Prostate Health

shutterstock_9742840By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

The prostate is a walnut sized organ that is part of the male reproductive system.  The prostate gland’s primary function is to produce a slightly alkaline fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid that carries, protects and enriches  the sperm.  The prostate has two main growth periods.  The first occurs during puberty when the prostate doubles in size.  At around age 25, the prostate begins its second growth period and continues to grow throughout most of a man’s lifetime. 

Although it is common for the prostate gland to become enlarged as men age,  it is generally considered a nuisance as opposed to a serious health issue.   Approximately, 1 in 3 men over age 50 experience some symptoms.  As the prostate enlarges, it begins to press against the urethra and the bladder wall becomes thicker and irritated.  The bladder begins to contract resulting in more frequent urination.  Eventually, the bladder weakens, the urethra narrows and the resulting condition, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), begins to cause problems such as frequent urination, urgency, hesitancy, poor urine flow and incomplete emptying of the bladder. 

As BPH is not curable, treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms and focuses on reducing them.  Treatments for mild BPH include watchful waiting, regular checkups and lifestyle changes including:

  • Relaxing while urinating as opposed to rushing
  • Spreading your fluid intake throughout the day and limiting fluids in the evening
  • Reducing caffeinated and alcoholic beverages that act to increase urine flow
  • Avoiding medicines, such as antihistamines and decongestants, that may worsen symptoms
  • Staying active helps reduce urinary problems as inactivity can cause urine retention
  • Urinating at regular intervals can help retrain the bladder
  • Adding herbal therapies such as saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol that are known to be effective in reducing symptoms

Moderate to severe symptoms that greatly affect your quality of life may be treated with medications such as alpha blockers, or therapies that reduce the size of the prostate and increase urine flow.  Severe symptoms such as inability to urinate, bladder stones or kidney damage are treated with surgery. 

Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland typically caused by a bacterial infection.  Prostatitis can develop suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic) which can continue over a prolonged period of time.

  • Acute prostatitis is more common in men under 35 and normally involves treatment with antimicrobial medication for up to two weeks.  Symptoms of acute prostatitis include chills, fever, urinary retention, pain and burning with urination and increased need to urinate. 
  • Chronic prostatitis, more common in men over 50, occurs less frequently.  It is a recurrent infection that can be difficult to treat.  Chronic prostatitis is associated with hormonal changes and lifestyle influences such as excessive alcohol use.  Symptoms associated with chronic prostatitis include recurrent urinary tract infections, pain and burning with urination, incontinence, blood in the urine and lower back pain.  Treatment involves antimicrobial medication for up to 12 weeks and possible long term low dose medication as well. 

The most serious condition associated with the prostate is cancer.  Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America affecting 1 in 6 American men.  American Cancer Society statistics show that nearly 60% of all prostate cancers are discovered while they are still localized.  The five year survival rate for men diagnosed at this stage is nearly 100%.  The survival rate has risen over the last 20 years due to early detection and treatment.  In general , all men are at risk for developing prostate cancer.  However, there are specific risk factors that increase the chances:

  • Age –  Men over 65 comprise two thirds of all prostate cancer diagnoses.
  • Poor nutrition  – Those with diets high in animal fats and low in fruits and vegetables have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Obesity – Obesity may not raise the risk of developing cancer but it has shown to be a factor in more aggressive types of prostate cancer.
  • Race – African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and are more often at advanced stages when diagnosed.
  • Family history – Having an immediate family member such as a father or brother  diagnosed more than doubles the risk of developing the disease.  The risk increases when several relatives are affected. 
  • Genetic  factors –  Altered or mutated genes known as “cancer susceptibility genes” contribute to  5 – 10% of all prostate cancers. 

Recently, a federal panel questioned the effectiveness of the prostate-specific antigen or PSA test.  While imperfect, the PSA test is currently the only screening tool available for prostate cancer. There is no clear cut answer as to whether or not this test should be routinely performed.  Many men diagnosed have very slow growing tumors that do not require immediate treatment.  Some physicians now prefer to take a watchful approach to avoid high risk unnecessary biopsy, surgery, radiation or hormone deprivation therapy.  Despite the controversy, routine PSA screening may improve the survival rate for men in high risk categories who are more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer.  Whether or not testing is indicated for you is a personal decision that should be discussed with your doctor. 

If you are concerned about your risk of developing prostate cancer,  consider these prevention strategies that may reduce the possibility of developing prostate cancer and are sure to benefit your overall health:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.   There is no clear evidence linking obesity as the cause of developing prostate cancer.  However, statistics show that obesity may more than double the odds of dying from the disease.
  • Exercise to control your weight, boost your overall health and support your immune system.
  • Eat for health.  Choosing a nutritious diet low in fats, high in fiber and rich in plant based antioxidants, is the single best thing you can do for cancer prevention.  Foods you consume have a powerful effect on your health.  Here are some ways to fight cancer by the plateful:
  1. Balance your plate with 2/3 plant based foods and 1/3 low fat animal protein.
  2. Add cancer fighting nutrients with colorful fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that can help lower your risk and keep your weight optimal. 
  3. Fortified breakfast cereals and whole grains contain folate, an important B vitamin that may aid in prevention.
  4. Avoid processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat that may increase estrogen levels.  Chose foods in their natural state that are high in fiber, nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
  5. Consume  tomatoes and tomato based products high in lycopene which has cancer fighting potential. 
  6. Increase your fiber intake.  Fiber keeps your food moving through your digestive system and helps remove cancer causing compounds. Flax seeds contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber recognized by the National Cancer Institute as essential for prevention of many cancers including prostate. 
  7. Choose fats wisely.  Saturated fats from animal products and trans fats from hydrogenated oils increase cancer risk.  Unsaturated fats from plant sources and omega-3 fatty acids from fish sources decrease cancer risk.
  8. Boost your antioxidants.  Antioxidants are powerful vitamins that help your cells function optimally and protect against cancer.  Beta-carotene, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E are all good sources of antioxidants.
  9. Spice up your meals to add valuable nutrients and cancer fighting punch.  Try curry, turmeric, ginger, garlic and basil. 
  10. Drink plenty of water.  Water removes wastes and toxins and carries nutrients to all your organs. 

Supplements to support prostate health:

Organic Cold Pressed Flax Seed Oil by Ortho Molecular is unique in that it contains both alpha-linolenic and linoleic essential omega-3 fatty acids.  Flax seeds are high in lignans, a phytoestrogen antioxidant that contains natural cancer protective compounds. 

Saw Palmetto Plus by Pure Encapsulations provides a combination of well researched natural extracts for supporting the health and function of the prostate gland.   Saw palmetto has been used safely for decades to support proper prostate and urinary function.   Pumpkin seed oil provides essential fatty acids and zinc, important for prostate health. Nettle has shown the ability to support healthy enzyme activity and maintain healthy hormone metabolism in prostate cells.

Prosta-Support Formula by Douglas Laboratories is a synergistic and comprehensive combination of vitamins, minerals, herbals, and other nutrients carefully formulated and specifically designed to support and maintain general health as well as the health and function of the prostate.

Prostate Support, Q. by Quantum Nutrition provides comprehensive nutritional support of the prostate gland,  urinary tract, urethra and the bladder.  Prostate Complex also promotes whole body detoxification and delivers exceptional support for the prostate gland.

Prostate Response by Innate Response is specifically formulated with herbs traditionally used to improve the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland and to promote genital-urinary health.