The prostate is a small gland, normally the size of a walnut, sitting just below the bladder and next to the rectum, surrounding the uretha in the male genitourinary system. Its function is to emit prostatic fluid to aid the transport of sperm. An enlarged prostate, given its position in the genitourinary system, can obstruct the flow of urine causing urine to distend the bladder. This is condition, Benign Prostate Enlargement or Hypertrophy, is a common condition in men over the age of 50. Symptoms include difficulty in starting to urinate, increase in frequency and urgency of urination and failure to empty the bladder during urination and increase in nocturia (the need to urinate during the night). Although the pathogenesis of BHP is not fully understood, a cause could be the accumulation of dihydrotestosterone (5a-DHT) inside the prostate gland and higher levels of oestrogen.
Whilst enlargement of the prostate appears to occur with age, diet and some herbs may help preserve prostate health. If you are experiencing symptoms of enlarged prostate, then avoiding alcohol, excessive amounts of caffeine, diary, processed and red meats and saturated fats may help.
Michael Greger, in his book ‘How Not to Die’, discusses the importance of diet and prostrate health in managing enlarged prostrate, and even preventing and reversing prostrate cancer. Research suggests that milk, egg and poultry consumption increased risk of prostrate cancer, and a plant based vegan diet was the greatest protective factor.
Foods to increase in your diet include bell peppers, which are high in Vitamin C which is an anti-inflammatory. Tomatoes which contain lycopene, a potent antioxidant carotenoid that helps to lower blood levels of antigen, a protein connected to prostate inflammation and BPH. Garlic is an effective anti-microbial and anti-bacterial food, high in a substance called allium. This is could help in the treatment of urinary infections associated with BPH, and in general prostate health.
Nuts and seeds could help maintain prostate health. Pumpkin seeds are the best dietary source of zinc, and zinc deficiency may contribute to prostate enlargement. Nuts, especially Brazil nuts, are rich in vitamin E and selenium. Selenium may boost testosterone levels and strengthen the immune system, whilst vitamin E maintains healthy cell membranes.
Soya based foods may also help in BPH as soya contains a source of the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, which act like the hormone oestrogen. Consuming soya may help reduce oestrogen levels by blocking natural receptor sites, reducing high oestrogen levels found in BPH. Oily fish such as salmon, trout and sardines, all contain Omega 3s which act as anti-inflammatories, thus maybe of some benefit.
Adding phytoestrogens to your diet can protect prostrate health. Lignans are a major source of phyto estrogens and adding flaxseeds to your diet can be a great way of getting enough phytoestrogens to help maintain prostrate health. Add three tablespoons a day to cereal. It is better to buy them whole, then grind the three table spoons as needed (in a coffee bean grinder for example). They cannot be easily absorbed whole so it is necessary to grind them first.
Green tea has many health benefits as it is a source of antioxidant compounds called catechins, and some research suggests that consuming green tea can ease symptoms of BPH.
Lamberts have produced a supplement called Prostex which contains vitamins and minerals to support Prostate health. A dose of two tablets Provides 320mg of actual beta sitosterols. The supplement also contains 10µg of vitamin D3, as this plays an important role in the normal function of the immune system and healthy inflammatory response. The supplement contains15mg of Zinc, which contributes to the maintenance of normal testosterone concentrations in the blood, and vitamins C and E which contribute to the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage, and the amino acids – alanine, glycine and glutamic acid, and bioflavonoid, quercetin.
Herbal remedies can help maintain prostate health and the general health of the urinary tract. Whilst a herbal prescription could contain a number of different herbs, there are a few herbs that are particularly indicated for prostrate health. Some are available as supplements from good suppliers.
Saw Palmetto, or Serenoa repens, is strongly indicated in the treatment of enlarged prostrate. The berries of this plant are thought to exact 5(-reductase inhibitory actions. It is possible that enlarged prostate is caused by the accumulation of 5a– DHT, therefore inhibiting 5a– DHT could be an effective treatment plan. This herb is also considered a ‘male tonic’ and can be combined with Hydrangea and Equistem (Horsetail) for the treatment of enlarged prostrate.
Nettle root (Uritca dioica radix) is also an important herb for the treatment of enlarge prostrate, reducing the urge to urinate during the night (nocturia). Nettles are very nutritive, so drinking nettle tea can have all round health benefits. Herbs such as Zea Mays, or Cornsilk and Agrimony, can act as tonics for the urinary system and strengthen the bladder.
If you are experiencing on going discomfort with prostrate issues then it maybe of benefit to see a qualified Medical Herbalist who will take a detailed case history from you and provide a herbal prescription to meet your needs. If you are taking prescribed medication you must consult with your GP or a qualified herbalist before taking any supplements or herbs.