrase "men's health." Due to the way that these disorders affect the quality of their day-to-day lives, men are expressing concerns about their health along with a renewed interest in longevity. These are all steps in the right direction, and this is a trend that should be encouraged by health care practitioners through education. Men's health has historically been a top priority in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with regard to sexual health and longevity.
TCM can address many diseases under the umbrella of men's health, and the following is the first in a series of articles that will address the diseases that affect men and preventative care.
>By Michael Pingicer, L.Ac., Dipl. NCCAOM
What are the basics about the prostate? Where is it and how does it work?
The prostate is located below the bladder and within the skin of the perineum. Here is an anatomical drawing showing where exactly it is. The main function of the prostate is to store and secrete a clear, slightly alkaline fluid that constitutes 10-30% of the volume of the seminal fluid that, along with spermatozoa, constitutes semen. The prostate also contains muscles that help expel semen during ejaculation. The urethra, which transports urine and semen to outside the body, passes through the center of the prostate. This animation is an interesting view of the prostate in relation to the bladder and the urethra.
What are prostate problems?
For men under 50, the most common prostate problem is prostatitis. For men over 50, the most common prostate problem is prostate enlargement. This condition is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. Older men are at risk for prostate cancer as well, but this disease is much less common than BPH.1 Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and dietary therapy can help men maintain a healthy prostate to reduce the risks of the following diseases.
Prostatitis is defined as inflammation of the prostate sometimes caused by bacteria. It is usually a part of chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and some of the signs and symptoms can be pelvic pain, difficult/painful urination, painful ejaculation, erectile difficulties, etc.
In a clinical trial where patients with prostatitis were treated with acupuncture, 10 out of 12 patients (83%) had a sustained greater than 50% decrease in National Institute of Health's Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index at final visit (average 33 weeks), and 10 out of 12 patients (83%) reported marked improvement on the subjective global assessment at 12 weeks.2
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is the stimulated growth of the cells in the prostate resulting in an increase in the size of the prostate. This is something that normally happens throughout the life of a healthy adult male. But sometimes the increase in size can result in issues with urination such as difficult, painful, incomplete, frequent, urgent, weak, or nighttime urination. This condition can affect quality of life by increasing the frequency of trips to the bathroom or feeling as if one always has to urinate.
Some self-care tips for reducing the symptoms of BPH according to the NIH are as follows:3
These self-care techniques are just a start to improving prostate health. Incorporating acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and dietary modifications can exponentially help to decrease the symptoms of BPH.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, especially after dinner. Caffeine is a diuretic which promotes the formation of urine by the kidney and can cause frequent urination.
- Urinate when you first get the urge. Also, go to the bathroom when you have the chance, even if you don't feel a need to urinate.
- Don't drink a lot of fluid all at once. Spread out your consumption of fluids throughout the day. Avoid drinking fluids within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Don't take over-the-counter cold and sinus medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines. These medications can increase BPH symptoms.
- Keep warm and exercise regularly. Cold weather and lack of physical activity may worsen symptoms.
- Learn and perform Kegel exercises (pelvic strengthening exercises).
- Reduce stress. Nervousness and tension can lead to more frequent urination. Acupuncture can help reduce your stress levels.
Do you have BPH?
If so, acupuncture may be right for you.
Call 212-894-0767 and ask for a free 15 minute consultation.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting 1 in 6 men. In 2007, more than 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 27,000 men will die from the disease. One new case occurs every 2.5 minutes and a man dies from prostate cancer every 19 minutes.4 Catching prostate cancer early increases the survival rate. Some of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer are as follows:5
Prostate cancer is very treatable in the early stages, and the cure rate is very high. What are some steps in screening for prostate cancer? Men 50 years and older should do the following annually:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be useful in treating the accompanying symptoms of prostate cancer and side effects of cancer treatment, but you should be sure to talk with your biomedical doctor regarding a cancer treatment program.
- Have a digital rectal exam by a biomedical doctor to examine the prostate to see if it is the correct size, shape, etc.
- Get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a factor in determining if cancer is present, but keep in mind that the PSA can be elevated in BPH and prostatitis as well.
Call us for an appointment at 212-894-0767.
Chinese Medicine & Prostate Health
In TCM the prostate is related to a vacuity in the jing or essence which is loosely translated as "vital essence" that decreases as men age. This decrease in the jing, which is stored in the kidneys, also lends to a susceptibility to an internal accumulation of damp-heat. Damp-heat is closely related to a diet high in fat, alcohol, and low in fiber. The accumulation of damp-heat can be counteracted by a change in the diet and the inclusion of Chinese herbal therapy as well as acupuncture.
The actions of acupuncture and herbs are to rid the body of the damp-heat through cooling, draining, and drying the pathogens of dampness and heat. Once the body is properly eliminated of damp-heat, the kidney qi and jing will be tonified in order to strengthen the prostate and patient to prevent further or recurring invasion of the damp-heat pathogens.
Following the self-care regiment listed under the BPH section is very important, but you can also integrate the following into your diet and day in order to help maintain a healthy prostate and reduce your chances of developing prostate disease:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Limit sweets and salt.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
- Eat moderate-sized portions and control calories.
- Eat more pumpkin seeds.
- Eat more fish (especially salmon, herring, and mackerel)
- Eat more sources of lycopene - processed tomatoes (like ketchup, tomato sauce), tomatoes in the presence of an oil/fat, pink grapefruit and watermelon.
- Eat more broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, celery, apple, cucumber, radish, and other cruciferous vegetables.7
- Put lemon or lime juice in your water.
Acupuncture, herbs, and TCM dietary guidelines can help you achieve better prostate health!
Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
41 Union Square West, Suite 519
New York, NY 10003
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1NKUDIC: What I need to know about Prostate Problems
2Urology. 2003 Jun;61(6):1156-9; discussion 1159
3Medical Encyclopedia: Enlarged Prostate
4Prostate Cancer Foundation: FAQs About Prostate Cancer
5Prostate Cancer Foundation: Prostate Cancer Symptoms
6Mayo Clinic: Prostate cancer prevention - What you can do
7CBS News: Broccoli May Help Cut Prostate Cancer
"Juliette treated me for digestive system problems I was having in pregnancy. She helped me to develop a diet plan that kept me well-nourished while also completely alleviating all my symptoms. When I fell off the wagon on occasion, her acupuncture treatments solved the problem. Juliette listens carefully, and adjusts her treatment plan to meet her patients' individual needs. I have recommended her many times to other pregnant friends."