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Condition - Keeping your prostate healthy - A definitive guide for men

Benign Prostate Hyperplasia

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

The prostate is a gland the size of a walnut. It is only present in men and it is situated under the bladder, surrounding the urethra - the passageway that takes the urine to the outside. Its job is to make seminal fluid, which is mixed with sperm to make semen.

With age, the gland may begin to enlarge and this growth may, eventually, cause problems with urination. The growth in itself is harmless and so the condition is called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). It occurs most often in men over the age of 50 and it is estimated that 30% of men in their 70s have BPH.

Symptoms start to appear when enlargement of the prostate gland encroaches on the urethra and begins to obstruct the urine flow. They include:

  • Weak or interrupted urinary flow.
  • A feeling that the bladder is not completely empty.
  • Difficulty initiating urine flow, even when the bladder feels full.
  • A need to urinate often during the day and night.
  • A feeling of urgency to urinate.
  • Involuntary discharge of urine.
  • Dribbling of urine after urination.
  • Burning sensation or pain during urination.

Symptoms can vary considerably and may not always be indicative of prostate enlargement. Other, more serious diseases, such as prostate cancer, have a similar presentation so, if you experience these issues, it’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

What causes it?

As men age, there is a shift in the balance between the male hormone testosterone and the other sex hormones in the body. This can lead to an increase in the amount of a detrimental hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), within the prostate. DHT is a very potent sex hormone, derived from testosterone, and is responsible for the overproduction of prostate cells. It is also thought to be implicated in premature balding.

In recent years, prostate health has been the subject of many scientific studies and there is now a large body of evidence supporting the efficacy of diet in the management of BPH. The nutrients at the forefront of research include:

  • Zinc: A deficiency of zinc is known to be a contributing factor in the production of DHT. What’s more, zinc can give important support to maintaining a normal prostate beyond the age of 50. It’s important to choose a high quality, easy to absorb zinc supplement, as zinc uptake can be compromised by the hormonal imbalances present in BPH. Because zinc competes with other nutrients for absorption, if you are taking extra zinc, it is also vital to take a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement as well.
  • Essentials fatty acids: Essential fatty acids are necessary for the normal production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins within the body. In addition, low levels of essential fatty acids are associated with increased DHT formation.
  • Pumpkin seed butter: Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, as well as zinc. They’re also rich in beta-sitosterol, a plant nutrient that has a positive effect on prostate health.
  • Fabulous flax: One of the key components in flax seeds is lignan -­ a type of fibre, which has been shown, in clinical trials, to help with hormone balance and hair growth. What’s more, flax seeds are rich in soluble fibre, which can help to remove excess hormones from the body, as well as being an excellent source of essential fatty acids.
  • Saw palmetto: Has a positive effect on the prostate, probably by affecting levels of male hormone production.
  • Pygeum bark: An African evergreen tree which is naturally rich in beta-sitosterol.

 

  • Nettle root: Naturally rich in lignans and plant sterols.

As with all aspects of health, diet and lifestyle also have a role to play. Below are our top tips for pampering your prostate!

  • Eat wholefoods: Focus on fresh, unrefined and unprocessed foods. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy, beans, seeds, nuts, olive oil and cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut and mackerel).
  • Go organic: Eating organic food helps reduce exposure to the hormones, pesticides and herbicides that may increase DHT production.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods: Avoid refined sugar and flour, dairy products, refined foods, fried foods, junk foods, hydrogenated oils and red meats, as these contribute to inflammation and can increase BPH symptoms.
  • Avoid alchohol: Alcohol, particularly beer, contributes to the hormonal imbalances associated with BPH. It is also a diuretic, so it increases the amount of urine that enters your bladder and it can directly cause the bladder neck to constrict, making urination more difficult and the bladder less efficient.
  • Stop smoking: The cadmium in cigarette smoke can increase production of the prostate growth-encouraging hormone DHT.
  • Kick the caffeine habit: Caffeine tends to cause the muscles in the neck of the bladder to tighten up, making the ability to urinate more difficult. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine that enters the bladder. These two factors can increase the urgency and frequency of urination, making BPH symptoms worse. 
  • Learn to love liquids: Drinking less fluid does not decrease urination. It is important to drink about eight glasses of water per day to keep urine fairly diluted (which reduces the chance of infection) and to prevent dehydration. Sip water over the course of the day, rather than drinking large quantities at one time, and avoid drinking after 6pm to reduce nocturnal trips to the bathroom. 

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