Men's Health | November 14, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Prostate health has gained attention over the past ten years, with events like Movember shining a spotlight on men's health and raising funds to research this important gland. But if you're not clear on what the prostate does, or how to take care of yours - don't worry. It's simple.
The prostate is a gland that is about the size of a small apricot and is located underneath the bladder. It has three main functions:
Inflammation, oxidative stress, and changes to testosterone levels are the controllable risk factors for the two major prostate conditions: benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH is the most common prostate health problem, and is associated with ageing. Half of all men will develop BPH between the ages of 50 and 60, and by 90% of men will have BPH by the age of 90.
Symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia:
While BPH can dramatically reduce quality of life, the condition is non-cancerous and there has been no link found between BPH and prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, affecting 1 in 7 Australian men. It is very slow-growing, and symptoms rarely present until late in the cancer development – the symptoms are then similar to those of BPH, but may also include blood in the urine or ejaculate. Late stages can be lethal, but early detection and intervention is becoming more common, and survival rates are increasing.
While BPH and prostate cancer are very different conditions that rarely coexist, the risk factors are often the same – hormone imbalances, age, genetics, inflammation and oxidative stress. Many herbal medicines and nutritional supplements have an affinity for the prostate are commonly prescribed to support medical treatment, or to prevent the onset of prostate condition.
Lycopene is a powerful carotenoid that exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the prostate.
While it is naturally found in high amounts in tomatoes, it becomes more bioavailable and active when the tomato is cooked, such as in pasta sauce.
A diet high in lycopene may be protective against the progression of prostate cancer, and supplementation has been shown to reduce the growth of BPH especially when combined with herbal extracts such as saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)is used in traditional Western herbal medicine to treat lower urinary tract symptoms commonly associated with BPH. A recent 90 day trial showed that saw palmetto extract reduced markers of chronic prostate inflammation in men with lower urinary tract symptoms, and a 2015 open trial of 165 BPH patients showed that 160mg of saw palmetto extract per day improved quality of life and symptoms after 6 weeks of treatment. After 12 weeks, there was also improvement to urinary flow rate and ability to empty the bladder.
Whether saw palmetto has any efficacy in prostate cancer has not been clearly established. One study looked at saw palmetto supplementation in patients undergoing radiotherapy for prostate cancer, and found that the herbal extract had no effect on outcomes, nor on toxicity of the radiotherapy.
Pumpkin seed extract (Cucurbita pepo) appears to exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-androgen effects, specifically reducing prostate growth and preventing LUTS (lower urinary tract symptoms) and BPH. A 2016 review of the literature concluded that pumpkin seed extract shows great promise as a treatment for lower urinary tract symptoms and benign prostatic hyperplasia, and other in vitro studies suggest that it may be useful in preventing prostate cancer.
Small Flowered Willow (Epilobium) extracts have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, with particular action in the prostate and other male endocrine organ.Extracts of the small flowered willow plant have been shown to destroy prostate cancer cells in vitro, and when combined with lycopene and other herbs, a 3 month course of supplementation may reduce symptoms of BPH.
High levels of the hormone, dehydrotestosterone (DHT), have been linked to both BPH and prostate cancer. Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)is known as an “anti-androgen” - it blocks the conversion of free testosterone to the prostate-antagonising DHT. As well as supporting sperm health and testosterone levels in animal models, the anti-androgen action of nettle leaf extract has been shown to promote destruction of tumour cells in the human prostate and may reduce the risk of BPH.
NIH Publication No. 14-3012 (2014) Prostate Enlargement: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia-bph/Pages/facts.aspx
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