Traditional Chinese Medicine for
Acupuncture, TCM herbal medicine, or both?
TCM herbal medicine treatment is the primary modality for addressing erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, prostatitis, frequent urination, and prostate enlargement (BPH). Acupuncture is excellent for reducing stress, for treating muscle tension, and for addressing low back injury and sacral nerve health - all of which can impact men's health conditions. In most cases, the best course of action is to utilize both acupuncture and TCM herbal medicine for comprehensive and lasting results. See Sean for help with men's health concerns.
Sexual function, Erectile dysfunction, Premature ejaculation
Sexual health and sexual function exist on a spectrum, and individual goals and situations vary widely. TCM treatment is appropriate both in cases of significant dysfunction and in cases where men without significant dysfunction want to improve sexual health and function. Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are loaded and pathologized terms, and the desire to avoid these labels can prevent men from getting treatment in the earlier stages when treatment is most successful and rapid. The reality is that most men experience variation in sexual function throughout their lives, including times of sub-optimal erection strength and duration, or sub-optimal stamina. TCM herbal medicine is very effective and safe tool for improving sexual health.
Treatment duration and success rate of erectile dysfunction varies based on age and severity, along with underlying medical conditions and medications. Some men can see significant improvements in 2-4 weeks, while it may take 12 weeks in others to see improvement. Erectile function is not possible with some medical conditions and medications, and sometimes other medical conditions need to be treated with TCM first.
Premature ejaculation is frequently a result of low grade prostatitis (prostate inflammation) and when this is treated it improves significantly. It can also result from pelvic floor tension and stagnation, from serotonin imbalance, or from deficiency of hormonal vitality. Correct prescription of TCM herbal medicines can be very effective in treating premature ejaculation. Treatment timeline is 6 to 12 weeks, with office visits every 2 to 4 weeks.
Prostatitis, Prostate Enlargement
Prostatitis affects men of all ages and can vary from mild and barely noticeable to severe and painful. Treatment can vary from 2 weeks in acute cases to 12 weeks in chronic, protracted cases.
Prostate enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) generally happens gradually over a long period of time. As the prostate tissue grows, the space for the urethra shrinks and urination becomes more difficult. Prostate enlargement can eventually lead to complete inability to void the bladder without catheterization. Western treatments for prostate enlargement include drugs that block androgen (testosterone) production which tends to reduce sex drive and energy levels, or surgical resection (cutting out) of the prostate which can result in permanent loss of sensation and erectile function due to severed nerves. The side effects of both of these options are undesirable for most men. TCM herbal medicine treatment can be very successful at halting and reversing prostate enlargement, as well as lowering PSA. However, early treatment is most successful. Don't put it off! Treatment timeline is 3 to 6 months, more in severe cases.
Libido, Sex Drive, Low Testosterone
Can you hear the radio ad asking, "Do you have low T?" The answer is, you probably don't. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) clinics will test you for two values: total testosterone, and free testosterone. Your total testosterone level will most likely be normal. Truly low levels of testosterone are very rare and men with actual low T, hypogonadism, will have diminished sexual characteristics such as body hair, musculature, jaw definition. Your free testosterone level very well could be low. But that doesn't mean you need more testosterone. Low levels of free testosterone means that your body is making plenty of testosterone, but that it's not freely circulating in your blood. This is generally due to cortisol suppression. How do you treat this? Reduce your stress, sleep more, get more cardiovascular exercise, control glucose levels, stop using stimulants. And TCM herbal medicine can help to normalize cortisol levels and address the concerns of low energy, low sex drive, sexual dysfunction. Increasing testosterone levels can make some men feel better, even if their total T was normal to begin with. However, it also significantly increases the risk of heart disease, hair loss, and ending up with prostate cancer or a (benign) prostate the size of a lemon.
Sean's Treatment Philosophy for Men's Health
Short version: Don't wait.
Many of the men that I have seen treated successfully for erectile dysfunction were previously treated, unsuccessfully, by urologists. They were told their problem was psychosomatic, in their heads. I find this very frustrating because it gets repeated by all manner of healthcare providers, traditional and alternative, and more often than not - it's wrong! It is a convenient answer when the treatments given don't work. But the fact is, erectile dysfunction in men seeking treatment is very rarely psychosomatic.
Erectile dysfunction in men of all ages is predominantly cardiovascular. The driving force behind every erection is blood flow, controlled by the heart pumping and the blood vessels transporting. As we age the strength of our heart pump wanes, and our blood vessels become less flexible and open. Capillaries, the smallest vessels, are the first to show cardiovascular aging and show first in the hands, feet, and male genitals. Factors like lack of exercise, high carbohydrate diet, diabetes increase the rate of cardiovascular aging and are becoming more and more common in young people.
Most men can remember their experience in their early teenage years of having erections at completely random and often unwanted and embarrassing times. At that age the cardiovascular health is great, and while many times erections are associated with desire there are also many times when they are not at all. At that age the mind can make an erection happen, but it generally can't make one go away.
It would be more accurate to say the problem is in their hearts (and blood vessels), not their heads. There are certainly times when the mind is involved, but it is generally a complicating element, not the primary cause. For example, a man who starts to experience erectile dysfunction from a cardiovascular cause can then also experiences shame or anxiety as a result, which only makes the situation worse. The tendency of male cultural conditioning to avoid talking about one's feelings, and the feelings (feeling undesired, feeling frustrated) that his sexual partner have about it can further complicate the experience. It is important to learn to communicate well around these issues, and there are many helpful tools from the field of sex therapy to learn from. But the best way to get the erections working again is by treating the physical cause of the problem.