If you don’t know what your prostate is or what it does, you are certainly not alone: most men don’t. But, you really should. More than 30 million men suffer from prostate conditions that negatively affect their quality of life.
Awareness of prostate health has come a long way since the days when comedians would confuse “prostate” with “prostrate.” Yet, many men still aren’t sure what the prostate is, what its functions are or how to have good prostate health. The key to understanding prostate health is knowing the answers to these questions.
What Is the Prostate?
The prostate is a small gland, about the shape and size of a walnut, in men that is part of the reproductive system. The prostate rests below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate helps make semen, which carries sperm from the testicles when a man ejaculates.
As a man ages, the prostate can grow larger. When a man reaches the age of 40, the prostate gland might have increased from the size of a walnut to that of an apricot. By the time he reaches the age of 60, it might be the size of a lemon.
Because it surrounds part of the urethra, the enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra. This causes problems in the passing of urine. Typically, these problems passing urine don’t occur in men until they are age 50 or older. They can, though, occur earlier.
An enlarged prostate is also called benign (noncancerous) prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
- BPH is common and cannot be prevented.
- Age and a family history of BPH are risk factors.
- Eight out of every 10 men eventually develop an enlarged prostate.
- About 90% of men over the age of 85 will have BPH.
- Only about 30% of men will find their symptoms bothersome.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate may include:
- Trouble starting to urinate, or urinating freely
- Having to urinate frequently, particularly at night
- Feeling that the bladder is not empty after urinating
- Feeling a sudden urge to urinate
- Having to stop and start repeatedly while urinating
- Having to strain to urinate
To maintain prostate health, it is important for men who have early symptoms of BPH to see their doctor. BPH is a progressive disease and can lead to serious, although rare, health problems, such as kidney or bladder damage.
- Over 50% of men in their 60s and as many as 90% in their 70s or older have symptoms of an enlarged prostate (BPH).
- Each year over 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 30,000 will die of it.
- Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) is an issue for men of all ages and affects 35% of men aged 50 and older.
Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate. It can affect men in their late teens to the elderly. Its symptoms include trouble passing urine, chills and fever and sexual problems. The condition is not contagious and cannot be transmitted sexually to a partner. Treatment usually includes antibiotics.
There are four types of prostatitis. The first is acute bacterial prostatitis, which is normally a short term infection and can lead to high temperatures, coldness and fever. It leads to frequent urination accompanied by pain, at all the times. However, early medications can cure this kind of prostatitis.
The next type of prostatitis is simply called “a chronic prostate.” It is a long term infection which normally leads to a lot of pain being experienced in the pelvic area, which is the area between the anus and the testicles. As time goes by, the pain increases and urinating becomes unbearable. A man who has recently had a catheter or other medical instrument inserted into his urethra is at higher risk of bacterial prostatitis. Some sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, may cause chronic prostatitis. Early antibiotics and drinking a lot of water to fight the infection can cure this ailment.
Non-bacterial prostatitis is another prostate problem that normally affects many men. It usually causes severe pelvic pain, which produces difficulty urinating. Actually, specific medication have been not identified, although antibiotics could better still be used to cure the ailment. However, both hydrotherapy and hot water bath can be used to relieve the pains of non-bacterial prostatitis.
Finally, there is “Asymptomatic inflammatory Prostatitis,” whose real cause has not yet been established and has no symptoms. Despite the absence of the symptoms, some tests are carried out to determine whether the urine has some white blood cells in it. Antibiotics are still used to cure this kind of prostatitis, because the real cure for this disease is still being established.
Maintaining Prostate Health: Tests
Doctors use several tests to check on the condition of the prostate. They include:
1. DRE, or digital rectal exam. This is the standard prostate test. A doctor feels the prostate from the rectum, checking for things such as size, lumps, and firmness.
2. PSA or prostate-specific antigen test. This blood test measures the amount of a protein called PSA that is produced by prostate cells. Elevated levels may indicate cancer. They are not, however, proof that a man has prostate cancer. PSA levels may be elevated in the presence of non-cancerous prostate conditions, such as an enlarged prostate or prostatitis. Then, PSA levels may be low with prostate cancer. Screening for prostate cancer is controversial, as a result.
There are no warning signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer. Once a malignant tumor causes the prostate gland to swell significantly, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, the following symptoms may be present:
- A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine
- A weak or interrupted urinary stream
- Inability to urinate standing up
- A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
The American Cancer Society says men should talk to their doctors about the benefits, risks, and limitations of prostate cancer screening before deciding whether to be tested. The group’s guidelines make it clear that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood testing should not occur unless this discussion happens.
For most men at average risk, screening is started at age 50. However, some doctors recommend that men at higher risk of prostate cancer — African-American men or men with a family history of prostate cancer — start screening earlier.
The American Urological Association recommends a first-time test at age 40, with the schedule of follow-up testing to be determined on an individual basis.
If prostate cancer screening is done, it involves a blood test and possibly a prostate exam by your doctor. Whether or not you test is something you and your doctor must decide together.
- Watchful waiting. Patients who have an enlarged prostate, but who are not suffering symptoms or bothered by symptoms, may be advised by their doctor to merely get an annual checkup, which might include a variety of tests.
- Making lifestyle changes. Changes could include limiting drinking at night and before bedtime, especially drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
- Drug Therapy. Two common treatments for BPH are alpha-blockers, which alleviate BPH symptoms, and 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors, which help shrink the prostate. Many men take them together. The FDA is revising labels on several BPH drugs, such as Proscar, Avodart, and Jalyn, to include a warning that the drugs may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Surgery. This is generally used for men with severe symptoms who haven’t been helped by other treatment.
Prevention and Natural Alternative Treatments
For men who suffer from prostate enlargement, saw palmetto is the place to start. Saw palmetto has a long history of diminishing enlargement and inflammation of the prostate, as well as inhibiting the hormones, which causes prostate enlargement.
Saw palmetto is a shrub which grows in Georgia and Florida along the ocean. Saw palmetto causes no side effects at the recommended dosage. However, since there is currently no standard dose for saw palmetto, researchers often use either 160 mg twice daily or 320 mg once daily based upon clinical studies conducted on the safety and effectiveness of the supplement for enlarged prostate treatment. Another herb called “Pygeum africanum,” comes from an African tree and has also been shown in research to reduce enlargement of the prostate, as well as inflammation.
Zinc for a Healthy Prostate
Zinc is considered one of the most essential trace elements and is believed to play a critical role in cell growth and differentiation, in regulating normal cell death, as well as in building the immune response. Scientists tell us that there exist more biological roles for zinc than for all the other trace elements put together.
Zinc is both helpful with enlarged prostates and with inflamed prostates. Studies (1) have shown that zinc deficiency results in prostate enlargement. Infection and other stress results in lower blood serum zinc levels, in general, and lower prostate levels, in particular. In prostatitis – infection of the prostate – zinc levels are only 1/10 of those in a normal prostate (2).
A large percentage of men do not get even the low U.S. RDA of 15 milligrams of zinc per day from their diet, which may explain a lot.
A daily zinc supplement totaling 50 to 100 milligrams is frequently recommended to help shrink an enlarged prostate. As with any supplement, however, zinc should be taken in moderation and the intake of supplements should complement what we are getting from natural healing foods in our diet.
Some of the foods with the highest zinc contents are seafood. In fact, the National Institute of Health reports that oysters have more zinc than any other food.
You can get zinc from other kinds of seafood, too. Lobster, for example, has 2.5 mg in a 3 oz. serving. Sole and flounder contain 0.5 mg per 3 oz. serving, and Alaskan King Crab will net you around 6.5 mg per 3 oz. serving. Regular seafood eaters are likely getting all the zinc they need.
According to the National Institute of Health, most people get their zinc from meat. Poultry and beef are the most common sources of zinc in our diets, but other meats like lamb and pork also contain good amounts.
Vegetarian sources of zinc include legumes and dairy. For example, a serving of nuts, like cashews or almonds, contains between 1 mg and 2 mg of zinc. Beans, depending on the variety and how they are processed, contain 1 mg to 3 mg of zinc. Vegetarians who eat dairy can get 1 mg of zinc from a cup of 2-percent milk, a cup of yogurt or 3 oz. serving of cheese.
The right muscles for Kegel exercises in a man can also be found by trying to stop the flow or urine mid-stream and not use the buttocks or abdomen. For some men, it is the same feeling as trying to stop from passing gas. Try Kegel exercises on the floor first.
Exercises for a Healthy Prostate
Kegel exercises are useful in improving blood circulation to these tissues. Kegel exercises are performed by tightening all the muscles around the scrotum and anus. Repeat this tightening of the muscles 10 times. Try doing this “invisible” exercise 4-5 times daily, while driving, reading, etc.
Foods for a Healthy Prostate
No prescription for prostate health would be complete without some general dietary recommendations. This includes things to eat and things to avoid.
Grapes, especially red grapes, are highly recommended for maintaining a healthy prostate, as are dark, leafy-green vegetables. Other prostate-friendly vegetables include cauliflower and cabbage.
Tomatoes are fantastic prostate cancer preventatives. They contain lycopene, which combats the growth of prostate cancer. We now know that lycopene is the most powerful carotene discovered, with 10 times more antioxidant power than beta-carotene. Your tomato intake can come from fresh tomatoes–but also from tomato paste, pizza sauce and even ketchup.
It would appear that making tomatoes part of your diet is a good idea if you are concerned about the health of your prostate. Harvard study (3) of 47,000 men in 2003 found that men who ate 10 servings per week of tomatoes cut their risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer by 50%.
What Not to Eat
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent prostate enlargement as it’s a part of aging, there are few things that could help delay or prevent the problem and improve symptoms.
Avoid foods high in calcium.
Foods high in calcium include eggnog, milk (low-fat, skim, whole), cheese, yogurt, salmon, almonds, peas, broccoli, baked beans, white beans, turnip greens, spinach, collard greens, sardines and rhubarb.
Reduce animal fat in your diet.
That means cutting back or completely eliminating red meat and high-fat dairy. Excess fat is generally unhealthy for your prostate–and can lead to the development of prostate cancer. In addition, avoid trans fatty acids: margarine, baked foods and fried foods fall into this latter category.
Watch your cholesterol levels.
There is evidence that men who have higher levels of LDL, also known as bad cholesterol, are at greater risk for prostate issues, especially prostate cancer.
The Best Advice
Consume a balanced diet.
Making sure that you have a proper balance of fiber, carbohydrates, and various nutrients in your diet will have the effect of helping every organ in your body perform more efficiently, including your prostate. By eating right, you keep your immune system strong, reduce inflammation of the prostate, and increase your chances of your natural defenses successfully fending off any problems that could threaten the state of your healthy prostate.
Essentially, anything that is good for your heart will also help you maintain a healthy prostate. Exercise also has the benefit of reducing the amount of prostate-specific antigen or PSA in your body. Lower PSA levels mean a lower risk of prostate cancer. Thirty minutes of walking at a brisk pace, riding a bicycle around the neighborhood or even some aerobics while you watch television can help your body remain strong and more likely to maintain a healthy prostate gland.
Don’t put off that annual exam.
Many prostate issues can be caught early by undergoing a digital rectal exam by a qualified physician, as well as submitting blood for testing. If there is a history of prostate disease among other male relatives, it is a good idea to start this type of examination early on. At the very least, men over the age of forty should have a digital rectal exam annually as part of the strategy and treatment to maintain a healthy prostate.
See your doctor if anything seems out of the ordinary.
Men who find they begin to experience the urge for more frequent urination, or notice low grade pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic region should notify a physician as soon as possible. While the origin of the issue may not involve the prostate, identifying the reason for the increased urination or discomfort in the area near the prostate does make it possible to treat the condition before it has a chance to worsen.
Choosing to make lifestyle changes that tend to maintain a healthy prostate do much more than simply improve your chances for prostate health. A proper diet, regular exercise, and seeing your doctor regularly can help you feel better in general, keep your heart healthy, and increase your chances of enjoying a long life as well as a healthy prostate.
As always, knowledge is power and prevention is the best defense, so become proactive in learning more about this devastating but highly preventable disorder. It could save your life!
Combining efforts will do more to support your body’s ability to function properly than using just one. Your ability to heal will depend on which of these remedies you use for best results. Which will you try?
Dr. Richard A. DiCenso is the CEO of Matrix Transformation and author of Beyond Medicine, Exploring A New Way Of Thinking. He is an international speaker and complementary care expert with over 30 years experience in treating chronic symptoms. With his extensive practice in “Whole Person Therapy,” human biochemistry and orthomolecular nutrition, Dr. DiCenso is a leading authority in biological fluid analysis with his Matrix Assessment Profile (MAP). Dr. DiCenso provides unique insights into the world of unresolved symptoms and has helped thousands of individuals around the world with undiagnosable symptoms to dramatically improve their health without drugs or surgery. Visit www.MatrixTransformation.com for more information.
Fair, W. R. and Heston, W. “Prostate Inflammation Linked to Zinc Shortage” Prevention 113: June, 1977
Fair and Heston, 1977; Pfeiffer, 1978
Journal of Nutrition 133(2003):3356