Taking Care of Your Prostate

Prostate Health: How To Care For Your Prostate

For reasons that remain unexplained, the prostate enlarges as a man gets older, causing various urinary issues as the expanding gland restricts flow from the bladder. By sixty years of age these effects are experienced by a great many men, and by eighty, very few have escaped the problem. However, what we do known is that much can be done to help preserve the health of the prostate.

About the Prostate

The prostate gland is located at the base of the penis and is roughly the size of a walnut. It wraps around a tube called the urethra that carries urine from the bladder. The prostate’s main job is to produces fluid that joins with sperm cells from the testicles to make semen. The prostate has no influence on erections.

An enlarged prostate benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)

Prostate enlargement is known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and this event is, in the main, inevitable, but there are various ways of dealing with it, and they are very effective. Other problems can arise where the prostate gland becomes inflamed, and this condition is called prostatitis. It only crops up in about 10% of men.

An enlarged prostate (BPH), however, is extremely common, particularly amongst men aged over fifty. Many men are concerned that having an enlarged prostate means they have a greater risk of prostate cancer, but the NHS stress that this is most definitely not the case.

Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate

The usual first sign of an enlarged prostate is when you feel the need to pee urgently and more frequently. There can sometimes be an issue where you find starting to pee difficult and you need to consciously strain to make it happen. You may notice that the flow of urine is reduced to a slow trickle and can falter, so you stop then start again before feeling that your bladder has emptied.

Disturbed nights are another frequent occurrence where you find yourself having to get up to pee several times in the night. For some men there can be a problem with urinary incontinence and the urgent need to reach the loo means it’s sometimes too late by the time you get there and there has been a leak. This is called urge incontinence. Leakage can also occur when you cough, sneeze or lift something heavy. This is known as stress incontinence. You should see your GP if any of these symptoms arise, even if they are only mild. They could be an early warning that some further investigation is needed.

If you have any sign of blood in your urine, you must see a GP to rule out anything more serious.

What Causes Prostate Enlargement?

The exact cause of BPH is not completely understood, but because it mainly occurs when men are reaching more senior years, researchers believe that it must be due to changing hormones.

Men produce the male hormone testosterone all their lives but they also produce a small amount of the female hormone, oestrogen. During the ageing process the amount of testosterone in a man’s blood decreases, and this leaves a higher proportion of oestrogen. Medical studies have suggested that BPH may occur when the resultant higher radio of oestrogen within the prostate increases activity of substances that could promote prostate cell growth.

It is also a theory that a male hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that promotes prostate development, continues to be produced among older men, despite a reduction in blood testosterone levels. The high levels of DHT in the prostate may encourage cells to continue to grow. It has also been found in research studies that men who do not produce DHT, do not develop BPH.

Methods of Managing Prostate Problems

Benign Prostate Hypertrophy

There are natural herbal supplements that are proven to help manage BPH, such as extract from the shrub saw palmetto. Other natural foods, such as pumpkin seeds which contain zinc, the extract from nettles, rye grass or pygeum which is an extract from the bark of the African cherry tree are also thought to have a positive effect.

Green tea has antioxidant properties and is believed to support prostate health.

Pharmaceutical medication may be prescribed to enlarge the urethral channel, this works by causing the muscle fibres to relax. Drugs known as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors can cause the gland to shrink by 1/3 of its size which helps with urination issues.

Surgical removal of tissue is another route to lessen the size of the prostrate. Laser surgery is usually involved with this procedure but is usually not offered unless medication fails to do the trick.

Prostatitis

This is when the prostate gland, or sometimes the area around it, becomes inflamed. Medical scientists have identified the following types of prostatitis:

  1. Chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome
  2. Acute bacterial prostatitis
  3. Chronic bacterial prostatitis
  4. Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis*

On average this condition will affect a very small percentage of men at least once during their lifetime. It is easy to know if you have it because of an intense burning pain that accompanies the very frequent need to pee (several times an hour). To avoid this problem even cropping up, it’s important to be in the habit of drinking plenty of water so you stay hydrated. Pass urine whenever you get the feeling you need to go rather than delaying. Take measures to ease symptoms of BPH if applicable.

Clinical treatment of prostatitis is with a course of antibiotics, plus pain killers.

*If diagnosed with asymptomatic prostatitis you will have no symptoms, but the condition will have been picked up during tests for other urinary tract or reproductive tract disorders. This type of prostatitis does not need treatment, nor does it cause complications.

Other Complications of BPH

There are certain spin-off problems that sometimes crop up from BPH:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Acute urinary retention (AUR) – this is when you have a sudden inability to pass any urine at all. The symptoms of this are, beside the fact that you can’t pee, low abdominal pain and a swelling of the bladder that you can feel with your hands. You need to get to an A&E if you have these symptoms.

The Problem Beginning with ‘C’

Prostate cancer very rarely causes symptoms, but fortunately it is slow growing, taking 2-3 years to double in size as opposed to the more usual 4-6 months as with many other forms of cancer. It is also very much more likely these days that prostate cancer is picked-up early by means of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood. An MRI scan may also be used to ensure that biopsy has been taken from the correct location. Treatment for prostate cancer is excellent, giving a very high cure rate.

It’s a fact that genetics play their part in predisposing some men to prostate cancer, as does race, age and various other factors, but there are many lifestyle choices that increase risk. A list of these is given under the heading of ‘Lifestyle Changes’, because all the recommended changes are just as applicable to men wanting to prevent or minimise prostate problems in general.

In terms of clinical treatment, a class of pharmaceutical medication known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors have proved successful in reducing the onset of low-grade prostate cancer by as much as 25%. Currently no routine PSA screening in the UK exists and this is because it has been found that a routine PSA test may not always be accurate. PSA levels can be raised by certain non-cancerous conditions so can present false alarms.

Talk to your doctor to arrange a PSA test

If you are concerned and wish to discuss the possibility of a test with your GP, this can be arranged and is free via the NHS. If your levels are raised, your GP may then wish to organise further tests. Most urologists and GPs use a very quick and commonly carried out test known as a DRE (digital rectal examination). This enables the medic to ascertain the size and identify any abnormalities of the prostate gland. Depending upon the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will determine whether you need further checks and possibly treatment.

When there is reason, you may be referred for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the prostate to enable urologists to decide whether a biopsy is required or not.

Lifestyle Changes to Protect your Prostate

Lifestyle changes can help to improve prostate health

There is much you can do to help yourself when it comes to preserving and protecting the health of your prostate. Here are a few ideas:

  • Low Fat
    • Stick to a low animal fat diet, so choose fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, lamb, and pork but cut off as much visible fat as possible. Include more plant-based meals in your regular eating plan.
  • Carbohydrates
    • A diet low in refined carb is advised. This is white flour goods, white rice, pasta.
  • Exercise
    • Regular physical movement is very important. If you are not into formal exercise at least download a pedometer on your phone to help with a target number of steps each day. This gives a good incentive to your fitness goals. A proper exercise regime will help greatly in keeping you fit generally, and it is a necessary part of caring for your prostate health.
  • Weight management
    • This needs to be an integral part of your daily life. Because being overweight has been associated with a higher prostate cancer risk, getting into the habit of eating a healthy, wholefood diet and cutting out calorie rich but nutritionally poor foods is key. Combine this with regular exercise and your weight management will be on track.
  • Sugar
    • Radically reducing or excluding sugar from your diet will help greatly. Restrict biscuits, cakes and pastries to infrequent treats and choose fresh fruits rather than sugary desserts. It can be hard to change these habits, but it’s so very worthwhile.
  • Tea
    • Substituting black tea with green tea is believed to be beneficial, although further trials are needed to prove this to be the case. Hibiscus tea is also thought to be supportive to prostate health. It contains an antioxidant called polyphenols known to have anti-cancer properties. Test-tube studies have confirmed that the extract from hibiscus can limit invasive cell growth.
  • Fruit & Vegetables
    • Include lots of fresh (preferably organic) fruit and vegetables in your daily diet. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower have particularly protective properties.
  • Tomatoes
    • Include more tomatoes and tomato products such as puree and passata in your diet. Tomatoes and certain other red fruits and vegetables contain a carotenoid compound called lycopene that is highly antioxidant and has scientifically proven properties to support prostate health. Tomato products, such as cooked tomatoes, puree and passata where the tomatoes are processed are even more effective than eating the whole fresh fruit. This is because the property of lycopene is increased by the concentration of the extract. In other words, eating fresh tomatoes is good, but the inclusion in your diet of dishes containing concentrated puree or passata, is even better.
  • Fish
    • Eat more fish to ensure you are getting a good supply of omega-3. This is good for many areas of health as well as protecting the prostate.
  • Drinking
    • Drink less fizzy drinks, less alcohol, less caffeinated drinks. And drink less fluids generally in the evening.
  • Smoking
    • If you smoke and find giving up just too difficult, ask you GP for help. Anti-addiction medication is available when serious action is needed.

Certain medicines may be recommended for moderate or severe symptoms, and these can relax your bladder and may be prescribed to treat moderate to severe symptoms.

Prostate reduction surgery is sometimes recommended when symptoms are severe, and it is very effective, but the medication route is usually the first port of call with surgery only offered if symptoms don’t respond to drug treatment.

Natural Supplements For Prostate Health

Certain plants contain naturally occurring compounds that have traditionally been known to give support not only to men’s hormonal health, but also to hormonal imbalances experienced by women. Research has put the most promising of these plant extracts under the microscope in the form of clinical studies and trials, with extremely positive results.

Saw Palmetto

The most clinically acclaimed and scientifically proven herbal supplement used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia is called saw palmetto. The active compound is taken from the berries of the serenoa repens plant, otherwise known as the American dwarf pine, and this extract has been the subject of clinical trials, with very positive outcomes. The active ingredient of saw palmetto (serenoa repens) comes from its berries. The fruits contain certain fatty acids. Our extract contains 45% of these fatty acids.

Saw Palmetto is an effective supplements for prostate health

Saw palmetto has demonstrated similar effectiveness to BPH medications such as finasteride. It has no known side effects, is well tolerated and has proven to be effective in reducing symptoms of BPH.

In addition to its starring role in prostate health, saw palmetto is also known to be helpful in balancing hormones and enhancing sex drive. It’s ability to help with hormonal balance makes it particularly useful in the quest to prevent and retard hair loss. Studies have found that taking a saw palmetto supplement may help block the activity of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into a different sex hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is linked to hair loss. It has also been found to prevent hair loss by reducing the uptake of DHT in follicles and this lessens DHT’s propensity to bind with certain hormone receptors.

Other conditions that have been found to benefit from saw palmetto supplements are asthma, bronchitis, migraines, coughs, colds, and sore throats.

To read more about taking saw palmetto as a natural supplement to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, follow the link to the Saw Palmetto Plus product we offer. This combines Saw Palmetto extract, lycopene and stinging nettle extract.

Stinging Nettle Extract

The extract of the stinging nettle has been the subject of clinical trials with highly positive findings. One paper highlighting a randomised double-blind study in 100 patients reports a favourable outcome between the placebo group and those taking stinging nettle extract. It recommended that stinging nettle be used clinically for reducing symptoms of BPH. Our extract contains compounds such as phytosterols, lignans and polysaccharides, providing the equivalent of 2,000mg of pure herb.

Stinging nettle extract can support prostate health

Lycopene

An organic compound responsible for the red colour of tomatoes and certain other red-coloured plants, including wild rose hips, has been found to be protective to prostate health. It works by inhibiting the growth of prostatic epithelial cells, (in other words, lessening the tendency of prostate cells to enlarge).

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. Our extract is sourced from fermented algae and provides 5mg of lycopene per capsule.

Lycopene an support prostate health and can be found in tomatoes

Saw Palmetto Plus

This is our blend of three highly prostate-supportive natural extracts:

  • Saw palmetto extract 350mg – 45% fatty acids
  • Lycopene – 5mg – sourced from fermented algae
  • Stinging Nettle Extract – 200mg – equivalent to 2,000mg

Saw Palmetto Plus natural supplement for prostate healthOther Benefits of Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto for Women

Although saw palmetto is one of the important natural remedies for men’s hormonal health, it also has benefits for women. Studies have found that saw palmetto’s ability to inhibit 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT, is not only helpful in prostate problems and male hair loss, it is also effective for the condition known as androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness.

Testosterone is not a hormone exclusive to the male sex. Women also need testosterone, and it plays an important part in certain bodily function. The problem is, too much testosterone can cause a hormone imbalance that can result in problems. Saw palmetto can help to inhibit too much testosterone and other androgen hormones to attain a better hormonal balance in women.

Hair Loss

Androgenetic alopecia is caused by the conversion of testosterone into DHT. The excess DHT causes hair follicles in the scalp to reduce and this in turn reduces hair growth. Men have more testosterone than women, but hair thinning, and baldness can still happen for women, particularly in senior years. Saw palmetto works in the same way for women as it does for men, inhibiting 5-alpha reductase in the scalp and preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT.

Hirsutism in Women

Where excess DHT reduces hair follicles in the scalp, it has the opposite effect on hair follicles in other parts of the body. This results in the condition known as hirsutism, characterised by the growth of course hairs on the body. Some women may experience sudden excess hair growth on their abdomen, face, and arms. Saw palmetto’s ability to block DHT and regulate hormonal balance has the potential to reduce or prevent the growth of excess body hair for women.

Acne

Hormones are known to play a major part in the onset of acne and studies have shown that sebum-producing glands are stimulated by androgen hormones produced in the skin. DHT is one of these androgens and can be found in sebaceous glands. This indicates that excess DHT may lead to an over-production of sebum. Although sebum is needed to protect skin and keep it moist, when there is too much it can clog pores, leading to blemishes that result in acne.

Doctors may suggest using saw palmetto to treat hormonal acne, both as an oral supplement and in a topical form that can be applied to the skin’s surface.

Menopause

Clinically, a woman reaches menopause one year after her last period and this happens when the ovaries cease to create oestrogen and progesterone, the reproductive hormones. This stage in life can bring with it a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. These can include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods, sometimes very heavy and sometimes scanty
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings
  • Hair loss
  • Insomnia

Although testosterone levels decrease with age, they don’t decline as drastically as oestrogen and progesterone during menopause. It has been found that saw palmetto can interact with oestrogen receptors and help support hormonal balance during this time. Read more about symptoms of menopause.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A hormone disorder where enlarged ovaries have fluid surrounding the eggs and this results in the ovaries malfunctioning. This creates a hormone imbalance and can lead to prolonged or infrequent menstrual periods and increased androgen levels, possibly contributing to hirsutism and severe acne. If not deal with, PCOS can result in a variety of serious issues such as infertility, mood disorders, sleep problems and metabolic syndrome.

Studies have found that saw palmetto extract may be beneficial for women with PCOS. Saw palmetto’s active ingredients – fatty acids known as liposterols, comprising lauric, oleic, myristic and linoleic acids. These are known to inhibit 5-alpha reductase, thereby blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. It is DHT which is believed to contribute to hirsutism and alopecia linked with PCOS.

Potential Side Effects of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a natural supplement generally considered to be safe. However, there are, very rarely, some reported side effects, namely, headache, dizziness, nausea, and constipation.

Saw palmetto can interfere with blood thinning medication so if you are taking warfarin (trade name Jantoven), steer clear of saw palmetto as it could increase bleeding risk.

During pregnancy or nursing, saw palmetto should be avoided because it may alter hormone levels. For this reason, it is also inadvisable to take it alongside hormone replacement therapy or hormonal contraception medication. Read more.

If you have underlying health conditions, or if you are on regular prescribed medication, it would be wise to check with your doctor that it’s okay to take saw palmetto.

Professional Help for Prostate Concerns

There are various organisations where professional urologist are available to supply helpful advice if you are unsure about any aspect of prostate health:

https://www.justanswer.co.uk/sip/urology/treatment

https://prostatecanceruk.org/get-support

Our Promise

When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we at Supplement Place are here for you and aim to help where we can.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.