Collection: Men's Health

Men's health encompasses a broad spectrum of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing specific to men. It involves not only the prevention and treatment of common male specific conditions like prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and low testosterone but also a proactive approach to maintaining overall health through regular check-ups, a healthy diet and consistent physical activity.

These are health issues related to the male reproductive system, which include prostate problems, prostatitis, and prostate cancer. Additionally, men can experience male menopause, which is associated with low testosterone levels.

Unlike women, men have lower oestrogen levels, which puts them at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This risk is higher in men until women reach menopause and lose the protective benefits of oestrogen. Additionally, men face a greater risk of depression as their testosterone levels decline and are more likely to keep mental health issues to themselves instead of seeking help and treatment.

It is advised that men from the age of 40 - 45 should do a prostate check. This check should be done earlier if there is a family history of cancer.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a blood test you take to screen for prostate cancer and inflammation. PSA test levels should be below 4ng/mL. If these levels are high then further testing is required. It is recommended that all men should go for a digital rectal examination (DRE) annually to screen the size of the prostate, usually done after the age of 45.

Depression, anxiety and sleep problems are the main mental conditions affecting men.

Men can improve mental health by reaching out for support and being open to talk to a friend or an individual they trust. Other improvements include getting 7 - 8 hours of quality sleep, 20 minutes of exercise, at least 5 times per week and ensuring testosterone and vitamin D levels tested and reviewed.

Stress must be treated with a whole health approach through exercise, sleeping well, eating vibrant healthy foods, learning to keep stress hormones balanced and balancing work and life through finding time to relax, breath and unwind too.

Men need healthy testosterone levels and as they age these levels can decline. It is advised to test hormone levels but some herbs and foods can be used to help support healthy testosterone levels for improved sleep and moods. The conversion of testosterone in the body is regulated by an enzyme called 5-α-reductase to a form of testosterone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

When testosterone is converted to DHT it is lowered in the body and can no longer work effectively resulting in:

  • Enlarged prostate in men
  • Hair loss in both men
  • Depression and low mood
  • Sleep disturbances

Overproduction of DHT is known to cause undesirable health effects in males including enlargement of the prostate and male pattern baldness. Inhibitors of 5-alpha reductase block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, reducing the concentration of dihydrotestosterone in the blood and in the prostate tissue. A decrease in DHT production controls the growth of prostate tissue and reduces hair loss.

Foods, herbs and nutrients that inhibit 5-α-reductase enzyme activity and decrease or prevent symptoms:

Foods that inhibit 5-α-reductase Herbs that inhibit 5-α-reductase Nutrients/phytonutrients that inhibit 5-α-reductase
Green tea Saw palmetto Quercetin
Flax seed (lignans) Stinging nettle root Omega 3 fish oils
Soy (isoflavones) Chaste tree berry Krill (astaxanthin)
Fatty fish (omega 3 fats) Black cohosh Beta-sitosterols
Pygeum L-lysine
Rice bran

How the body changes into different types of testosterone, through the metabolism of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is one of the factors contributing to hair loss. The more DHT produced by the body, the more it contributes to male pattern baldness. Genetics also play a role in male hair loss.

This is when men have excess oestrogen resulting from being overweight. Their bodies then produce more oestrogen instead of testosterone and cortisol causing abdominal and breast fat (gynaecomastia). Overweight men should be careful about supplementing with testosterone as the body will convert it into more oestrogen. Men should first lose weight before testosterone supplementation.

Nutrients that increase blood flow and dilate the arteries may assist with erectile dysfunction. Red pigmented foods like beetroot and pomegranate may increase nitric oxide levels, which leads to dilation of arteries. Nutrients such as N-acetyl cysteine or glutathione also have a dilation effect. Monitoring blood pressure levels is vital as poor blood circulation due to blood pressure or kidney disease needs to be resolved.

B vitamins play a significant role in maintaining good health and well-being. This nutrient serves as the building blocks of a healthy body and has a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function and cell metabolism. Vitamin B6 is significant for men’s health as it plays an important role in testosterone synthesis, which is crucial for the development of the male reproductive system. Dietary sources of B vitamins include whole grains, legumes, meat, eggs, and dark leafy greens.

Green tea extract has been shown to have many beneficial effects against many diseases. Green tea and its major component epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by suppressing the gene protein expression of inflammatory cytokines (molecule that promotes inflammation) and inflammation related enzymes. A study found that a green and black tea extract blend is an effective natural alternative for men seeking relief from lower urinary tract symptoms.

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in the body. It is present in many foods (wholegrains, dark, leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts) and also as a dietary supplement. Magnesium serves as a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Magnesium is significant for men’s health as it is known to support testosterone production and improve sleep quality.

Milk thistle is a flowering plant that gets its name from the milky white sap that comes from the leaves when they are crushed. Silymarin is an active ingredient found in milk thistle and is believed to have antioxidant properties by reducing free radical production. Milk thistle may support men's health by improving liver function (prevention of liver scarring and toxins attaching to the liver), lowering blood glucose in type 2 diabetes, protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and strengthen bones for the prevention of osteoporosis.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, pilchards, sardine, fresh tuna (not tinned) and mackerel. It is often difficult meeting daily omega 3 requirements, therefore supplements are a convenient and consistent source of omega 3. These fatty acids support men’s health by being beneficial for heart health, brain function and the reduction of inflammation.

Saw palmetto is a nutrient made from the fruit (berries) of the palm like Serenoa repens tree. This nutrient has been used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland as it contains plant-based chemicals that may be effective for BPH. Researchers concluded that saw palmetto may affect the level of testosterone in the body, by reducing the amount of enzyme that promotes the growth of prostate cells. Saw palmetto also may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the prostate. A study has shown greater anti-inflammatory activity when saw palmetto is combined with lycopene and selenium.

Selenium is a trace mineral and is an essential component of various enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins. These proteins assist to make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections. Seafood, organ meats and brazil nuts contain the highest concentrations of selenium. Other foods that contain selenium include beef, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, baked beans, mushrooms, oatmeal, spinach, milk, yoghurt, lentils, cashew nuts and bananas.This nutrient supports the immune system and important for thyroid function. Adequate selenium intake has been associated with reduced risks of certain cancers (including prostate cancer).

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and plays a role in the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It is an essential vitamin found in food sources such as citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussel sprouts and potatoes. This nutrient plays an important role in immunity and inflammation. It reduces inflammation by neutralizing free radicals that cause oxidative damage to the cells of the body which is beneficial for men’s health.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is found in animal food sources such as salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna and egg yolks. Plant based sources of vitamin D include mushrooms which can synthesize vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Men experiencing low vitamin D levels may have an increased risk of osteoporosis (bones become brittle and fragile), muscle weakness and certain types of cancers (prostate cancer). Vitamin D has also been linked to testosterone production, which is significant for reproductive health.

Zinc is an essential mineral found throughout your body. It is involved in many aspects of cellular metabolism and plays a role in enhancing immune function, protein and DNA synthesis, wound healing and cell signaling and division. Food sources of zinc include oysters, chicken, red meat, legumes and nuts. It is an essential mineral for men as it plays an important role in the production of testosterone, supports immune function and some reproductive processes. Low zinc levels have been associated with decreased libido and fertility issues.

Thank you to Dr Sandra Squara for her information contribution to the Men’s health condition.Dr Sandra Squara is a registered health practitioner, with Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) working with Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) including acupuncture, herbal, homeopathic and functional medicine. She is one of few South African practitioners who have completed the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certification Programme, since 2018. She has been in clinical practice for over 20 years.

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