September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It serves as an important reminder for American men to consider their prostate health. So, what is the prostate, anyway? It is a walnut-sized, donut-shaped gland that sits below the urinary bladder, and surrounds the urethra in men. The prostate is known to secrete a thin, milky fluid that increases the movement of sperm, which will help prevent infection and lubricate the urethra.
It is common for middle-aged or older men to get an enlarged or inflamed prostate from hormonal changes linked with the aging process. As a result, the prostate will wrap around the urethra and interfere with the flow of urine.
What Is Enlarged Prostate (BPH)?
An enlarged prostate is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The condition is thought to affect over 50% of men during their life, while the problem will increase as men get older. In fact, an enlarged prostate will affect five percent to 10% of 30-year-olds, 50% of 50-year-olds, and over 90% of men over the age of 85.
An enlarged prostate is also sometimes a sign of prostate cancer, since some of the symptoms are similar. For instance, prostate cancer and BPH will both produce symptoms such as weak or interrupted urine stream, inability to urinate, difficulty starting or holding urination, and the need to frequently urinate, especially at night. An enlarged prostate will also cause you to feel that your bladder is not completely empty after you visit the bathroom.
What Causes Enlarged Prostate?
There is a genetic factor that plays a small role in BPH, especially when the condition affects younger men; however, the condition is primarily caused by lifestyle, dietary, and environmental influences on the metabolism of the male sex hormone called androgens. In particular, levels of free testosterone are reduced after the age of 50. In comparison, other hormones like luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), sex-hormone-binding ligand, estradiol, and prolactin are also increased.
These hormonal changes eventually spike the potent androgen from testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is converted by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Estrogens will also play a factor, since they have been found to inhibit proper excretion of DHT and testosterone. Other potential causes of an enlarged prostate include high alcohol consumption, pesticide exposure in vegetables and fruits, and nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. A poor diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber can also lead to BPH.
What Is a Prostate Exam?
It is especially important for men older than 40 to get an annual prostate exam. The other day I recommended that my buddy Carson get a prostate exam. He is nearly 45 years old, and hasn’t gotten around to getting it done yet. Although Carson hates any invasive physical exam (as do most men), he should definitely consider getting his prostate checked. The exam is called a digital rectal exam, and it simply involves your doctor inserting a lubricated and gloved finger into the rectum. The purpose of the procedure is to rule out prostate cancer and detect any tenderness or prostate abnormalities linked with BPH by feeling the lower prostate.
Since BPH and prostate cancer show similar symptoms, prostate cancer can also be ruled out by measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA is considered a particular protein that is produced in the prostate. Other tests used to diagnose BPH include urinalysis, an ultrasound, cystoscopy, uroflowmetry, and a measurement of post void residual urine volume.
What Natural Remedies Help Enlarged Prostate?
An enlarged prostate is not always treated, especially among men who are not bothered from BPH symptoms. However, if left untreated, BPH can lead to other problems, like urinary retention, bladder stones, and urinary tract infections. A complete urethra blockage may also lead to kidney failure and other kidney problems. This is why it is important that enlarged prostate doesn’t worsen.
Doctors will often recommend certain drugs such as alpha blockers, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, and alpha-adrenergic blockers. When there is no response to the drugs or there are complications like frequent urinary tract infections, surgery is sometimes considered as an option, including transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), microwave therapy, or laser therapies.
Luckily, there are also natural remedies for enlarged prostate. Here some of the top ways to treat enlarged prostate naturally:
1. Stinging nettle root: Stinging nettle root extract is one of the top natural remedies for enlarged prostate and BPH symptoms. In a study published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2007, researchers found that stinging nettle root extract is an effective remedy for improving symptoms of BPH. According to another trial published in the journal BJU International in 2000, the combination of stinging nettle root and saw palmetto fruit was equally effective as the BPH drug finasteride. The randomized, multi-center, double-blind study analyzed 431 patients with early stages of BPH. Similar to saw palmetto, stinging nettle extract interacts with binding of DHT to nuclear and cellular receptors.
2. Pygeum africanum: The bark from an evergreen tree native to Africa, called Pygeum africanum, has long been used in urinary tract disorders like BPH. The active compounds in the bark are considered fatty acids and fat-soluble sterols. In a 2013 study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, a remedy of Pygeum africanum combined with other ingredients, such as lycopene and saw palmetto, had a significantly positive effect on the physical symptoms associated with BPH when taken over a three-month period. The study observed 57 healthy men between the ages of 40 and 80.
3. Beta-sitosterol: Beta-sitosterol is a cholesterol-like substance known to relieve urinary symptoms related to BPH, such as strength of urine flow. In a six-month double-blind study published in the journal BJU International in 2000, researchers found that the beneficial effects of beta-sitosterol supplementation were maintained after an 18-month follow-up. Also, a review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2000 suggested that beta-sitosterol could improve urinary flow measures and urinary symptoms linked with BPH. The review included 519 men from four randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that lasted between four and 26 weeks. Foods that contain good amounts of beta-sitosterol include pecans, avocadoes, and pumpkin seeds.
4. Zinc: Zinc is considered essential an effective remedy to treat enlarged prostate naturally, especially since zinc deficiency is common in those with BPH. According to studies from the 1970s, zinc supplementation decreased prostate size and BPH symptoms in most of the patients examined. Zinc is thought to be effective due to its involvement in androgen metabolism. Studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of zinc in the inhibitory activity of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Zinc is also thought to inhibit the binding androgens to androgen receptors. High dietary sources of zinc include grass-fed beef, spinach, asparagus, and pumpkin seeds; however, high meat consumption is thought to cancel the positive effects associated with zinc against BPH.
5. Rye grass pollen extract: The many natural remedies for enlarged prostate also include rye grass pollen extract. Several studies have suggested that the extract can reduce BPH symptoms. Rye grass pollen extract, or Cernilton, is created from three grass pollen varieties, including corn, timothy, and rye. It helps prevent the urgency to urinate during the late hours of the night. Rye grass pollen extract is also useful for emptying the bladder more completely. In a systematic review published in the journal BJU International in 2000, participants taking rye grass pollen extract reported a greater improvement in BPH symptoms when compared to those on the placebo. The review included 444 men enrolled in two-placebo-controlled studies and two comparative studies that took place between 12 and 24 weeks.
6. Amino acid supplementation: The amino acid combination of the glutamic acid, alanine, and glycine has been found to treat enlarged prostate naturally by reducing BPH symptoms in several studies. For instance, a controlled study published in the Journal of the Maine Medical Association found that the amino acid combination reduced urination urgency in 81% of study participants, decreased daytime urinary frequency in 73% of participants, delayed urination in 70%, and relieved or reduced increased nighttime urinary frequency in 95% of participants. The amino acids can reduce feelings of a full bladder and act as inhibitory neurotransmitters.
7. Saw palmetto: Saw palmetto is the fat-soluble extract from the saw palmetto tree fruit. There are a number of studies that show how saw palmetto can significantly improve BPH symptoms. In a review published in the journal Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2002, researchers concluded that saw palmetto could provide a mild to moderate improvement in flow measure and urinary symptoms. It also provided similar results and fewer side effects than finasteride. The review included 21 randomized trials and 3,139 men, which lasted four to 48 weeks in length. The active mechanism in saw palmetto is related to the inhibition of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, inhibition of DHT binding to cellular receptors, and interfering with prostate estrogen receptors.
8. Essential fatty acids: Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 can also help reduce the inflammation associated with enlarged prostate. Furthermore, research has found that deficiencies in fatty acids can lead to prostate issues. The best dietary sources of essential fatty acids to combat deficiency include salmon, walnuts, broccoli, or ground flaxseed. It is also recommended to consume 3,000 milligrams (mg) of daily fish oil or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil.
9. Exercise: Exercise is probably the most cost-effective of the natural remedies for enlarged prostate on this list. Evidence suggests that greater physical activity can lower the frequency of lower urinary tract symptoms in men with BPH, according to a 1998 study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. The best exercises for BPH include pelvic-strengthening exercises that help control urination. Resistance exercises like swimming, weightlifting, and push-ups will help reduce inflammation. Since obesity is a potential risk factor with enlarged prostate, aerobic exercises can help a person maintain a healthy weight. These exercises can be as simple as a brisk walk or a light jog down the street.
10. Homeopathic remedies: There are also many homeopathic remedies for enlarged prostate. Sabal serrulata is the homeopathic saw palmetto that is used to treat enlarged prostate naturally, especially in elderly men. It is also helpful for urine retention, erectile dysfunction or lack of sexual desire, and a cold sensation in the bladder or prostate. Other useful homeopathic remedies for enlarged prostate include apis mellifica, causticum, conium, chimaphila umbellata, clematis, lycopodium, pulsatilla, selenium, thuja, staphysagria, and ferrum picricum.
Final Thoughts: Foods and Other Remedies That Treat Enlarged Prostate
There are other natural remedies for enlarged prostate. Overall, it is a good idea to consume a nutrient-rich diet high in whole foods such as fibrous vegetables, fish, and beans. People with BPH should also consume foods heavy in zinc and vitamin C, such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, adzuki beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and avocadoes.
Other natural remedies for enlarged prostate include pumpkin seed oil, the phytonutrient D-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol, milk thistle, garlic, cranberry, annatto, African wild potato, melatonin, red clover, pine bark extract, grape seed extract, and a natural form of progesterone. Home remedies for enlarged prostate also include apple cider vinegar, corn silk, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and taking a sitz bath with Epsom salts (a sitz bath is when you sit in warm water to help relieve pain in your bottom area/private parts).
Other possible tips to treat enlarged prostate naturally include avoiding cold weather, and practicing stress reduction methods such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and breathing exercises. This should help decrease the urge of frequent urination. Massage with essential oils like tea tree oil, sandalwood, chamomile, or bergamot.
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