It’s no secret that the life expectancy for men is lower than that of women. Several factors work against men when it comes to obtaining optimal health, as they don’t typically seek medical attention as often as women and it is believed they are more likely to put themselves in high risk situations. There are also certain health conditions which only affect men, such as prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Prostate Structure and Function
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland located just below the male bladder. The outer zone of the prostate gland produces secretions that form part of the seminal plasma component of semen. The prostate surrounds the tube that carries urine away from the bladder and out of the body. A young man’s prostate is about the size of a walnut. It slowly grows larger with age and if it becomes too large, it can cause problems. Enlarged prostate is common after age 50.
Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in men of all ages. Levels of a substance called prostate specific antigen (PSA) are often high in men with prostate cancer. However, PSA can also be high with other prostate conditions like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis. The PSA test is very common, and most prostate cancers are found before they cause symptoms.
Symptoms of prostate cancer may include problems passing urine, pain, and difficulty starting or stopping the stream or dribbling. Other symptoms include low back pain and pain with ejaculation. Treatment of prostate cancer treatment often depends on the stage of the cancer and how fast the cancer grows. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or control of hormones that affect the cancer. Some natural ingredients have been clinically shown to decrease prostate growth, inhibit associated inflammation and slow the development and growth of prostate cancer.
Sexual Health Structure and Function
The male genitals include: the testicles, the duct system, which is made up of the epididymis and the vas deferens, the accessory glands, which include the seminal vesicles and prostate gland and the penis. The testicles produce and store millions of tiny sperm cells as well as produce hormones, including testosterone. Testosterone stimulates the production of sperm and plays a critical role in sexual development.
Alongside the testicles are the epididymis and the vas deferens, which make up the duct system of the male reproductive organs. The vas deferens functions to transport the sperm-containing fluid called semen and the epididymis is a set of coiled tubes (one for each testicle) that connects to the vas deferens. The epididymis and the testicles hang in a pouch-like structure outside the pelvis called the scrotum, which helps to regulate the temperature of testicles for the production of sperm. The accessory glands, including the seminal vesicles and the prostate gland, provide fluids that lubricate the duct system and nourish the sperm. The urethra is the channel that carries the semen to the outside of the body through the penis, and it also serves as part of the urinary system because it is the channel through which urine passes as it leaves the bladder and exits the body.
The penis is actually made up of two parts: the shaft and the glans. The shaft is the main part of the penis and the glans is the tip (sometimes called the head). At the end of the glans is a small slit or opening, which is where semen and urine exit the body through the urethra. The inside of the penis is made of a spongy tissue that can expand and contract. The penis, which usually hangs limp, becomes hard when a male is sexually stimulated. Brain impulses cause muscles to relax, allowing blood flow and engorgement of the spongy tissue which creates pressure making the penis expand. As tissues in the penis fill with blood, it becomes stiff, forming an erection.
Erectile Dysfunction & Sexual Desire
Erectile dysfunction, also referred to as impotence, is when a man has trouble getting or keeping an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Erection problems are common in adult men and almost all men experience occasional difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. In many cases, it is a temporary condition that will go away but in other cases, it can be an ongoing problem.
To maintain a healthy erection, there must be adequate blood vessels needed to allow blood flow in and out of the penis. Second, penile smooth muscle must function normally to allow the penis to fill with blood and enlarge. And third, adequate nitric oxide must be present which allows smooth muscle to relax – facilitating blood circulation. Nitric oxide enhances smooth muscle relaxation and blood flow. Many researchers now appreciate the physiologic connection between heart health and penile health. That connection may indeed be related to nitric oxide production which is needed for both general vascular health and for healthy penile circulation. In fact, several clinical studies have shown correlations between erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
An erection requires the interaction of your brain, nerves, hormones, tissues and blood vessels. Anything that interferes with the normal process can lead to a problem.
Testosterone is the principal male sexual steroid hormone. Low levels of testosterone rarely lead to erection problems, but may reduce a man’s sex drive. As one ages, sexual responses may become slower and less intense and this could easily be related to decreased testosterone level. Testosterone exerts its effects on sexual desire by influencing receptors in the brain.
Ingredients to improve men’s health
There are several ingredients which have been clinically shown to play a role in both prostate and sexual health for men:
Saw palmetto: This ingredient contains fatty acids which have been shown to be effective in the treatment of BPH. Research indicates saw palmetto may help in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) related symptoms as it significantly improves urinary symptoms such as frequent urination, painful urination, hesitancy and urgency. It also appears to decreases post-void residual urine volume. Saw palmetto appears to noncompetitively inhibit 5-alpha-reductase and to prevent the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which might reduce prostate growth. Some research indicates that saw palmetto has antiproliferative effects on prostatic fibroblasts and epithelial cells through the inhibition of growth factors and by stimulating apoptosis. Saw palmetto appears to inhibit 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which increase inflammation and have been associated with increased incidences of prostate cancer.
Stinging Nettle Extract: Research suggests that Stinging Nettle inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, which has been proven to participate in the development and progression of prostate cancer and BPH. When taken in combination with saw palmetto, stinging nettle appears to significantly improve urinary tract symptoms in men with BPH. Stinging nettle also contains polysaccharides that have immunomodulating and weak anti-inflammatory effects. It has also been shown to have antiproliferative effects on prostatic epithelial and stromal cells, and may lessen the effects of androgenic hormones by competitively blocking human sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Stinging nettle has been shown to inhibit prostate tissue growth, possibly by inhibiting growth factors.
Beta-Sitosterol: Research has shown that taking beta-sitosterol may help in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) related symptoms as it significantly improves urinary symptoms, increases maximum urinary flow, and decreases post-void residual urine volume. For prostatic hyperplasia, animal research suggests that beta-sitosterol might inhibit 5-alpha-reductase activity. As a key component in conversion of testosterone to DHT, 5-alpha-reductase has been proven to participate in the development and progression of prostate cancer and BPH. Laboratory research suggests beta-sitosterol might have antiproliferative effects on the prostate, possibly by inhibiting growth factors.
LeucoSelect® (95% Grape Seed Extract): Grape seed extract (GSE) has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown GSE to improve circulation, decrease blood pressure and support healthy endothelial function. Being high in polyphenols, GSE is capable of decreasing and preventing the formation of ROS/free radicals and reducing LDL peroxidation. GSE has been shown to inhibit growth and induce apoptotic death of human prostate cancer cells in culture. LeucoSelect has been shown to reduce the formation or actions of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (a potent metabolite of testosterone) which plays a role in the development and/or exacerbation of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostate cancer, by enlarging the prostate gland.
Horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum): Horny goat weed appears to relax smooth muscle and aid in blood vessel dilation, both critical factors in achieving and maintaining erections. Icariin, a plant metabolite isolated from horny goat weed, has been demonstrated to inhibit the enzyme phosphodiesterase, which may also facilitate an erection.
Tribulus terrestris: This extract appears to possess aphrodisiac activity probably due its androgen increasing properties (observed in earlier study on primates). Tribulus terrestris is thought to improve male sexual performance due to its speculated ability to increases the body’s endogenous production of luteinizing hormone (LH), which in turn stimulates endogenous testosterone production and enhances sexual performance production.
Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis): In addition to its traditional use of promoting energy, schizandra has historically been taken to promote sexual vitality and promote mental function. It is a proven adaptogen, which moderates the body’s response to stress, boosts mood and promotes a healthy liver.
Ginkgo biloba: Gingko biloba promotes men’s sexual health and erection quality. It promotes the ability to attain normal erections by supporting blood circulation to erectile tissue and promotes healthy levels of nitric oxide, which is an important component of erection physiology.