Most men have prostate changes that are not cancer. But between an infection and prostate cancer lies a nonmalignant but bothersome disorder called BPH. Here’s how BPH can disrupt a man’s life and how simple lifestyle changes can help keep it flowing smoothly.
The primary job of the prostate is to produce fluid for semen. However, it can be quite bothersome – to say the least. It is prone to infections (prostatitis), enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and full-blown cancer. It is located just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. Normally the prostate is about the size and shape of a walnut.
As part of the normal aging process, it enlarges. By age 40, it can grow slightly larger, to the size of an apricot. By age 60, it may be the size of a lemon. This growth can cause the prostate to press against the urethra, slowing down or blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder. The blocking of the urethra and the gradual loss of bladder function are responsible for many of the problems associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is pronounced “be-NINE prah-STAT-ik HY-per-PLAY-zha”. Benign means “not cancer”, and hyperplasia means “excessive growth.”
Symptoms of BPH
Although BPH is not linked to cancer and does not increase the risk of prostate cancer, the symptoms for BPH and prostate cancer can be similar. BPH symptoms rarely start before age fifty, but almost 50 percent of men in their sixties and about 90 percent of men in their seventies show some signs of BPH.
They can include:
o The need to get up several times during the night to pass urine
o Passing urine more often than usual during the day
o A strong or sudden urge to urinate
o Difficulty starting urine flow or producing only a dribble
o Pushing or straining to begin urine flow
o Stopping and starting several times while urinating
o Weak or slow urine stream and a feeling that the bladder is not empty even after just going
In its most severe form, BPH can lead to:
o A weak bladder
o Backflow of urine causing bladder or kidney infections
o Complete block in the flow of urine
o Kidney failure
Cause and Treatment of BPH
We know that it is common for the prostrate to enlarge as men grow older; however, the exact cause is not known. The established risk factors for BPH are age and family history. Research has shown that as men age, the levels of a form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) increases, stimulating cell growth and prostate enlargement. What’s more, estrogen (a female hormone) also increases, inhibiting the breakdown of DHT, which has the same effect.
Early symptoms may take years to become disruptive problems. However, they should be checked by a doctor, since about 50 percent of men with signs of BPH end up needing treatment. BPH cannot be cured, but drugs or surgery are often recommended to relieve the symptoms. However, lots of men are turning to natural remedies for BPH.
Five Natural Remedies
Saw Palmetto. One of the most well-known and popular herbs for prostate problems. Saw palmetto has been proven to inhibit the enzyme involved in the increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Studies have shown that saw palmetto concentrate improves urine flow and relieves other BPH symptoms.
Pygeum. Obtained from the bark of a tree indigenous to Africa, pygeum also inhibits the substance that increases DHT, which is associated with prostate enlargement.
Pumpkin seeds. A long-time folk remedy in treating prostate problems, pumpkin seeds have been shown to promote urine flow and reduce the effects of hormones on prostate cells.
Capsaicin. The chemical that makes peppers hot inhibits the action of NF-kappa Beta, a substance found in cells that causes them to grow excessively. In one study, high concentration of capsaicin stopped the growth of prostate cancer cells. Hot peppers, such as habanero, jalapeno, and Scotch bonnet, are high in antioxidants; they are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, folic acid, and potassium.
Lycopene. A carotenid found in tomatoes and other red or pink plant foods. Lycopene is in the group of nutrients, which includes beta-carotene and lutein. It is best known as “the protector of prostates against cancer”, but it also has cardiovascular benefits and it defends against other types of cancer. Lycopene concentrates in the prostate and the testicles, protecting the cells. It also slows the oxidation of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), preventing the adhesion of LDL to artery walls.
Tomatoes and products made from tomatoes, such as paste, sauce, ketchup, juice, and salsa are the best-known sources of lycopene. It can also be found in pink grapefruit, apricots, guavas, papaya, and watermelon.
Seven Ways to Prevent Prostate Problems
As with most health problems, prevention – whenever possible – is the best medicine. Simple lifestyle changes can help control the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate and keep the disorder from becoming worse.
Eat more plant foods. Eat at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, including tomatoes and other red and pink plant foods.
Limit consumption of meats and dairy. Researchers have found that consuming less meat and dairy products can reduce the hormonal effects on the prostate.
Limit alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine increase urine production and cause bladder irritation.
Drink less at night. Avoid drinking water and other beverages after 7:00 p.m.
Manage your weight. Researchers believe there’s a link between excess body fat and prostate enlargement. Fat tissue produces estrogen, which is associated with prostate enlargement. So reducing calorie intake and losing excess weight can lower estrogen production. Obesity also contributes to diabetes, a glucose-related disease. In a recent study, a link was found between high glucose levels and BPH.
Increase your activity level. Even a small amount of exercise can help regulate hormone levels; it definitely helps with weight management. All of which can help keep BPH at bay.
Keep warm. Cold temperature can lead to urine retention and the urgency to urinate.