Enlarged prostate is a more or less normal part of aging in men. Normal because it affects a majority of men over the age of 50 and up to 90% of men over 80. But less normal because enlarged prostate affects quality of life, sometimes even quite drastically.
While enlarged prostate cannot be reversed, there are some completely natural ways to lessen its effects.
Most men have continued prostate growth throughout life
Toward the age of 40, and for the first time since adolescence, the prostate starts growing larger. We don’t really know why but, as always, we have a few hypotheses:
- Testosterone levels decrease with age and this “wakes” up the embryonic process of prostate development. While we don’t know if this hypothesis is true, we do know that the prostate starts to produce an enzyme that transforms testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (or DHT). This speeds up the growth and multiplication of prostate cells.
- Inflammation is a big part of prostate enlargement. But: is this inflammation a cause or a consequence? Again, we don’t know.
What are the signs of enlarged prostate?
The urethra runs through the middle of the prostate. This means that when prostate cells swell and multiply, the prostate increases in size and presses against the urethra. The majority of symptoms associated with enlarged prostate are caused by a narrowing of the urethra. The first signs are usually:
- Needing to get up at night to urinate
- Needing to urinate more often
Enlarged prostate can also interfere with sexual function. Studies show that men with enlarged prostates are twice as likely to suffer from sexual problems (for example, decreased libido or erectile dysfunction) than are men with normal prostates.
It is essential that men have their prostate checked regularly by a doctor because the symptoms of prostate cancer are the same as those of benign prostate enlargement. The doctor will feel the prostate to check that its texture is normal. An enlarged prostate should be made up of soft tissue. Any hardening signals the presence of malignant cells (cancer). The doctor will also order blood tests to check the level of PSA (prostate-specific antigen). A high PSA means some abnormality in the prostate, although not necessarily cancer.
Slowing the process of prostate enlargement
While we cannot stop time and the process of aging, we can sometimes slow its progress. Here are some simple ways:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight, especially in the abdomen, and a lack of physical activity increase the risk and worsen the symptoms of enlarged prostate. So get out and move! Take up a sport. And do it regularly – it’s better to walk or run every day then play hockey once a week. Not that hockey isn’t a great sport – it’s just that often it’s only played once a week. What’s needed is daily physical activity.
- Avoid cold drinks – room temperature or even hot is better.(Sorry about that nice ice-cold beer!)
- Limit coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, all of which are particularly bad for the prostate.
- Eat a diet low in fat and rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. This facilitates passage through the intestine and prevents pressure on the prostate.
- Choose good fats: fewer saturated fats and more essential fatty acids. Good sources are nuts, seeds and fish.
- Eat at least four portions of vegetables a day. This reduces the risk of enlarged prostate by 32%.
- Increase your intake of zinc-rich foods like shellfish, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pecans, fish and eggs.
The indigenous peoples of Florida have long used a plant native to their region for its impressive effects on the prostate and libido. The plant is saw palmetto, and its effectiveness is now recognized from the results of numerous scientific studies. An extract of its berries significantly reduces the urinary symptoms associated with enlarged prostate by stopping the process of cell proliferation and reducing inflammation.
Taken long term, it even leads to a reduction in prostate size. It also relieves the symptoms of sexual dysfunction. It is important to take saw palmetto extract in capsules because this is the only form in which the plant’s active ingredients (fatty acids) are preserved.
By eating well and staying active on a daily basis, and with a little help from saw palmetto, men should still be able to enjoy an ice-cold beer once in a while!