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Natural Approaches to Prostate Health

Jessica Heller, DC, CSCS

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What is the Prostate? The prostate is a walnut-sized sex gland in men that secretes a fluid that forms part of the semen. It surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra. Most men will suffer some form of prostate disease sometime in their lifetime. In fact, among men in their seventies and eighties, the rate of prostatic disease may be as high as 90%. The exact reasons for prostatic disease are unknown, but tissue inflammation and an imbalance of male sex hormones are speculated.

Benign Prostatic HyperplasiaBenign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is an age-related, non-cancerous increase in the number of cells in the prostate gland. It is very common, affecting almost 10% of men in their forties and more than half of men in their sixties. As the prostate enlarges, it compresses the urethra, preventing the bladder from adequately releasing urine. Signs of BPH are decreased caliber and force of urination, frequent urination at night, distention of the bladder, and urinary tract infections (due to increased stored urine. ) BPH is confirmed by digital rectal examination. The symptoms of BPH are very similar to those of prostate cancer, so it is important to get a definitive diagnosis from your doctor if you are experiencing any of these warning signs.

ProstatitisProstatitis is the most common prostate disease for men under the age of fifty. It is a non-cancerous inflammation of the prostate. It is often related to BPH due to the increased incidence of urinary tract infections. Symptoms of prostatitis are an urgent need to urinate; pelvic, groin, or lower back pain; and pain or burning when urinating.

Prostate CancerSome of the risk factors for prostate cancer cannot be controlled, such as race and family history. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk for developing it. Prostate cancer is also nearly twice as common in African-American men as it is in Caucasian-American men. Some risks can be modified, though, such as watching your diet, exercising, and keeping at an optimal weight.

Natural Options for Prostate DiseaseAs in all chronic diseases, including cancer, research has consistently shown that eating a diet high in whole foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) reduces your risk of developing disease. High intake of saturated fat has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer. Exercise is also important. Older men who exercise regularly have nearly a 70% decreased risk of developing advance prostate cancer.

Dietary intake of lycopene has been shown to decrease the risk of prostatic disease by 16-21%. Lycopene is the pigment found in tomatoes, and is more effective in cooked tomato products, such as tomato sauce. Research has also shown that selenium supplementation decreases the risk of prostate cancer.

BPH sufferers are often deficient in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory agents. They can be found in fish oil supplements and flaxseed oil.

Zinc is another critical supplement for the prostate, especially for BPH. Zinc has been shown to reduce the size of the prostate and also reduce symptoms in many patients with BPH. Zinc is involved in many aspects of male sex hormone formation and metabolism.

Saw Palmetto Extract is the most popular herbal supplement for prostate disease. By competing with both the enzyme and receptor that stimulates the hormone that influences prostatic cell formation, saw palmetto inhibits BPH. In a three-year study comparing the drug most commonly used for BPH (Proscar) to saw palmetto supplementation, saw palmetto showed a significant increase in urinary flow rate and a 50% decrease in residual urine volume. The Proscar group also showed improvements, but they were not as significant as the saw palmetto group, and six times more patients dropped out of this study group due to unpleasant side effects.

Stinging Nettle Root Extract has also been used for the treatment of BPH, usually in conjunction with other botanicals. It is believed to inhibit an enzyme that causes prostate cells to proliferate, and it is also thought to keep levels of sex hormones in check.

Pygeum Extract inhibits cell proliferation through a different mechanism than saw palmetto extract, so the two work very well in combination. It also works to decrease inflammation in the prostate.

ConclusionThe natural treatment of prostate disease is one of the biggest achievements of natural medicine. The mechanisms and results of these treatments have proven themselves time and again. There is a lot you can do to protect yourself from prostate disease if you are simply proactive.

References: Guilliams, Thomas G. , Ph. D. , Ed. “BPH: The Natural Approach. ” The Standard, 1.1 (1998): 1-4. Kwiatkowski, Kelly, and Joe Leonard. “Taking a Proactive Approach to Prostate Care. ” To Your Health, June 2007: 26-29.

Dr. Heller is a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), practicing in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She has extensive experience teaching fitness classes, including aquatics, to all age groups and abilities.


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