If you are a man, and over forty, sooner or later, you will develop urinary problems. You might find yourself needing to visit the restroom many times a day, or avoiding drinking water before bedtime for fear of waking up in the middle of the night, or rushing to the restroom for fear of losing control of your bladder. And you find your-self worrying in advance about the availability of restrooms when you go out. What if the only available restroom is occupied? I leave what would happen to your imagination. These urinary tract symptoms are telltale signs of aging.
As a man grows older, his prostate enlarges and gradually impinges on the urethra, the tubular outlet of the bladder, setting off a long process of urinary obstruction. At some point, bladder emptying becomes difficult and incomplete. As a result, men find themselves visiting the restroom more frequently. If no action is taken, the prostate continues to grow, until there is complete obstruction.That is what happened to a meat seller I met in 1986 at Ile-Ife, Nigeria. I was a House Officer (Intern) at Seventh Day Adventist Hospital. I was called to the Casualty department (Emergency room) after midnight. The man was sweating profusely due to his discomfort. I relieved his bladder obstruction with a catheter which I passed through the urethra to drain the urine. I connected it to a urinary bag-and sent him home with a referral to the specialist for a definitive treatment. Do not let such an extreme case happen to you! When you begin to have symptoms, do not ignore them: make an appointment to see a physician. I followed that advice myself. When I developed urinary issues in 2011, I began to mull over who among my colleagues-urologists, who specialize in the health of the urinary tract- I would consult. Then something else happened that put my worries about prostate issue on hold.
During my annual medical check up, my LDL (bad) cholesterol was very high. I was so overwhelmed by concerns for coronary artery disease and other complications of chronic cardiovascular diseases that I stopped thinking about the urinary symptoms, even though my prostate was found to be enlarged. I was more concerned with my overall health. At the insistence of my physician, I changed my diet and exercised more. I cut off soda, cut down my consumption of refined carbohydrates, and ate more vegetables and fruits. I changed my lifestyle to optimize my cholesterol level. The bad cholesterol level fell by 100 points in nine months without medications.
Something unexpected also
happened: I regained control of my bladder. After urinating around five in the morning, I no longer need to go until noon or later. I no longer have urinary urgency, or nocturia (waking up during the night to pass urine). When he examined me after I made all my health changes, my doctor said,
“Your prostate is perfectly normal.”
“Keep on doing whatever you are doing.”
The dramatic impact these dietary changes had on my health spurred my interest in nutritional science. This ad-venture afforded me the opportunity to be aware of amazing dietary discoveries.
One of those discoveries is the medicinal power of tomatoes.This is attributed to lycopene, an antioxidant found in red pigmented vegetables and fruits such as wa-termelons. Numerous studies have linked high serum le-vels of lycopene to a reduced risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement), and prostatic cancer, the commonest cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the US.
As African men, lycopene is particularly important for our health. Studies show that black men have lowest serum levels of lycopene and highest incidence of prostatic cancer: in the US, the incidence of prostatic cancer is 50 percent higher among blacks than whites. There-fore, we have the most to gain from increasing our lycopene levels.
It is strongly recommended that all men should daily find ways to consume a significant amount of lycopene, through the consumption of fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato juice. It is better not to limit your source of lycopene to raw tomatoes because the body has difficulty releasing lycopene from uncooked toma-toes. On the other hand, processed tomatoes, like tomato sauce, tomato juice, and tomato soup, easily release lycopene into the blood stream. We should increase the amount of tomato products used in meals. Another good option is to make tomato smoothies or juice to drink. Watermelon, pink guava, and pink grapefruit are other sources of lycopene, though they are not as good as cooked tomatoes. Do whatever you can to increase the amount of lycopene in your diet. I do it every day.
Maintaining an optimum prostate health is part of my overall health strategy. There is a measure of salad in my food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner-and tomato is included in every salad. Over all I eat about five golf-ball size tomatoes every day. That is over 1,500 tomatoes-in a year- more than you, if you don’t eat extra tomatoes. My wife also increases the amount of tomatoes she uses for cooking. As I type this article, it’s been over eight hours since I used the rest room. Most nights I drink a glass of water on my way to bed. Despite this, I don’t wake up during the night to use the rest room. I am now in control of my bladder, not the other way around.
I have shared information about the medicinal benefits of tomatoes with my brothers in Nigeria. They have in turn shared it with relatives and friends. The feedback I get from them about the changes in their health after in-creasing their tomato intake is wonderful.
“Your brother is right,” said a family friend.
“I urinate better now.”
“My urine is good, and I see better,” said a friend from Sokoto.
I am not surprised his vision got better: tomatoes are rich in vitamin A, which is required for normal function of the retina, a vital tissue in the back of the eye.
I am not the only one who knows about the power of tomatoes. I took a guest from Nigeria to a cafeteria in the summer of 2015 and I watched him as he served his food. After getting some rice and catfish, he went to the salad bar. I was curious to see how he would make his salad; he got just tomatoes. When asked why he just got tomatoes, he responded with an anecdote about a woman who complained to a doctor in Nigeria that her husband suffered from erectile dysfunction.
“Let me give you a love portion,” the doctor said.
“You don’t have to tell your husband. When you cook, add plenty of tomatoes. Serve it to him as many times as he eats.”
Several months later the woman went back to thank the doctor.
“I don’t leave home without tomatoes,” said my guest.
“I chew them day and night.”
Although I am still reviewing the relationship between tomatoes and erectile dysfunction, I would not be surprised if tomatoes helped.
A relative called me from Nigeria in March. His friend was having what he described as “prostate issues”. He had consulted a doctor but my brother wanted him to consider tomatoes as well and he wanted me to talk with his friend. I called him many times but I could not get through. After many phone calls, emails, and text mes-sages from my brother, I decided to write a short article on tomatoes for his friend. This piece of writing is an expanded version of that article. The only thing I need from you is to pass the information to all the men you know, and women that have men in their lives.
Finally, while it is important to cut down the risk of prostatic cancer, it is equally important to reduce the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and chronic cardiovascular diseases. That is why you need a comprehensive health strategy. Whether you have symptoms or not, visit your doctor at least once a year for a check up. Eat right. Cut down consumption of refined carbohydrates. Avoid eating heavy carbohydrate foods like rice, pounded yam, eba, amala, tuwo, and fufu before bedtime. You do not need a lot of calories while you sleep. I avoid such meals after 5 P.M. Serve variety of vegetables with every meal, including breakfast. And do not forget to do an age-appropriate exercise regularly.
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