Today, we invited Dr. Jonathan S. Brajtbord to sit down with us for a Q&A regarding the role nutrition plays in a person's urologic health.
As with all content on Greater Boston Urology's blog, the following information is educational in nature, not medical advice. Always talk to your physician about your specific health care questions and conditions.
[Editor's note: This article was reviewed and updated with additional links on 1/3/22.]
Q: Your bio states that you take an integrative approach to urology, combining nutrition, lifestyle, and emotional health with surgery. Talk to us more about the role of nutrition—how do you counsel patients in this area?
Dr. Brajtbord: Whenever possible, I like to bring up a more holistic approach to urologic care. Sometimes this involves discussing stress management with patients suffering pelvic or testicular pain.
Other times, I talk about different types of foods that are bladder irritants—think things that can cause people to feel like they have a urinary tract infection when oftentimes they don't. These foods include acidic and spicy foods along with dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods can trigger our own body and the release of inflammatory immune mediators that can cause pain.
I help guide patients in identifying some of these triggering foods, eliminating them for several weeks, and tracking how their symptoms improve.
Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions that people have regarding nutrition and their health?
Dr. Brajtbord: People often think that all calories are created equal and that if they just stick to a certain "calorie limiting diet" that they will lose weight and be healthier. Some people believe that what they put in their body doesn't matter as much as the amount of calories it is. This couldn't be further from the truth. People should focus on eating "good calories"—whole grains, vegetables, and lean meats—and less on the specific number of calories they are consuming on a daily basis.
Another misconception is that patients think it's too hard to change what they eat or that it's "just the way it is." I have coached men and women through major changes in the type of foods that they eat. It can take a while and we have to lay the foundation for success—deciding on one meal to change at a time, going shopping for things they actually want to eat, and committing to changing that one meal for four weeks. Once people start to feel better after eating healthier foods, they begin to see and feel the value in the change they've made.
Q: March is National Nutrition Month. Here's the theme for this year, according to the eatright.org website: "Go Further with Food is the theme for 2018, and its importance is timely for many reasons. Whether it's starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast or fueling before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a real difference." Are there certain foods that can help with overall urologic health and/or specific areas related to urology (e.g., prostate health, bladder health)?
Dr. Brajtbord: We've touched on some foods that can be bladder irritants and cause urinary or pelvic pain. The other area where research has been done is in the area of prostate cancer. A "prostate healthy diet" consists of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and olive oil. Whole grains provide men with a lot of fiber that is crucial. Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, have great antioxidants. And finally, cooking and eating herbs such as ginger, rosemary, oregano, and turmeric can have a lot of healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.
These foods can be beneficial for all people, not just men with prostate cancer or prostate issues.
Q: What's the one "big" message regarding nutrition that you want all of our blog readers to walk away with after reading this article?
Dr. Brajtbord: Many medical ailments can be, in my opinion, traced back to what we eat and how we live our lives. Everyone knows that obesity is an epidemic in our country, but what most Americans don't understand are the downstream consequences of gaining so much weight. Obesity increases your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and—from a urologic perspective—erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, and prostate cancer, among others.
What you put in your body and how you treat your body when you're in your 20s, 30s, and 40s—if you exercise, the foods that you eat, if you smoke—has lasting consequences for your health for the rest of your life. Most 30- and 40-year-olds don't realize that if they treat their body like crap—eating fast food and highly processed food—that they are setting themselves up for some major disappointments in their health (for example, erectile dysfunction) and lifestyle in their 50s and 60s. You owe it to your body and your penis to keep it healthy!
Q: Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that you want to share?
Dr. Brajtbord: Whenever patients ask me for recipe recommendations, I always give out three staples:
- The Cancer Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson
- Forks over Knives, The Cookbook by Del Sroufe
- Simple Green Smoothies by Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner—this is an excellent smoothie recipe book for the novice smoothie maker to a seasoned veteran.
Thanks, Dr. Brajtbord!
Did you know GBU has a registered dietitian on staff?
Learn more about medical nutrition therapy and how it's often the first-line treatment for many urologic conditions.