It’s a touchy subject for some, but ensuring good scrotal health is of utmost importance to all men.
BY Daniel Johnson @VARICOCELENATUR
Most people don’t know what varicocele is, and yet, this testosterone killer affects 15 per cent of the male population. Varicocele is a swollen vein or cluster of veins in the scrotum that could impair testosterone levels, causing testicular pain and testicular shrinkage, and is the number-one cause of male infertility. The swelling of the vein is induced by blood pooling, which is toxic and can ultimately lead to heat stress, hyper-hydration, oxidation, toxin build-up, and lack of nutrient exchange.
Scientists used to think that varicocele was a disorder of genetically faulty valves, however, we now know that it’s not as simple as that — it is actually a complex and multidimensional disorder that is diagnosed through a grading system depending on the size of the lump on the testicle (one being the smallest and three being the biggest). Although there is no confirmed risk factor, nutrition, toxic environment, and genetics may play a role in the development of varicocele, which usually occurs during puberty and swells over time if left untreated.
These days, it’s frustrating to know that, although there are ways to improve the status of varicocele, many of us are unaware of what we can personally do to avoid developing this testosterone killer in the first place. Certain lifestyle changes can help us control varicocele risk factors and avoid potential surgery altogether.
Before we start the testicular self-exam, we need to ensure we have a clear understanding of simple testicular anatomy.
The epididymis is a tubular lump situated at the back portion of the testicles. It is where sperm matures.
The vas deferens is a long, thin, and muscular tubule that is attached to the lower end of the epididymis. It helps carry sperm from the epididymis to the urethra.
Healthy testicular veins normally cannot be felt during self-examination. They are thin and are responsible for cooling the arterial blood that enters the testicles to help with sperm production.
Swollen (Varicose) Testicular Veins are thick enough that they can be felt during a self-exam. They’re lumpy and sensitive and leave the testicles feeling warm or hot to the touch. They are often described as feeling like a bag of worms.
- Stand up straight and take a deep breath.
- Bear down lightly to test one testicle at a time with both hands.
- Gently use your thumbs and index fingers to feel around your testicles to find any swollen veins, lumps, bumps, or any overall change in shape and/or size.
- If there is something concerning, make sure to consult a qualified medical practitioner as soon as possible.
Remember, there is always one testicle that is slightly bigger than the other, and one that hangs lower. Also, don’t mistake the epididymis, a tube that can feel like a little bump on the outer side of the testicle, or the vas deferens tubes that carry the sperm as a problem — they’re meant to be there.
PROPER TESTICULAR CARE AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
A fundamental component of proper testicular care that’s overlooked and underestimated is maintenance of proper testicular temperature. Optimal testicular temperature is about 35 degrees Celsius, which is about two degrees cooler than normal body temperature.
Testicles have enzymes that can only function at lower temperatures, so higher temperatures can actually stop sperm and testosterone production and can cause testicular atrophy. It’s important to know that varicocele can greatly damage testicular thermoregulation.
To reduce excessive heat during the day, minimize your exposure to hot environments, avoid long hot baths or showers, run cool water over your testicles when showering, do not sit in one spot for long periods, and do not wear thick underwear that traps heat. At night, avoid wearing multiple layers around your hips, sleep in a cold environment, and avoid thick blankets.
One of the key lifestyle changes that many of us get wrong is the use of proper underwear. I have had countless clients who were suffering because their physician or specialist recommended tight and thick underwear. Tight underwear traps heat and prevents the cremaster muscle from moving the testes to help protect themselves and control their temperature. Essentially, your cremaster muscle is what helps your testes move closer to your leg when cold and retract when your body gets into a fight or flight mode. Tight boxers or briefs can also add too much pressure to already swollen veins, which can irritate them and increase sensitivity. Technically, you’re better off not wearing underwear at all!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SHOPPING FOR BOXERS OR BRIEFS
- The waistband isn’t too tight — just tight enough to keep them up.
- They’re made with a thin, breathable fabric that promotes adequate ventilation.
- They do not compress or pressurize the scrotum.
- They allow the cremaster muscle to move.
IMPROVING TESTICULAR BLOOD CIRCULATION
One of the most brilliant and easy recovery methods that can help treat the toxicity of blood pooling is through inversions — poses that elevate the hips so they are above the torso. Inversions are an effective way of removing pressure from the testicular veins, allowing blood to circulate to the heart with ease. It gives our stressed and damaged testicles time
to recover. These types of poses are frequently practised in therapy and yoga.
One of the best inversions you can practise is the legs-up-the-wall pose, also known as Viparita Karani. Simply lay your head and back flat on the ground and raise your legs straight up against the wall so they’re perpendicular to your torso. To enhance the effectiveness of this pose, simply prop your hips up higher with a pillow.
Although varicocele isn’t life threatening, the discomfort, pain, and potential infertility it could cause are reasons enough to do what we can to avoid it.
Daniel Johnson is the author of The Complete Guide to Natural Healing of Varicocele.