Most men don’t give their prostate a second thought– that is, until there’s a problem. If you or someone you love suffers from an enlarged prostate, you’re not alone. More than 14 million men in the United States experience annoying urinary symptoms of an enlarged prostate every year.1
Let’s take a closer look at prostate problems and what you can do about them.
The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that’s positioned just below a man’s bladder. During sexual activity, this gland produces the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation.
The prostate is controlled by powerful hormones, such as testosterone. Within the prostate, testosterone is converted to another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).2 High levels of DHT cause cells in the prostate to enlarge.
Prostate Enlargement is Common
According to Harvard Medical School, it’s common for a man’s prostate gland to enlarge as he ages.
They report that half of all men will have an enlarged prostate by age 60. By age 85, the numbers explode to nine out of ten men.3 In other words, if you’re a man, one day you’ll experience an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
Myths About Prostate Problems
Now, some people wrongly believe that an enlarged prostate increases your risk of getting prostate cancer or suffering from sexual dysfunction. The evidence for this is mixed. Medical authorities do not list BPH as a risk factor for prostate cancer.
But let’s be frank: An enlarged prostate can affect your quality of life, especially since the hallmark symptoms of BPH are frequent urination, difficulty stopping and starting your stream, as well as burning and pain. Probably the most annoying aspect of the frequent urination is having to get up several times each night to use the bathroom.
This sleep disruption may be the most sinister and dangerous side effect of BPH. Sound, deep sleep is essential to good health. Disrupted sleep increases the risk of cancer and dementia.
In short: BPH is not a minor problem.
What to Do If You Think You’re Suffering From BPH
Your first line of defense is a visit to the doctor who can check your symptoms, examine the size of your prostate during a digital rectal exam (DRE), and administer a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
While these tests are a good start, your doctor may order other tests such as urinalysis (to rule out infection), abdominal ultrasound or other imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Whether you’re already suffering symptoms of an enlarged prostate or you’re hoping to prevent the onset of BPH, there is some great news. A number of nutrients can positively impact the size and function of your prostate.
It turns out that a diet rich in certain vitamins and minerals can help keep your prostate healthy and lower your risk for BPH, or at least slow down prostate growth because of their effects on testosterone.
Research shows that a meat-and-dairy rich diet can increase the risk of prostate enlargement and cancer. Researchers found that this was especially true if a man doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Side note: A healthy balanced diet is also a great way to combat obesity, which is a known risk factor for BPH.
Meet Your Prostate’s Favorite Foods
- Sesame seeds: How did this popular bagel topper make the list? It’s rich in zinc, which is essential to prostate health. A study published in the Indian Journal of Urology observed that men with either BPH or prostate cancer had lower levels of zinc in their bodies, sometimes up to 75 percent lower than peers with healthy prostates. You can also find plenty of zinc in almonds and pumpkin seeds. If eating handfuls of seeds isn’t your thing, a number of prostate support supplements contain pumpkin seed extract.4
- Tomatoes: Whether it’s in a soup or ladled on spaghetti, tomatoes are your prostate’s best friend. That’s because they’re packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that supports cells in the prostate gland. As it turns out, cooking tomatoes is better than eating them raw. That’s because cooking helps release lycopene to make it more available to your body. Like pumpkin seed, lycopene is also available in supplement form. That’s what I recommend, because you would have to consume an enormous number of tomatoes to get a therapeutic dose of lycopene.
- Greens: Sure, all vegetables have their benefits, but leafy greens – such as spinach and collards – are especially beneficial. In one study of nearly 1,000 men, researchers found that those who ate more leafy greens had a 34 percent lower risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.5
- Tofu: Consumption of unfermented soy foods such as tofu, soymilk and edamame have been shown to reduce BPH growth and decrease cancerous cell growth in the prostate. 6,7 And another study found soy isoflavones help with lower urinary tract symptoms from BPH.8 Soy isoflavones can also be found in supplement form. Soy is somewhat controversial. A few alternative doctors believe the phyto-estrogens in soy function the same way as human estrogens, meaning that in effect you’re consuming female hormones. I think soy is safe for men to consume.
A healthy diet and the right nutritional supplementation is a great first step in managing an enlarged prostate.
However, you may also consider other lifestyle tweaks as well. For example, managing stress, avoiding fluids in the evening to reduce nighttime bathroom trips and practicing pelvic floor and bladder training exercises to strengthen your pelvic region and improve urinary control and comfort.