I discovered something this week that has me gushing with pride for a few reasons. First, the discovery will save me money, which is nothing to sneeze at. Second, it’s a natural remedy for a condition I have been putting up with for a while now so that I no longer have to take a pill. And, let’s face it, after the calamity of Covid jabs, who needs another prescription? Third and most importantly, I discovered this on my own without having to wait for somebody in a lab coat to call me back. I compare it to the disc break job I did on my 1976 Ford Maverick all by myself (V8, 138 horsepower). The sense of accomplishment, dear reader, is incredible.
What’s he going on about now? you ask. Well, in a word, tomatoes, which is a little embarrassing considering I grew up eating them in one form or another at least three to four times a week. Somehow, I got into the habit of not eating them that much as an adult, probably because I don’t eat anywhere near the amount of pizza, pasta, or chicken cacciatore I did back then, which makes me even more suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry, since they’ve had me taking a pill every day when all I had to do was eat a teaspoon or two of ragù. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that drug companies are allowed to market their wares directly to consumers so that we then nag those aforementioned people in lab coats, which is not unlike the time I nagged my mother for a pair of PF Flyers, because I saw them in a TV commercial.
Specifically, I’m talking about lycopene, an antioxidant pigment found in tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers, grapefruit, apricots, and other fruits. It gives these fruits their color. Remarkably, it also does what Tamsulosin is supposed to do. What is Tamsulosin? you ask. It’s the generic name of something men use to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate that typically develops with age. You may be familiar with the brand name of “Flomax,” which led to the joke I told my doctor when I went in to find out why it was necessary to keep a chamber pot by my bed. “All right, I guess I’ll try Flomax,” I told him. “After all, it’s been nothing but Flomin for weeks now.”
Lycopene, like its pharmaceutical equivalent, may not shrink the prostate, but it relaxes the muscles there and in the bladder to create better flow (let’s not use the cute “Flo”) and less need for a chamber pot or shoving the bed up against the bathroom door. It has the added benefits of being natural, cheap, with proven effectiveness as reported in peer-reviewed papers, which is how I discovered it. I took the time to do the research, which, thankfully, was not anywhere near the time I once spent on the Warren Commission Report. You know there’s something wrong when you’re up at 2:00 am studying Jack Ruby’s mother’s dental records, but that’s best left for another post.
While I have no doubt that overeating lycopene in the form of bushels of tomatoes and ten-pound watermelons will cause problems, Tamsulosin and related alpha blockers have their own side effects. These include dizziness, faintness, and, possibly, a sharp drop in blood pressure. I remember telling the ER staff that I took Flomax when I went in for what I thought was a heart condition and my pulse dropped to a chilly 35 beats per minute (see A Slow Heart). I wondered why they looked at me. I thought it was because I told them I drove myself to the hospital.
I don’t have any expectation that eating tomatoes will cure what ails me, but it’s got to be better than taking a pill, at least for now. I’ve also had luck with ignoring problems that then go away on their own. I figure if you don’t pay attention to them, they lose interest like children. So, in the end, I’m sticking with Contadina tomato paste and Barilla marinara sauce (“gravy” for New Yorkers). I’m also moving the bed back. Hope, like other things, springs eternal.
Image credits: feature by Christina Rumpf; waterfall by Jonathan Larson; surgery by National Cancer Institute. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”