Updated: May 15, 2019
Nearly half of men over the age of 45 suffer from at least some degree of prostate enlargement or Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH). In fact, men of African descent (especially Caribbean), compared to white men, are two times more likely to have greater prostate enlargement and die from prostate cancer. It is also known that Men of an African descent are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in a more advanced or progressively harmful stage than other races. Why is this so prevalent in our community? Well, before we figure that out we first must understand what a prostate is and possible risk factors leading to its enlargement.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a male reproductive gland that is located near the outlet of the urinary bladder and surrounds the urethra. Normally, the prostate is identical to the size of a walnut. However, in many men, middle age or older, the prostate gland starts to grow a little, but in some cases the prostate may become more inflamed than usual.
If the enlarged prostate is benign (non-cancerous), the condition is medically known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In some men, the enlarged prostate squeezes the urethra, partially blocking the flow of urine, causing problems of the bladder, the kidneys and the urinary tract. This can further lead to complications including infections, kidney stones, and urinary retention.
The main function of the prostate is to secrete prostate fluid which is important in fertility. This fluid is what nourishes and protects the sperm as it travel through a woman’s reproductive organs (after ejaculation during intercourse) and encourages fertilization of a woman’s ovum (egg). Therefore, if the function of the prostate declines, this process may not be carried out appropriately.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
There may be several reasons, lifestyle and physiological, that may be the cause of prostatic tissue growth, but it seems to be mostly associated with age related hormonal changes and the imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. Other suspected risk factors are:
Family History. A man is more likely to suffer from BPH if his father or brother has prostate dysfunction or inflammation.
Chronic conditions and medication use. Chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, as well as the use of medications, may worsen the symptoms associated with BPH.
Medications That Worsen BPH Symptoms:
Diuretics used for high blood pressure may worsen symptoms of urine frequency.
Older Generation Antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants including amitriptyline, have shown in some studies to increase the risk of urinary retention.
Antihistamines, such a Benadryl, used to treat allergic reactions may prevent the bladder from contracting which will reduce urine flow.
Decongestants such as Sudafed are often used to treat cold symptoms. These medications tighten the muscles in the bladder and prostate, making it difficult to urinate.
NSAIDs such as Advil or aspirin may cause worsening of prostate symptoms. However, studies have shown conflicting research regarding the effects of these medications on the prostate.
Aging. BPH is rare in men under 40 years of age. By the age of 60 years, about 33% of the male population experience moderate to severe symptoms and by 80 years old about 50% of men have BPH.
Lifestyle Choices. Obesity has been found to increase the risk of developing BPH, while exercise seems to lower the risk.
Obesity. Men with excessive fat tissue are at a greater risk because fat carries extra estrogen. Increase levels of estrogen in a man’s body, usually leads to decrease level of testosterone, which may contribute to prostate tissue growth.
Nutritional Deficiencies. Mineral deficiencies such as zinc have been linked to the development of tissue growth in men.
Hormonal Changes. Naturally as men become older testosterone levels decline while estrogen levels in men increase. Some research states that the balance between estrogen and testosterone is the leading factor behind prostatic tissue growth.
Diet Choice. A diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber, increases the risk of prostate enlargement and cancer.
Greatest Ethnicity at Risk
Poorly managed benign prostatic hyperplasia may possibly increase the chance of malignancy of the prostate. Men of African descent (especially Caribbean) with BPH have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men in other population groups. In fact, studies show that Black Men are at a 2.2 times greater risk of the diagnosis of prostate cancer at some point during a lifetime. Therefore, they have a greater need for education and early screening and detection) than other men. But why? There are speculations that men of an African descent are genetically inclined to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer, but many studies show that environmental factors such as toxin exposure, a poor diet and other lifestyle choices further increases the chance of a decline in prostate health.
Symptoms of BPH
Symptoms of benign prostate enlargement vary depending on an individual’s predispositions and environmental factors, but they usually worsen with time. Common signs and symptoms of BPH include:
Trouble in starting urination
Weak urine stream
Urination that starts and stops
Urgent need to urinate
More frequent urination at night
Dribbling at the end of passing urine
Failure to completely empty the bladder
Urinary tract infection (less common)
Inability to urinate (less common)
Blood in the urine (less common)
When it comes to diagnosing BPH, doctors usually pay close attention to the history of patient. As the symptoms are reported to a PCP or specialist during a visit, the most important complaints to consider are: trouble starting urination, always feeling a “urge” to urinate, and even frequent urination.
Unless an individual is actively complaining of the above symptoms, testing for BPH usually will not begin until a certain age is reached depending on the individual’s ethnicity. However, since Men of the African descent are at a greater risk of prostate dysfunction, it is recommended that screening of the prostate begin as early as 40 years old and no later than 50 years old. Several tests are available to help your doctor make a diagnosis. Among the most common tests used in making a BPH diagnosis include a digital rectal exam (palpating the prostate through the rectum with a finger), prostate specific antigen (PSA) test (a blood draw), and a rectal ultrasound (imaging).
Medical treatment of BPH depends primarily of the severity of the symptoms that the client is experiencing.
If a man does not complain of severe symptoms association with BPH, the doctor might delay invasive and pharmacological treatment and instead recommend pelvic strengthening exercises, alcohol and caffeine reduction and for the client to reduce fluid intake just before bedtime.
For mild to moderate symptoms, the doctor might suggest (1) medication that relaxes the muscles in the prostate and the bladder, (2) medication that shrinks the prostate or (3) a combination of the two.
If the problem is severe the doctor might remove part or all the prostate using a minimally invasive procedure to avoid further growth and malignancy development .
Alternative Management & Prevention
Although having benign prostate hyperplasia may seem like a troubling health condition, it can respond pretty well to natural treatment including lifestyle changes, dietary changes and herbal remedies. The natural treatment options have shown to be effective at reducing prostate swelling, balancing male hormones and reducing inflammation. However, if symptoms don't improve within a few days, it is best to consult a holistic health care practitioner or physician for further examination.
A diet based on whole foods that provider plenty of fiber helps to regulate normal hormone levels of the body. Eating organic whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and lean proteins will ensure optimal health and reduce inflammation associated with sensitive tissues such as the prostate.
Foods to Eat
In order to potentiate prostate health, ensure the intake of the food items below in your next meal prep.
Peppers: Bell peppers have higher levels of vitamin C than any other food, so they may help to reduce swelling and inflammation connected to enlarged prostate. Jalapeno peppers have high capsaicin content which have been found to kill cancer cells. It is therefore advisable to eat a range of peppers daily to prevent BPH and prostate cancer.
Tomatoes are the best food for prostate health. They contain lycopene, a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that lowers the blood level of the prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is a protein connected to prostate inflammation and BPH. Because lycopene in raw tomatoes is difficult to digest, it is advisable to eat cooked and processed tomatoes. In a number of studies, those who ate a lot of tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce and pizza had a remarkably lower risk of developing prostate cancer and the prostate, and in some cases, it shrunk.
Garlic, contains alliums and other compounds which give it medicinal properties and it has been used traditionally for various ailments. Studies have shown that eating garlic regularly can reduce risks of developing BPH and it relieves urinary tract infections caused by the enlarged prostate.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, kale and cabbage contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane that lowers the risk of prostate cancer.
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of zinc which men lose during every seminal emission and of which men with BPH have a deficiency. Men with prostatitis have been found to have 90% lower levels of zinc than men with healthy prostates. Other foods high in zinc: chickpeas, cacao, cashew, spinach, grass fed non GMO beef, organic chicken and mushrooms.
Raw nuts, especially Brazil nuts, are rich in vitamin E and selenium which make them anti-cancer superfoods. One study done over 5 years found that daily consumption of selenium reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 63%.
Flaxseeds and oil. These items are high in essential fatty acids, which have astounding anti-inflammatory properties. Flax also carries a phytonutrient known as lignan, which balance estrogen in the male body.
Oily fish such as mackerel, trout, sardines, salmon and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
Foods to Avoid
When it comes to male hormone and reproductive health, it is important to also avoid foods that can potentially cause tissue growth and alter hormones. These foods usually include food items that are saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated.
Certain foods may lead to more inflammation and also have been linked to prostate disorders. Dietary changes only work when certain foods are avoided. To reduce inflammation and prevent BPH, avoid or reduce consumption of:
Red meat, eggs and poultry because they produce harmful acids in the body that lead to inflammation.
Processed and artificial foods because they are full of harmful chemicals that alter hormones and contribute to prostate inflammation.
Refined sugar because it may worsen hormone dysfunction and increase inflammation.
Caffeine has a diuretic effect on the body and increases the need to urinate. An enlarged prostate makes it difficult to empty the bladder, leading to bladder irritation.
Spicy foods like chili peppers, curries and hot sauces may cause major irritation and inflammation to the bladder and the colon.
Dairy which is high in animal saturated fats and inflammatory chemicals that potentiate inflammatory responses.
Alcohol, a well known irritant to the prostate, that also affects the integrity of tissues in the bladder.
Like women, men also benefit from pelvic strengthening exercises, commonly called Kegel exercises. These involve the tightening and relaxing of the muscles that control urine. One can start with one set of 10 reps two times per day, and gradually work up to one set of 20 reps three times per day.
In addition, staying active is good for general health and benefits the prostate as well. Walking, weight training, calisthenics, jogging, dancing and swimming are some of the exercises recommended for prostate health.
In the history of herbal medicine, that are several herbs that have shown promise for the benefit of the male body and organs. As men age, their hormonal balance change with testosterone decreasing and estrogen increasing. Therefore, it is important to maintain a normal balance between the two so that the male functions can be appropriated. Most herbs for men prostate health are geared toward reducing inflammation, balancing estrogen and testosterone and getting rid of toxins.
Saw Palmetto is thought to be effective at shrinking the size of the prostate and potentiating prostate health. It appears to reduce hormonal stimulation of the prostatic tissue, which hereby reduces tissue growth.
Stinging Nettle Root is known as the "long life" herb as it is rich in iron, calcium, potassium, silicon, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and chromium as well as others. Because of its nutrient dense properties, nettle is thought to relieve some symptoms of BPH.
Green Tea is rich in a number of antioxidants that are known to fight inflammation around sensitive organs such as the prostate.
Ashwagandha is an ancient ayurvedic herb that serves as an awesome adaptogenic. It is primary classified as a male tonic herb and know to enhance energy while soothing the (prostatic) tissues.
In addition to medicinal herbs for prostate health, there is also promising benefits with the use of several natural supplements, minerals and vitamins. These naturopathic alternatives have shown to reduce prostate dysfunction and restore prostate homeostasis :
Beta-sitosterol: take 60 to 130 mg daily. Studies show that this phytonutrient improves symptoms of BPH
Selenium and lycopene contributes to healthy prostate function.
Pygeum: take 160-200 mg daily of a product standardized to 13 percent total sterols. Pygeum is an extract that comes from an African Tree Bark which has shown effectiveness in reducing prostate enlargement.
Rye Pollen: take extract as directed. This extract reduce symptoms of BPH
Zinc: 100 mg daily for 2 months then 50mg as maintenance dose. Take 3 mg of copper with zinc to potentiate the effects of zinc.
Essential Fatty Acids: 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil or 3,000mg of fish oil (or omega 3) daily. These essentials help to reduce inflammation .
When it comes to the prostate, prevention is key! Men, particularly those of African descent (and especially Caribbean), should not wait until they have moderate to severe prostate problems. It is better to work on prevention and treatment in the beginning stages of prostate enlargement in order to prevent and even reverse enlargement naturally. All it really takes is lifestyle changes in diet and exercise ! Also, keep in mind that it is always wise to have urinary or prostate problems assessed by a trained professional (i.e. urologist or primary care provider) in order to rule out any underlying causes. If you experience more severe symptoms like weight loss, bone pain and blood in the urine, contact your medical doctor right away and schedule an appointment for an evaluation.
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