Prostatatis - Nutritional considerations

2 May 2015  |  Editor

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What is The Prostate Gland

The prostate is a small doughnut shaped male sex gland that surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra. Its major function is to contribute to seminal fluid.

Conditions That Affect The Prostate Gland

There are three main conditions that can affect the prostate gland. Prostatitis, common in men of all ages, means inflammation of the prostate gland. The usual causes are bacterial infection and hormonal changes in older men. The inflammation can result in urine retention which in turn can cause bladder, urethra and kidney infection.

Symptoms include pain, usually between the scrotum and rectum, difficulty in passing water, frequent urination with a burning sensation, dribbling after urination, feelings of fullness of the bladder, and blood or pus in the urine. Later symptoms can include lower back pain and impotence, with difficult urination.

Enlarged prostate, nowadays called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), is the gradual enlargement of the prostate. It occurs in over sixty percent of all men over the age of fifty, and three quarters of men over seventy years of age. The usual cause is hormonal changes causing overproduction of prostate cells. Eventually the enlarged prostate obstructs the urethra, so that complete emptying of the bladder becomes difficult. It also causes pressure on the kidneys. All the symptoms mentioned above for Prostatitis are also usual.

Left untreated, BPH gets worse with age, yet most men avoid seeing their doctor for fear it might be cancer. However, BPH is simple to treat with nutritional medicine before it ever develops into cancer. If you have any worries, don't be afraid to see the doctor, and follow the suggestions given below as well.

Prostate cancer is mainly a disease of ageing. Approximately 80 percent of all prostate cancer occurs in men over the age of 65, increasing in likelihood with age. Fortunately, although it is relatively common, in most cases prostate cancer is slow-growing, particularly in older men. The symptoms are similar to that of prostatitis (inflammation) and benign enlargement of the prostate (BPH), so a professional diagnosis must be made by your doctor via a rectal examination and a PSA test (blood test to detect elevated levels of a substance called prostate-specific antigen). These tests should be carried out on all men over the age of about 50, as early detection can often help stop the cancer spread to other sites.

Nutritional considerations for Prostatitis and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Once the Doctor has ruled out the possibility of cancer, it is possible to treat yourself with nutrition. It is important, however, to first have that check-up with the Doctor, and do check the contra-indications under the shopping section.

As men age there are many significant changes in hormone levels. Testosterone levels decrease after the age of fifty, while other hormones such as prolactin, oestradiol, LH, FSH and others are increased. This creates an increase in the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate. DHT is a very potent sex hormone derived from testosterone, and is responsible for the over production of prostate cells which cause the enlargement. Various hormonal changes prevent the excess DHT from being excreted. Furthermore, the increased prolactin causes further testosterone to be taken into the prostate, and the problem escalates.

So what has all this to do with nutrition you might ask?

A deficiency of zinc and essential fatty acids is known to be involved in those who produce too much DHT. Excess cholesterol also contributes to the problem,so it's wise to check your cholesterol levels and reduce if necessary.

These undesirable levels of prolactin are increased by beer and stress. Drugs that reduce prolactin reduce many of the symptoms of BHP. However, these drugs have severe side effects (such as impotence). It appears that the trace mineral zinc and vitamin B6 can reduce prolactin levels as well, yet produce no side effects at prescribed doses.

Zinc has been shown to reduce the size of the enlarged prostate and accompanying symptoms in the majority of cases. Not all forms of zinc are equally well absorbed, so it is important to choose a good quality supplement.Several factors in BPH suggest the use of zinc. Intestinal uptake of zinc is impaired by oestrogens (found in beer!). Since oestrogen levels are increased in men with BPH, zinc uptake may be low despite adequate dietary intake.Providing high quality zinc may compensate for oestrogen's depression of zinc uptake.

Alcohol also reduces zinc uptake and increases zinc excretion, leading to relative zinc deficiency. In addition, alcohol reduces active vitamin B6 levels which may further reduce zinc stores.

Because zinc competes with copper, iron, calcium and magnesium for absorption,if you are taking extra zinc, it is important you also take a good quality multi-mineral supplement which includes these.

The amino acids glycine, alanine and glutamic acid have also been shown to reduce symptoms of prostate problems.

Herbs have proven themselves to be very useful in managing early stages of BHP. You will need to continue taking them indefinitely to keep the symptoms in check.

Saw Palmetto inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to its more active form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and also blocks DHT from binding in the prostate.

Dietary recommendations for Prostatis

  • Follow a basically healthy diet and increase zinc containing foods such as seafood (especially oysters), pumpkin seeds, eggs and brewers yeast. Lean meat also contains zinc.
  • Reduce cholesterol (fried foods and most vegetable oils).
  • Eat organically grown food if possible, as pesticides can reduce zinc uptake and may even increase DHT.
  • Eat oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel,sardine and herring at least three times a week.
  • Drastically reduce or better still, eliminate,alcohol, especially beer.
  • Cut out sugar and caffeine (coffee, tea,coca-cola).
  • Drink at least 1½ litres of clean water per day. (At first symptoms may worsen, as the bladder has to adjust, but this will improve.
  • Eat ¼ - ½ cup of pumpkin seeds a day.