Benign Hypetrophic Prostate (BHP) also called enlarged prostate is a more than an annoying occurrence for many men over age 50 and even younger men sometimes. The exact causes of BPH are not known but it involves the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is formed in the prostate gland from testosterone. Men and women both produce the hormones estrogen and teatosterone with men producing greater levels of testosterone and women producing greater levels of estrogen. With the aging process the levels decline and hormones become unbalanced with each other. For men as testosterone declines then the amount of estrogen in the body is relatively greater than it once was. The theory is that as estrogen increases it works in synergy with DHT to cause excessive growth of the prostate cells known as hyperplasia or hypertrophy. What is known for sure is the inconvenience the symptoms cause. For example – wrecking a good nights sleep by causing urinary urgency and difficulty emptying the bladder. It can also interfere with your sex life too. Although it’s not usually considered dangerous or pre-cancerous it is a very irritating condition which is tedious and inconvenient to put up with.
Drugs that are used to alleviate the symptoms include 5 alpha reductase blockers. This is an enzyme used by the body to convert testosterone to DHT. There are other pharmaceuticals that also well to ameliorate these symptoms of BHP. And if that doesn’t work there is surgery. As with all drugs (and herbs) there is a risk. A detailed view of the drugs, efficacy and side effects of the pharmaceuticals can be found at this site. Surgery is a last resort because it can damage nerves and can then cause impotence. Relief might be as close as your kitchen cupboard, the health food shop and your own backyard. There’s evidence that what you put in your mouth can help you with the symptoms of BHP. Even acting as a 5 alpha reductase, as pharmaceuticals do, and more.
Pumpkin seeds also called pepitas are really effective at reducing night time frequency of urination. There are a range of nutrients involved in prostate health and pumpkin seeds contain several of them. Zinc is abundant in pumpkin seeds. Adequate zinc is necessary for prostate health and can reduce the size of the prostate. Androgens are a form of hormone and zince is needed for androgen metabolism. As estrogen levels increase in men, so zinc absorption decreases because estrogen inhibits absorption of zinc. Supplementing with zinc is controversial because high levels of zinc have been shown to promote prostate cancer. As is mostly the case, food is best. Besides – high doses of zinc will likely make you nauseas. Pumpkin seeds also are full of phytosterols and contain a compound called delta-7-sternine that competes with DHT at binding sites of the prostate cell. Less binding means less uptake of DHT. If you suffer from enlarged prostate symptoms you definitely need to give pumpkin seeds a try. Get the raw ones because the fat in them gets altered with roasting and is no longer healthy for you. They are a great source of essential fatty acids, which the prostate also needs. You can get pumpkin seeds from your local health food store, and of course, save them yourself from the pumpkins you buy this fall. You can dry them out and save them. For me, pumpkin seeds are a delicious treat and practically the best part of the pumpkin!
Flax Seeds contain lignans help the prostate. Plant lignans are precursors to human lignans that are formed in the gut with the action of gut bacteria. These are important to prostate health. Lignans help protect the prostate from the undesirable effects of estrogen. The best source of lignans is flaxseed (just by the way, I do NOT recommend flax seed oil for men – it has been associated with prostate cancer – the ground up seeds are OK though). Sesame seeds contain lignans, and so do a few other fruits and vegetables, but the amounts are small. Flax seed is your best source.
Tomatoes and Watermelon contain Lycopene. There are controversial reports about this. Recently we heard how one of the fatty acids in fish oil – DHA may promote an aggressive prostate cancer. It turns out that Beta Carotene in high doses may do that too. Lypcopene is a beta carotene so its probably not a good idea to invest in lycopene supplements. Normal inclusion via food is the best way to go. The case for lycopene having a protective effect may only be valid with the other phytochemicals and antioxidants that are included in the foods. One study reports that 50 grams of tomato paste per day significantly reduced the levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen) in men with benign prostate hypertrophy. If eating this much tomato paste every day seems like a lot, you could mix it with a glass of water and drink it. Add a splash of worstershire sauce to give it a bit of a buzz. Follow it with a brazil nut because brazil nuts are a good source of selenium which the prostate needs too and the fat in the brazil nuts will help with the absorption of lycopene.
Vitamin D is emerging as an important vitamin in many many areas of health including the prostate. Vitamin D is not found in all that many foods and is one vitamin that it’s worth taking a supplement for. Vitamin D is mainly formed in by the action of the sun on our skin. Most of us do not get enough sunshine. It used to be thought that 20 minutes per day on your arms and shoulders would be enough (for Caucasian people, darker skinned people require longer), but it turns out that you need 30 minutes spent in the sun, in a bathing suit every day of the summer – to get enough sunlight to synthesise adequate levels of vitamin D. Synthesizing all the forms of vitamin D from your body requires a complex sequence of chemical reactions. Sun hits the skin and cholecalciferol is formed, from this compound calcidiol is formed, and from this compound calcitriol is formed. A lack of vitamin D is thought to increase the chances of BPH because without enough vitamin D, you can’t make enough calcitriol and calcitriol is needed to inhibit the growth of prostate cells. On a cautionary note, you need to know what you are doing with Vitamin D and I will talk about that on an upcoming blog. If you want to look at the most current information on Vitamin D then go here
That will do for now because this is a big topic…..in my next post I’m going to discuss herbal therapies for BHP that you can make yourself. It just requires gathering some herbs and a trip to the local health food shop and liquor store!
Suppression of growth and invasive behavior of human prostate cancer cells by ProstaCaidTM: Mechanism of activity.
Effect of the consumption of tomato paste on plasma prostate-specific antigen levels in patients with benign prostate hyperplasia. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2006 Aug;39(8):1115-9.