Dr John Briffa: Bladder control

When I was a small boy, I had some pretty antisocial habits. One of these was to engage in wee-up-the-wall competitions with my mates. A recent discussion over the dinner table reveals that this practice was commonplace among little lads of my generation. Alas, it appears that now we have grown up, peeing games are rarer. While maturity might have something to do with this, another factor may be at play: enlargement of the prostate gland can cause urine stream to slow to a dribble, making juvenile watersport contests a thing of the past for many men. In addition to a piss-poor stream, a blockage in the waterworks can give rise to other troublesome symptoms including the need to get up at night to discharge the bladder, and perhaps a spot of dribbling after the event, too. Happily, diet and other natural strategies can bring welcome relief to men suffering from an oversized prostate.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the first part of the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside (the urethra). After about the age of 50, the prostate gland can enlarge, usually as a result of benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH. While BPH is the most common cause of prostatic enlargement, prostate cancer is a possibility, too. For this reason, men with an enlarged prostate should always seek medical advice.

BPH often responds to an entirely natural treatment. Certain healthy fats - essential fatty acids found in foods such as nuts and seeds - seem to contribute to prostate health. Zinc is also believed to help. Pumpkinseeds contain useful quantities of both essential fatty acids and zinc. Studies on the effect of pumpkinseed-extract therapy on BPH symptoms have produced promising results. Eating a handful or two of pumpkinseeds a day might keep symptoms at bay.

Another popular natural remedy is Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Some of this herb's action on the body seems to be mediated through testosterone, a hormone some scientists believe is a vital factor in BPH development. It helps to slow the conversion of testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone, and has been found to block the action of dihydrotestosterone on the prostate. More than one study has found that it can control symptoms of BPH in the long term. In fact, the evidence suggests that it is as effective a treatment as the most commonly prescribed drug for BPH (finasteride, or Proscar).

For men with BPH, I tend to recommend the supplements Prostate Support, which contains Saw palmetto, zinc, pumpkinseed oil, stinging nettle and African pygeum (by mail order on 020 8795 3730). Natural remedies have much to offer men suffering from BPH, especially those attempting to rediscover their inner child and his pee-up-the-wall potential.

Nutrition news

Stress is commonplace in our culture, and in excess can have a range of undesirable effects on both our emotional and physical wellbeing. During times of stress the body tends to use more vitamin C, throwing up the possibility that this nutrient might help support the body during challenging times. In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology , subjects were treated with either vitamin C (at a dose of 1g, three times a day) or a placebo for a period of two weeks. All of the subjects were then subjected to stress through public speaking and mental-arithmetic tests. Compared to those taking a placebo, individuals dosing up on vitamin C had less pronounced raises in blood pressure when stressed, and their subjective awareness of stress was lower, too.

This study suggests that supplementation with vitamin C might have an anti-stress effect in the body, and may do much to protect from the negative effects of stress in time.

Dear John

My four-month-old baby daughter has cradle cap. I do wash her hair every day, and I have tried removing the scales with a flannel, but the problem persists. Do you know anything that might help?
Julie Adams, by email

Cradle cap is an infantile form of the skin condition seborrhoeic dermatitis. It is characterised by thick yellow scales on the scalp. Other sites include the face, neck and nappy area. The condition is not related to poor hygiene or lack of cleanliness, and is harmless. There is some evidence that cradle cap is related to a deficiency in the nutrient biotin which is one of the B-group vitamins. Upping your daughter's consumption of biotin may help to control the condition. If you are breastfeeding her, my advice would be for you to take biotin, because this will come through in your breast milk. Take 500-1,000mcg of biotin per day. If you are bottle-feeding her, I suggest you put 50-100mcg of biotin into her feed each day.

The application of starflower (borage) oil to seborrhoeic dermatitis in the nappy region often improves symptoms, and I have found this approach tends to work well with cradle cap, too. Rub 10 drops of starflower oil into your daughter's cradle cap twice a day for two weeks. Repeat as necessary.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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