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Eastern Approaches to Better Men's Health

May 25, 2012 08:50AM ● By Dr. Ryan Lombardo

As a man matures, age-related issues such as prostate enlargement, loss of muscle mass and erectile dysfunction all have the potential to greatly impact health, happiness and self-esteem. Taking steps to prevent or correct these problems proactively will help you to maintain a healthy life, and these steps can involve a combination of Western and Eastern medicines.

Prostate enlargement is a common occurrence in a man’s lifetime. Commonly seen in advertisements, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can cause pain, discomfort, urinary difficulties, erectile dysfunction and potential kidney problems if left untreated. Approximately 50 percent of men aged 51 to 60 years old experience symptoms of BPH, and more than 80 percent of men over 80 develop it. In severe cases, such as prostate cancer, surgery may be the only option. The good news is that both Western medicine and Eastern medicine have effective modalities to help relieve this condition.

Western medical pharmaceutical drugs are often prescribed to relax the bladder and shrink the prostate, thus preventing the symptoms associated with BPH. These drugs are generally very effective; however, like most pharmaceuticals, they commonly include side effects that can decrease libido, and cause impotence and dizziness. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are effective options for moderate prostate enlargement to reduce the size of the gland, relieve pain and inflammation, and to help promote normal urination without side effects. Meditation and other relaxation rituals have also been shown to relieve tension and improve bladder function.

Recent research shows that acupuncture significantly reduces chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS) associated with prostatitis. Many Chinese herbs can help address BPH symptoms, but a cure is still far off, so prevention starting with nutrition and lifestyle is key.

Foods high in phytoestrogens such as soy and yams are beneficial for prostate health. Other foods that are high in zinc and that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as cherries, seaweed, figs, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, may also be helpful. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health states that even coffee may reduce the risk of lethal prostate cancer in men.

Loss of muscle mass and erectile dysfunction (ED) are related to declining hormone levels, specifically testosterone. Most people think of testosterone as simply a sex hormone, but it is also extremely important to heart health, muscle strength and development, bone strength and overall mood. Testosterone levels reach their peak production period in a man’s mid-20s, and then slowly decline throughout life.

Several Chinese medicinal herbs have been studied for their men’s health benefits including Rou Gui (cortex cinnamomi), Fu Zi (radix aconiti lateralis praeparata) and Yin Yang Huo (herba epimedii). The Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine’s Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine references several studies that show demonstrated effects of enhanced corticosterone and testosterone production. Yin Yang Huo was shown to significantly increase corticosterone, cortisol, testosterone and increase sexual desire and sperm production. Together, Yin Yang Huo and Fu Zi increased cortisol secretion and Yin Yang Huo and Rou Gui increased testosterone levels.

The authors of Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology also reference Yin Yang Huo’s effects, stating that its administration increases sperm production, stimulates sensory nerves and increases sexual desire and activity. The leaves and root have the strongest therapeutic effect, followed by the fruit and stem. Self-medicating with herbs or supplements is not recommended. It is best to see a trained herbalist with professional certification to ensure correct dosage and formula.

Many physicians will test hormone levels. Look for those trained in anti-aging, longevity medicine and bioidentical hormone replacement. It is strongly suggested to get tested if you are experiencing loss of muscle mass, ED, low libido, lethargy/fatigue, sleep issues, increased fat deposits, depression or mood swings.

Treatment options can include bioidentical hormone replacement, hormone and nutritional supplements, and herbal medicine. Some methods literally replace testosterone, while other methods replace precursor hormones such as DHEA, which your body uses to produce testosterone. Others treatments help the body increase its own hormone production. All are generally safe and viable treatment methods when directed by trained practitioners.

Dr. Ryan Lombardo, DAOM, LAc, is a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, board certified in acupuncture and anti-aging medicine, a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and an active member of the Society for Acupuncture Research. Contact him at 847-905-0440 or