Prostate health is important to start thinking about as men approach age 40. The prostate secretes a milky fluid that helps sperm move along and prevents infection in the urethra. This fluid is very important for successful fertilization, as it helps sperm move along to meet the egg. As men age, they are prone to changes in their hormone levels, which can contribute to an overproduction of prostate cells that cause the prostate to enlarge. As the prostate enlarges, it starts to constrict, or squeeze, the urethra, which in turn causes changes with urination. Increased urinary frequency, decreased bladder control, reduced force of urination, increased urinary tract and bladder infections, are many of the common symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (or BPH). Starting at age 40, it is recommended for men to see their doctors for a digital rectal exam. This is a simple examination, where a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to feel the lower part of the prostate for abnormalities. (Guys, I know you might be cringing reading that, but it’s really not a big deal). Your doctor may also have you take a blood test to determine your PSA levels (Prostate Specific Antigen). This reading can give an indication of your relative-risk of prostate cancer. There is some controversy about how well PSA levels actually correlate with a man’s actual risk of developing prostate cancer, but many doctors find it helpful to use as another monitor of health.
There are many great naturopathic therapies to help prostate health and improve symptoms of BPH. Perhaps the most common and most researched treatment (even oft-recommended by many medical doctors) is Saw Palmetto. Saw palmetto is effective for mild to moderate symptoms of BPH, acting to decrease the size of the prostate, increasing peak urinary flow rate and improving other symptoms of urination. It is well-tolerated and without negative side-effects, such as loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. Other helpful herbs are Pygeum (Pygeum africanum), Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii), and Nettles (Urtica dioica).
Zinc is an important mineral for prostate health. Way back in the 1970’s, it was found that therapeutic levels of zinc helped decrease prostate size and decrease symptoms for patients with BPH. Men with BPH are found to have lower than normal levels of zinc, so it’s best to aim high with its dosing: 30 to 60 mg per day, with food. A great dietary source of zinc is pumpkin seeds. Try to eat at least 2-4 tablespoons daily (also a source of essential fatty acids which are great for the prostate too).
I have also found homeopathic medicines to help symptoms of BPH. These medicines are prescribed on an individual basis. They are very easy to take, have no negative side-effects, and can be taken as often as needed.
Though it may seem contradictory, from my own clinical experience I have seen that men with BPH who increase their water consumption actually have improved symptoms of urination. That is, they actually urinate less frequently, have less dribbling and a better flow. This is improved further with decreasing consumption of coffee and alcohol, especially beer. Alcohol influences hormones negatively (hops being especially bad), and caffeine irritates the bladder.
Cholesterol levels have also been researched as being a contributing factor to the hormonal changes affecting the prostate. Decreasing cholesterol levels is thought to have a positive effect on the prostate, so a “heart healthy” diet is another great preventative and therapeutic approach. Increasing plant fibre and essential fatty acids, while decreasing animal fats, processed foods, salt, and sugar, will keep both your cardiovascular system and your prostate healthy.