By Francis Ewherido
I promised last week that we shall take a deeper look at the prostate subsequently. Here we are. I hold tenaciously to the African saying that the stick you see should not pierce your eyes. Prostate is a stick every man should see and should not lead to cancer or other complications. Every man who is 40 years or above ought to know that from that age, the prostate begins to enlarge. That vital knowledge exposes you to what you are up against.
What is prostate? The prostate is “a gland surrounding the neck of the bladder in male mammals and releasing a fluid component of semen.” That is the semen that carries your sperm and makes reproduction possible. Without semen, no man can naturally impregnate his wife. The prostate can be enlarged either as a result of cancerous cells or non-cancerous cell. When it is due to cancerous cells, it is prostate cancer. But when there are no cancerous cells and it is enlarged, it is called BENIGN PROSTATIC HYPERPLASIA (BPH).
Some symptoms of enlarged prostate include: dribbling of urine, urinary incontinence and ‘stop-start’ phenomenon (if the person tries to pass urine, it comes slightly and stops and starts again until the bladder is empty. Most times the bladder will not be fully empty). In extreme or advanced cases, there can be total blockage of the urethra from the enlarged prostate and the patient will have a full bladder and be unable to pass urine. A catheter is then required at this stage. Complications do arise from this blockage: risk of urinary tract infection, challenges to the kidneys, etc.
I became conscious of prostate enlargement when I turned 40. I did a few prostate checks in my 40s, but it has become annual and bi-annual since I turned 50. There are two main ways of checking your prostate: direct rectal examination (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA). DRE involves a doctor inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine your prostate, which is adjacent to the rectum. “The doctor searches and feels the prostate for texture, smoothness and size; the doctor also checks if the prostate is hard, firm or soft, etc. These you cannot see from the blood test (PSA). The blood test which is prostatic seminal analysis will only tell you about the enzymes” (Dr. Martina Agberien).
PSA, on the other hand, involves taking a blood sample from your vein. The sample is then analysed for PSA, a substance that is naturally produced by the prostate gland. It is usual for a small amount of PSA to be in your bloodstream, but if the PSA in your bloodstream is higher than normal level, it may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer. This means further test is required. Let me quickly add that it is advisable to stay off sexual intercourse for between four days to one week before you do a PSA. Engaging in intercourse too close to your PSA test is likely to interfere with the accuracy of the test. Each procedure (DRE and PSA) has its advantages. Doctors advise that both procedures should be combined to help your inference. The final diagnosis is obtained after doing a biopsy if necessary. A biopsy is a medical test involving extraction of sample cells or tissues for examination to determine the presence or extent of a disease). This is confirmatory and would tell you if the prostate enlargement is malignant (cancerous) or benign (BPH).
Prostate remedies come in form of drugs, herbal medicines and food. I find the food remedy safer and better. I did my research and found out that tomatoes are very good for controlling the growth, and shrinking, of prostate. Scientists have divergent views about how tomatoes should be taken: raw, processed, cooked, etc., but I settled for cooking (slightly) after my research. I take it mainly with beans or egg white (doctors advised me to stay away from the yolk). One research finding says that tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that may benefit prostate gland cells. Cooking tomatoes, such as in tomato sauce or soup, helps to release the lycopene and make it more readily available to the body, the research finding further asserted.
Before I started taking tomatoes as a prostate remedy, I had been taking onions for a different reason. Onion is a blood thinner. So, I stopped taking aspirin as a blood thinner and switched to onions. Then I found out that onions are also antioxidants that can also be beneficial to the prostate. Since then I have been taking an average of five medium-sized tomatoes and a fist-sized onion daily. One study found out that men with BPH tended to eat less garlic and onions than men without BPH. While the research acknowledges that more research is needed to confirm these results, onions and garlic certainly have are health benefits.
I scarcely do garlic because the pungent smell puts me off, but the combination of tomatoes and onions has worked wonderfully for my prostate. Two weeks ago when the doctor saw my DRE result, he had to check my age on the form again and exclaimed that, “your prostate is wonderful for your age.” Tomatoes and onions are no longer just food, but medicine for my prostate and I pay special attention to them. I prepare my sauce by putting the tomatoes first, then eggs and finally and the onions (for about a minute just to blunt the pungency, but it is still crunchy). The whole cooking lasts for about three minutes.
Onions has done other wonderful things for my body. Before, I used to go down with fever or malaria almost every month, but for almost a year now, no fever or malaria. I am not saying onion is anti-malaria, but it has increased my body resistance to the malaria parasite. In addition, before, each time I exercised, I had to take painkillers. If not, I would come down with fever. But now, I do not take painkillers after exercise anymore and I exercise more frequently now. This is particularly gladdening to me. I was always in a dilemma before now. Exercise is good for the body, but painkillers destroy the kidneys. Each time I took painkillers, I remembered what the doctor told me in India: “I don’t want to scare you, but watch your kidneys.” Onions have also helped me with my stomach upset. Before I took antacid and antibiotics regularly, but all that is now minimized or gone.
Onion has been good to my system. It has helped me in my desire to go off some drugs as I grow older. I want every food I eat to double as medicine. Where food is inadequate to provide all the nutrients the body needs as I grow older, as it is often the case, I will take food supplements (not drugs). I am still some way off, but I am making progress in other age-related underlying ailments. Once I make any more breakthroughs, I will gladly share it here. But as for prostate, food has helped me to tame it.
Drugs also help to tame prostate for some people, but drugs usually come with side effects. I just heard of one drug; after taking it, the man said he ejaculated during sex, but there was no semen. What kind of ejaculation is that? Ejaculation involves forceful ejection of semen and is the highpoint of sex for a man. What if he is still having children, how is he going to impregnate his wife without the semen, which carries the sperms?
I also heard someone recommend sex for 21 days every month to keep prostate enlargement at bay. Hmmm, sex for 21 days for an age group, where many men are deficient in semen production, erections and stamina? In Lagos, some of them spend six hours on the road, five days a week. I would not recommend 21 days sex every month for men in their 50s and above. Do you solve one problem (prostate enlargement) by creating a bigger problem (heart attack or death)?
NB: Results of consumption of tomatoes and onions by others may produce different results from mine due to different body types and status of the prostate.