One of the principal medical concerns facing today’s men is prostate health. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), the most common prostate issue, affects between five and 10 percent of men in their 30s to more than 90 percent of those at age 85. BPH is an enlargement of the prostate gland, caused by an increase in the number of cells in the gland. The swelling impinges the urethra that runs through it or, if the swelling is extreme, will press into the bladder. This may lead to difficulty in the flow of urination or a problem voiding completely. Some men may wake several times a night to urinate, and still not feel as though they’ve voided completely. BPH may also result in a hypersensitivity to urine in the bladder and, in extreme cases, nearly impede the flow of urine completely, requiring surgery to correct the problem.
Prostate cancer is another chief concern for many men. It is now suspected that perhaps 40 percent of all men between the ages of 30 and 50 have precancerous lesions. However, most prostate cancers are very slow to develop and extremely treatable if discovered in their early stages. That’s why routine prostate exams, both a digital rectal exam (DRE) and the blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA), are recommended initially at age 50 then every one to three years after that. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should have an initial prostate exam at the age of 40. Many doctors are beginning to recommend that all men have their first exam at age 40, regardless of family history.
8 WARNING SIGNS THAT COULD POINT TO PROSTATE PROBLEMS
These symptoms could indicate an enlarged prostate (BPH) or Prostatitis
- 1. A frequent need to urinate.
- 2. A weak, often interrupted urinary stream.
- 3. A full-bladder feeling, as if you can never completely empty your bladder.
- 4. Difficulty initiating a urine stream, with involuntarily dribbling at the beginning or end.
- 5. Sudden—sometimes uncontrollable—urgency to urinate.
- 6. A burning, painful, or throbbing sensation when urinating.
- 7. Loss of libido and sexual potency.
- 8. Blood in the urine and any pain or discomfort in the urinary tract.
What makes some men more susceptible than others to developing BPH and prostate cancer? Contrary to common belief, it is not a result of excessive testosterone. As we age, testosterone production actually decreases, yet the severity of BPH increases. There are a few reasons to substantiate this. One is the fact that there is an increase in 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is 10 times more powerful than testosterone in promoting the growth of prostate cells. Studies have shown that men who have low blood levels of DHT have a prostate that remains small, while those men with higher levels of DHT will most often develop enlarged prostates.
Another reason BPH and prostate cancer increase with age is that while testosterone levels decrease, estrogen levels remain steady or may increase. Estrogen is a strong promoter of prostate growth, as well. Most estrogen in men comes from the conversion of testosterone to estrogen by the enzyme aromatase, which also increases as men age. There is also strong speculation that xenoestrogens, or estrogens from the environment, may affect the prostate gland. These estrogens are found in plastics, pesticides, and many other chemicals that we come in contact with on a daily basis. In addition, if the liver is in anyway compromised, it cannot break down estrogen and remove it from the system.
Diet and lifestyle also play a key role in the development of BPH and especially prostate cancer. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to greatly increase the risk of prostate cancer. Consuming large amounts of red meat, fat, and sugar have also been associated with an increase in prostate cancer, while a diet consisting of large amounts of cold-water fatty fish and fruits and vegetables have actually demonstrated a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes, in particular, have been linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer because they contain the very powerful antioxidant called lycopene.
Specific nutrients that have been shown to help prevent prostate cancer and BPH include zinc, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E (mixed), and essential fatty acids. Daily intake of zinc is recommended at 50–80 mg; at this level, you may also want to supplement with 1–3 mg of copper. Both Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and Vitamin D are recommended at 400—800 i.u. per day. Essential fatty acids, especially the omega-3s found in fish oil and flax, are beneficial at about a tablespoon per day. Pumpkin seed oil is especially good for maintaining the health of the prostate; it is very high in the vitamins A, C, E, and K and also has high amounts of phytosterols, which have been shown in many studies to reduce the risk of cancer and have been used extensively in Europe to treat BPH.
ADDITIONAL NUTRIENTS AND HERBS TO CONSIDER:
SAW PALMETTO. Helps relieve symptoms of BPH by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase so there is less DHT produced and it prevents the binding of DHT to the prostate. Also prevents the binding of estrogen to the prostate and is an anti-inflammatory.
NETTLES. An anti-inflammatory and blocks the binding of estrogen to prostate cells.
PYGEUM AFRICANUM. An anti-inflammatory which also has a decongestant action on the prostate.
CHRYSIN. Chrysin is a monoflavone that inhibits aromatase activity, preventing the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
RYE POLLEN. Shown to reduce the symptoms of BPH by over 70% in studies done in Europe.
Both BPH and prostate cancer can be serious issues for men. Fortunately, a combination of routine checkups, the right diet, an active lifestyle, nutritional supplementation, and herbs can work together to help reduce the risks of disease or the uncomfortable symptoms which can affect the quality of life.
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