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Ageing prostates- a growing concern

So why is a swollen prostate such a common problem in older men?


A fascinating book, called “Our Stolen Future”, was published in 1996. This book brought world-wide attention to scientific discoveries about “endocrine disruption” and the fact that many pesticides and compounds in several (but not all) common plastics and personal care products can act as potent oestrogen mimics (Xenoestrogens).

When we look at the impact of Xenoestrogens on a male eating a typical New Zealand diet, research shows that they are at a level which gives a total oestrogenic impact about fours times greater than the male body normally produces. Thus the impact on the male hormone balance and prostate is profound – hence the very high incidence of prostate problems in today’s Western men.

They also build up in the body over your life and so the usual result is disruption the normal hormonal patterns as you age.

This is a key factor in the health issues around menopause and andropause for men.

What are the other potential effects of this Xenoestrogen exposure?

1. Lowered Sperm Count

Recent research has confirmed the results of the initial 1992 study, which reported a large global decline in sperm count around the world since 1938. In the last 20 years, the average Kiwi male sperm count has halved to around 50 million per millilitre, which is still Ok sperm quality, but it’s not a good look.

2. Reproductive Defects

These compounds can also interfere with the natural signals controlling development in the foetus and the number of boys born with reproductive defects has increased by 200% in the past two decades.

3. Obesity

The other potential oestrogenic impact for modern men actually comes from within, in that if you are overweight your fat cells become a significant source of oestrogen.

Being overweight increases the activity of an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to oestrogen, greatly exacerbating the male/female hormone imbalance.

What to do about it?

1. Flax fibre

The lignans in the flax fibre work as a very weak oestrogen, which will lock onto an oestrogen receptor and dampen down the overall oestrogen response in your body. For some men this can be enough to eliminate the problems associated with oestrogen dominance. See previous Blog.

Because of the potential damage high oestrogen levels can do to body, it makes sense to use a source of phytoestrogen, like flax fibre first. For many, reducing the impact of increased oestrogen levels from being overweight or environmental/food pollution in this way is all that is required.

Is this all I need to do?

Maybe not – the balance of male/female hormones has two sides to it.

2. Body Identical Hormones

For others, the age related decline in production of progesterone and testosterone may need addressing as well.

Yes – men should have substantial levels of progesterone and it often declines earlier than testosterone – it is also what the body uses at the precursor to make testosterone. To me this is a powerful reason to look at progesterone first, as this allows the body to make what it needs, rather than being given the testosterone level we guess it needs.

Contrary to common perception, high testosterone does not cause prostate cancer (otherwise most 20-year-old men would have prostate cancer!). Studies have shown that men with the highest level of testosterone have the least prostate enlargement.

Low levels of these hormones may show up as one or more of the following:

• Loss of your sex drive, possibly leading to erectile dysfunction and impotence

• Reduction in your muscle mass and strength

• Feminization of your body … even shrinkage of your penis

• Higher risk of diseases like prostate cancer, heart disease, and diabetes

• Weight gain, especially that “pot belly”

• Mood swings and depression

• Bone loss and potentially higher risk of osteoporosis

• Compromised immune function and lowered resistance to disease

• Memory loss & accelerated aging

For many men it may seem that the simple solution is to get hold of some Viagra or similar. While this may address the first of this list of potential symptoms, such a solution can very quickly create a mental dependency. If you think you can’t get an erection without a drug – you wont – the mind is VERY powerful in this area. These drugs can also come with some quite unpleasant side effects and of course do nothing to address the other potential impacts on your body and health.

The first step should be to get a hormone saliva test (blood tests are notoriously unreliable). In many countries the body identical hormones needed to address any imbalance discovered can be bought over the counter, however in New Zealand and Australia you can only get progesterone and or testosterone on a doctor’s prescription.

Getting a prescription can become problematic, in that finding a doctor who knows enough about body identical hormones to knowledgeably prescribe them, can be a challenge. Most doctors are only familiar with the progestins (synthetic versions which have been modified to have similar effects but are patentable and hence highly profitable for drug companies), which do not have the same effects. If you can’t find a knowledgeable practitioner, then you could apply progesterone cream yourself and monitor results. This option can be simple, inexpensive and safe (progesterone, provided it is “natural”, has no side effects whatsoever), but it’s quite hard to get the levels right, as the impacts can be quite subtle.


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Flax Seed Fibre and Prostate Health

I began my journey to learn about the role of hormones and foods when my wife started going through menopause. She had all the potential symptoms and they were full on – frequent hot flashes, fibrocystic breasts and major mood swings. The final straw came when she announced “yes I know all the stuff about the dangers of HRT, but if I don’t do something about it soon I am probably going to kill someone and the most likely target is YOU!”. That works for me as an incentive to find an alternative! So I went on a crash course on human hormones.

About the same time I was starting to get the slow to pee syndrome typical of men around my age. Waking more often in the night and waiting for something to happen when I got to the toilet – very frustrating.

With my new knowledge of hormone issues I realised that the cause was a swollen prostate caused by an imbalance in the oestrogen /progesterone-testosterone levels in my body. The prostate is very sensitive to oestrogen levels, as it is developmentally the male equivalent of the uterus in women.

So what to do about this problem?

Flax fibre is an excellent source of weak plant oestrogens (phyto oestrogens) so, I started taking about a dessert spoonful on my breakfast every day – it worked a treat – so taking the flax fibre became part of my routine and I kind of forgot about my prostate.

I had a rude awakening about 2 years later, when I went on holiday over Christmas and forgot to take my flax fibre with me. About 11 nights later I was awake multiple times to go pee and it just got progressively worse fast.

Not a lot of fun – I can fully understand how men can go have an operation to fix the problem, even at the potential risk of dribble problems and loss of libido. So of course I got back onto the flax fibre as quickly as possible and the problem went away again.

The scientist in me wanted to know if this was a one-off situation or not, so about two months later I tried going without my daily fibre to see what would happen. Sure enough on night eleven I was up all night again. So now if I am traveling for more than a few days I make sure I take my flax fibre with me.

So why is this such a common problem in older men?

That will be the subject of my next blog.

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