Natural Prostate Health
Five Supplements That Help You Go With The Flow
When you have gone through life in control, it can be difficult for many men to adjust to dealing with an aging prostate. Many men are not clear on what or where their prostate is, let alone what it does. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. The urethra (tube that urine flows though) runs through the centre of the prostate, from the bladder to the penis, letting urine flow out of the body. The prostate’s chief function is to secrete fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. During ejaculation, the prostate squeezes this fluid into the urethra and it’s expelled with sperm as semen.
Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hypertrophy (or BPH), affects virtually all men over 50. As the prostate gets bigger, it may squeeze or partly block the urethra causing problems with urinating. Symptoms can include trouble with urination, weak urine stream, and not feeling empty after urination. These can result in frequent bathroom trips, a constant feeling of “needing to go”, and waking repeatedly to go. When you have to interrupt your day to go to the bathroom, it’s inconvenient. When you have to drag yourself out of bed at night, it’s frustrating. And when you feel like you have to go again right after you already went, it’s downright maddening. Your doctor can suggest lifestyle changes (to help you deal with the symptoms), drugs (to reduce the symptom severity, with side effects), and surgery (invasive and long-term effectiveness is still unknown). All in all, not the options you want to hear as you run to the bathroom, again.
Some evidence indicates that fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C may help protect against BPH. For overall health (and prostate health) choosing a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, and limiting intake of unhealthy saturated fats and trans-fatty acids may decrease your chances of BPH.
Although not a treatment, pelvic floor muscle exercises may also help men deal with BPH symptoms and prevent urine leakage. These exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that both support the bladder and close the sphincter. Unfortunately these muscles are buried deep and sometimes hard to isolate, so doctors often recommend practicing while urinating as the most effective way to exercise.
Phytosterols: Phytosterols are a class of substances found naturally in many foods (albeit in very low doses), including soy, flax, olive oil, and most fruits and vegetables. It is a waxy substance similar to cholesterol (but without the negative health implications). Phytosterols may improve urine flow and leave less in the bladder. The big upsides to phytosterols are that there are no negative side effects and if you have high cholesterol, they are also used effectively (government approved) to lower cholesterol. Try 60 to 130 milligrams each day.
Pygeum: Pygeum is a traditional African botanical remedy used to treat bladder-health issues and urinary disorders. Studies show that pygeum can significantly reduce urinary frequency (the number of times men need to wake up at night to urinate) and pain with urination in men who suffer from mild-to-moderate BPH symptoms. It also improves urine flow. However, pygeum does not appear to reverse the process of BPH. Its benefit is in alleviating symptom severity. Try 75 to 200 milligrams a day.
Saw Palmetto: Saw Palmetto is one of the most common and best known BPH herbals. In 2000, a review of 11 clinical trials (in total over 2500 men) concluded that supplementation with saw palmetto greatly increased urine flow and decreased nighttime urgency. In 2009 a review of 21 studies (in total over 3000 men) supported the initial review by concluding saw palmetto provided mild to moderate improvement in symptoms and flow measures, comparable to drug treatments without the side effects. Any time you can obtain results comparable to pharmaceuticals with safe herbs, they are worth a try (320 milligrams of products containing at least 85 fatty acids and phytosterols each day).
Lycopene: The prostate organ stores lycopene (an antioxidant in the carotenoid family). Lycopene is found in tomatoes, guava, pink grapefruit, papaya, red pepper and watermelon. In a study of 40 men with BPH, participants took 15 mg lycopene or placebos for six months. Prostate growth stopped in men taking the supplements, while growth progressed (as expected) in men taking placebos. Most of the men taking lycopene also had decreases in prostate specific antigen (PSA), a blood marker of prostate cancer risk. Try to take at least 15 mg each day.
Zinc: Zinc’s role in prostate health is a complicated one. The prostate contains the highest concentration of zinc of all the soft tissues. Low doses of supplemental zinc (under 100mg per day) can be beneficial, supporting prostate health. Excessive supplementation (over 100mg per day) can harm the prostate. Try to take 20-30mg each day.
If you are a man nearing or just past 50, you may be mindful of your prostate and consider taking good care of it before it causes you difficulty (or the difficulty worsens).