If you scored high in the ‘Prostate Health’ section of the Health Score Quiz, please read this article as it contains some useful information and resources to help you.
This page is designed to help you understand why you might be experiencing symptoms relating to poor prostate health, in particular, symptoms associated with enlarged prostate. In this section we look at what the prostate is, symptoms of dysfunction, causes of prostate enlargement, diagnosis and testing for prostate health, herbs and nutrients that may support prostate health and prostate cancer considerations.
What is the prostate gland and what is its function?
The prostate gland is about the size of a chestnut and weighs around 30grams. Its most important function is the production of fluids that with other fluids and sperm cells makes up semen. The muscles of the prostate also contribute towards ejaculation.
The gland is also involved in hormone balance in males as well. The hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can be produced from testosterone here. DHT is an extremely powerful androgenic hormone and something that has been linked with premature balding, but can also influence things like voice depth, increases in body hair and muscle mass, growth of male reproductive organs and appears to influence how fat is stored in the body. Abnormally high levels of DHT have been linked with an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer and coronary heart disease. However, this hormone is important as it also plays a number of beneficial functions as well, including its ability to reduce the risk of developing aggressive prostate tumours. As always with hormones, it is all about getting the right balance and through balance comes harmony.
The prostate gland sits directly below the bladder with the rectum behind it. Through rectal examination you can feel the prostate to check if there is any enlargement. The prostate gland has three distinct zones. Starting on the inside there is the transition zone, in the middle the central zone and on the outer layer the peripheral zone.
Within the transition zone this is where one may tend to get non-cancerous growths in older age, leading to all the classic symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This growth leads to increased pressure on the bladder and the urethra, resulting in more difficulty urinating and more urges to urinate.
Cancerous growths tend to occur in the peripheral zone instead, however they can cause very similar symptoms, so it is always important that if you present with prostate symptoms that this is assessed by your GP, and any further investigations required take place. Whatever the diagnosis is you can then consider your treatment approach, with there obviously being some differences between prostate cancer and BPH.
What are the symptoms of a prostate issue?
Symptoms experienced by BHP or even prostate cancer can be very mild at first, but if left unchecked can lead to much more serious issues. Prostate cancer can sometimes cause no symptoms at all, at least in the initial stages.
The most common symptoms include:
- Difficulty urinating or not feeling like you are emptying your bladder fully
- A need to urinate frequently
- Poor urine flow (stops and starts)
- Pain on the inner legs
- After urinating a feeling like you need to evacuate your bowel
- Restless legs
- Interrupted sleep due to urinating through the night
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Erectile dysfunction
Another possible cause of some of the symptoms above is an inflamed prostate gland, known as prostatitis.
Testing considerations for prostate health
The first step when examining your prostate is typically an examination by your GP, where the Doctor is able to estimate the size and shape of your prostate. Your Doctor may then also decide to look at the following:
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. This can help to check for cancer of the prostate
- Post void residual – measuring the amount of urine left in the bladder after urinating
- Urinalysis – assessment for bacteria and blood in the urine
- Prostatic biopsy – removing a small amount of prostate tissue
There are a number of other specialist tests as well, but for this it requires a specialist to investigate further. As mentioned earlier, if you present with a number of prostate health symptoms, we recommend speaking with your GP about this immediately. Upon a clear diagnosis, you can then consider your treatment strategy. Fortunately, with prostate cancer the longer term survival rates are reasonably good, however early detection will obviously result in the best outcomes.
What are some of the causes of BPH?
BPH has a number of factors that may contribute to its development. Genetic predisposition plays a minor role compared to that of dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors relating to the metabolism of androgens like testosterone, DHT etc.
As mentioned previously DHT is a potent androgen made from testosterone. As men age their levels of testosterone reduce but at the same time their levels of other hormones like estrogen, luteinising hormone, sex hormone binding globulin all tend to increase. Over time the DHT levels tend to rise as more of an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT is produced, and because higher estrogen can contribute to reducing the excretion of DHT as well.
BPH is considered a normal condition for aging males, and by the time a male reaches 80 there is an extremely high chance they will be managing BPH related symptoms.
Nutrition & Lifestyle considerations for Prostate Health
There is some carry over with BHP and Prostate cancer considerations, so the below recommendations are largely related to supporting prostate health in general.
BPH and Prostate cancer have both been linked with high fat diets, especially higher levels of saturated or trans-fats in one’s diet. In general, being in a calorie surplus, resulting in fat gain is a major contributing factor to prostate issues and general inflammation in the body. Thus, an initial step might be to optimise body composition through appropriate training and awareness around energy balance.
Some other areas of your diet that are worth considering include:
- Limiting exposure to chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc
- Increasing the amounts of phytonutrients consumed through a diet rich in colourful vegetables and some fruits
- Increasing the intake of more essential fatty acids from oily fish and some from monounsaturated fats like avocado, olives etc.
- Decrease dairy consumption
- Avoid trans fats
- Increase your antioxidant intake from foods
- Manage your blood glucose through a reduction in refined and processed carbohydrates
- Avoid exposing foods to plastic BPA substances, especially under heat when it can transfer from the food packaging to the food
- Minimise all alcohol intake – especially from beers, wine and sake
Here are some articles that may be useful in guiding your diet plus some anti-inflammatory recipes to try.
- Understanding Fats
- What fats are best to cook with?
- What are Phytonutrients?
- Calorie and macronutrient breakdown of common foods
- Anti-inflammatory recipes
Exercise & Body Composition
Increased physical activity has been linked with lower rates of BPH. There has also been an association with increased visceral fat/belly fat and BPH. Adopting any type of exercise routine, but especially one that supports a reduction in belly fat may be beneficial for reducing BPH risk. Exercise like strength training and interval training are both great options for lowering visceral fat.
Exercise also has the potential to help regulate our nervous system, helping to promote more relaxation in the prostate and rectal regions, helping to improve blood flow around that area and removing waste products more easily.
Nutrients and Herbs
There are a variety of nutrients and herbs linked to prostate health, mostly because of their impact on DHT production or their anti-inflammatory role. Some of the supplements I might consider for prostate health include:
- Saw Palmetto
- Vitamin E – Mixed tocopherol
- Stinging Nettle Root
- Selenium in natural, not a synthetic form
- Rye grass flower pollen extract
First things first though, sort out nutrition, lifestyle and exercise. If you have your questionnaire results, look back at your section one results (nutrition & lifestyle) and try to significantly improve these areas. If these are looking good, then the potential for supplementation increases. Don’t expect supplementation to have significant effects if you are living on a calorie rich, pro-inflammatory diet with lots of alcohol and no exercise!
I hope you have found this content useful. If you feel that you could benefit from additional support in this area, don’t hesitate to get in touch using the enquiry form below.
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