What is the prostate?
The prostate is spongy gland about the size of a walnut that surrounds the neck of the male bladder and urethra. During the male orgasm, the prostate gets your “boys” or sperm ready by secreting a slightly alkaline fluid, which decreases the acidity of the seminal fluid and secretes Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) that helps loosen up semen to allow the sperm to reach the female egg in intercourse. The muscular portion of the prostate gland then helps propel the semen into the urethra during ejaculation. What a gland!
So why should we pay attention to the prostate?
Due to it’s location surrounding the bladder and urethra, any changes or growth to the prostate can have very noticeable symptoms. There are three common conditions that affect the prostate gland: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis and prostate cancer.
BPH may develop as the prostate tissue enlarges over time. A small amount of prostate enlargement is present in men over 40 and more than 90% of men over 80.2 This is a non-cancerous condition but can cause many unpleasant urinary symptoms.
Prostatitis is an infection of the prostate, the most common urinary tract infection in men. There are a variety of causes of prostatitis including a bacterial infection, a sexually transmitted infection or autoimmune conditions.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men affecting 1 in 6 men. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include increasing age, having a family history of prostate or breast cancer and African American decent.
Symptoms of prostatic changes or growth include…
- Dribbling at the end of urinating
- Weak or split urine stream
- Inability to urinate (urinary retention)
- Incomplete emptying of your bladder
- Delayed start of urination or straining to urinate
- Needing to urinate two or more times per night
- Pain with urination
- Blood seen in the urine or semen
- Frequent urination
- Fever or chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the groin, pelvis or low back
- Elevated PSA lab results
The exact mechanism for why the prostate grows is unknown however the prostate is thought to grow under the influence of testosterone and it’s metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Recent studies show estrogen metabolites in combination with androgens (testosterone and DHT) may play a role in BPH as well as prostate cancer. This is why if you’re using testosterone supplementation, or you’re at increased risk for prostate cancer, it’s important to be working with a doctor who knows how to balance the levels of all the hormones together.
How can I support my prostate health?
Visit your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms listed above and ask for prostate screening exams such as PSA and a digital rectal exam beginning at age 50 or earlier if you are at higher risk for prostate cancer. Keep your prostate healthy with great lifestyle additions such as a diet rich in colorful organic vegetables, limited alcohol and caffeine consumption, and frequent exercise. And yes boys, frequent ejaculation is good for the prostate as well! Below are a few key nutrients and botanicals that may help support prostate health.
Zinc – The human prostate accumulates the highest level of zinc of any soft tissue in the body. As an antioxidant and a component of many DNA repair proteins, zinc plays an important role in protecting DNA from damage. Zinc also functions as an anti-inflammatory agent and can promote programmed cell death, or apoptosis.5
Zinc Rich Foods – Oysters, toasted wheat germ, veal liver, sesame seeds, tahini, roast beef, pumpkin/squash/watermelon seeds, dark chocolate, lamb and peanuts.
Recommended Dose – 30 mg/d
Selenium – Selenium is a trace mineral that is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes. These antioxidant enzymes prevent cell damage from free radicals. Observational studies show men with higher selenium values had a decreased incidence of prostate cancer as well as a lower risk of death from prostate cancer.1
Selenium rich foods– Brazil nuts, Tuna, Beef, Cod, Turkey, Beef chuck roast, Chicken breast
Recommended Dose – 100 mcg/d
Pygeum africanum – This botanical extract made from the bark of the African prune tree has been shown to aid in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer and decreasing the symptoms of BPH. It does this by inhibiting the growth of tumor cell lines, inducing apoptosis and binding to estrogen and androgen receptors.6
Recommended Dose – 100-200 mg/d
For more information on how to live healthy naturally contact Dr. Bridget Anderson, Naturopathic Medical Doctor at HEAL Natural Medicine. 949-476-3278 or Bridget.Anderson.ND@gmail.com
1.”http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/prostate_health/anatomy_prostate_gland/Pages/index.aspx”. The Anatomy of the Prostate Gland.
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001419/ Enlarged prostate; Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. August 10, 2009
3.Carruba, G. (2007), Estrogen and prostate cancer: An eclipsed truth in an androgen-dominated scenario. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, 102: 899–911. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21529
4.Sharp VJ, Takacs EB, Powell CR. Prostatitis: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Aug 15;82(4):397-406.
5.http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5802031/k.6CE8/Prostate_Cancer_Symptoms.htm Understanding Prostate Cancer. Prostate Cancer Foundation. 2010.