Supporting a Healthy Prostate

June 14, 2016 Debbie Bowman

Let's face it, most men don't like talking about their prostate.  Nevertheless, although it's easy to ignore this inconspicuous organ, men should consider supporting the health of their prostate, as it affects the health of so many men.  In fact, if you’re a man who’s edging up there in years chances are good the prostate will start to cause problems. In this article we will talk briefly about the health issues that involve the prostate and how men can support their prostate through dietary and lifestyle changes and supplements.

The prostate is a walnut sized gland in the male reproductive system.  It is located beneath the bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.  The three most common prostate problems that affect men are an enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer.

Benign prostatic enlargement (BPE) is the medical term used to describe an enlarged prostate. It means a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland and is common for men after the age of about 50.  When you have an enlarged prostate the gland swells and puts pressure on the urethra, which causes difficulties with urinating, such as those irritating bathroom trips during the night - also known as nocturia. 

Prostatitis can be caused by either an infection or an inflammation of the prostate. Although prostatitis is a common condition that can affect men of any age, it’s most common in younger and middle aged men, typically between 30 and 50.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian men. In fact, prostate cancer afflicts one male in every six, and a significant percentage of men have underlying prostate cancer without even knowing it.  Furthermore, the threat of prostate cancer becomes more real as a man ages.  

But here's the good news.  Developing a prostate condition later in life isn’t inevitable. Though health complaints that involve the prostate are common there are things you can do to lesson your chance of developing prostate cancer, prostatitis or BPE, such as dietary and lifestyle changes and taking targeted supplements. 

Dietary additions:

Tomatoes - Eat lots of tomatoes, especially cooked, as they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.   Lycopene may help prevent prostate cancer as well as reduce tumour growth among men with prostate cancer. In fact, a review of several studies revealed that those who consumed the most tomato-based foods reduced their total risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent and their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 50 percent.  

Broccoli - Eat lots of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.  Broccoli is a vegetable that contains many complex compounds that may help protect some people from cancer. One of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables, called sulforaphane, selectively targets and kills cancer cells while leaving normal prostate cells healthy and unaffected. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies suggest there’s a link between the amount of cruciferous vegetables you eat and your prostate cancer risk. 

Green Tea - Drink lots. There’s now evidence to support that compounds found in green tea may prevent the development of prostate cancer.  A clinical trial demonstrated that green tea catechins were 90% effective in preventing prostate cancer in men with pre-malignant lesions. In one review, researchers found a decreased risk of prostate cancer among men who consumed more than 5 cups of green tea per day. 

Pomegranate fruit and juice - enjoy freely.  Studies have found that pomegranate juice and extract, hinder the production of different prostate cancer cells.  Compounds in pomegranate cause cancer cells to die and also decrease the migration of cancer cells.  Scientists think the antioxidant found in pomegranate works in a “seek and destroy” method, exclusively targeting the prostate cancer cells and not the healthy cells. 

Lifestyle changes: 

Get exercise - According to researchers at the Harvard School for Public Health, men who regularly walked at a brisk pace before any prostate cancer diagnosis, had more normally shaped blood vessels in their tumours once a cancer did develop. Malformed blood vessels in a prostate tumour have been associated with an increased risk of developing lethal cancers.  Specifically, men who walked briskly for 90 minutes or more per week can lower their risk of death from any cause by 46% compared to men who men who walked less quickly and less often.  And men who exercised vigorously (e.g., biking, tennis, jogging, swimming) three or more hours per week had a 61% lower risk of death from prostate cancer compared to men who exercised vigorously less than one hour per week.

Lose weight if obese - Obesity is linked to a 98 percent increased risk of prostate cancer.  In addition, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, men who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of developing an aggressive and potentially fatal prostate cancer.

Supplements:

Saw Palmetto - Studies show that saw palmetto is as effective as two drugs commonly given to patients with benign prostate enlargement.  Evidence also shows that saw palmetto has biological activity in prostate cancer cells and may defend against prostate cancer.  For instance, saw palmetto extract was shown to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to the most potent androgen that's involved in the pathway of prostate cancer. Saw palmetto also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as a tendency to promote apoptosis - cell death - in prostate cancer cells.

Selenium -  Studies show that selenium levels are commonly low in men with prostate cancer. However, when targeting prostate issues one must choose the form of supplemental selenium carefully.  In fact, for prostate cancer the only form of selenium that will show benefit is a selenium culture.  In one double blind study, supplementation with a cultured selenium was associated with a 50% reduction in cancer mortality, including a 52% decrease in prostate cancer incidence. Studies with other forms or sources of selenium, in contrast, have failed to show this effect.  

Nettle - Stinging nettle root is used widely in Europe to treat BPE. Studies in people suggest that stinging nettle, in combination with other herbs (especially saw palmetto), may be effective at relieving symptoms such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and the constant urge to urinate. Some studies suggest that stinging nettle is comparable to a medication in slowing the overgrowth of prostate cells. 

Although these supplements can be taken separately, there are supplements on the market that include selenium culture, saw palmetto and nettle in a combination formula - such as New Chapter's Prostate 5LX.