An enlarged prostate, also known in medical circles as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common problem in men, especially as they mature into their riper years.
Lower urinary tract symptoms, collectively known as LUTS in medical jargon, include the symptoms of BPH, a benign (non-cancerous) enlarged prostate: trouble urinating, bladder discomfort, difficulties with sexual function, etc. But you’ll be pleased to know that a few tweaks to your daily diet are likely to improve things at least a little.
A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that a higher dietary intake of carotenoids and vitamin C were associated with a decreased risk of LUTS. Here’s an interesting thing: the protective effect wasn’t seen with supplements, so popping vitamin pills just won’t cut any prostatic mustard here. In other words, you’ll have to do the munching for yourself.
What are carotenoids?
Carotenoids are the colourful stuff found in plants such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, mangos, apricots, peaches, pears, pineapple, nectarines and papaya. You might know them as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Our bodies use them as antioxidants and they are good for protecting the eyes as well as the prostate.
Get your finger(s) on the pulse(s)
An 11-year study done in Italy showed that men whose diet favoured processed cereals and some types of meat while being low in vegetables and pulses—also known as legumes, they include beans, soybeans, lentils, peanuts and other groundnuts—suffered more from BPH symptoms. The research involved nearly 3,000 men and examined their diet in great detail. Citrus fruit was also found to be helpful in alleviating the severity of symptoms.
There are so many to choose from: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, satsumas, tangelos, ugli fruit, kumquats, limes, lemons... Take your pick!
A diet high in vegetables and low in saturated fat appears to be a sensible way to minimize the problems associated with BPH symptoms. The saturated fats to avoid are those from fatty meats and heavily processed meat products, so shun the salami, sausages and bacon, and keep lamb and beef intake moderate. Healthy fats are found in such foods as:
- Unsalted, unroasted nuts
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Flaxseed oil
- Salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, tuna
Nuts to the prostate
During puberty, the prostate gland is about the size of an almond. It then grows to around the size of a walnut in adulthood. Later in life, inflammatory pressures from diet add to the general inflammatory processes that cause the prostate to enlarge. Switching to some of the healthy fats, like found in nuts, instead of the less healthy (more inflammatory) fats found in red meat and highly processed meat products helps reduce some of the inflammatory pressure on your prostate.
More veggies please
Vegetables are a very smart food group to embrace enthusiastically at this point, even if you’ve previously found them to be uninspiring. According to the research, four or more servings of vegetables a day can reduce your symptoms considerably. Two vegetables in some soup at lunchtime and another two served with your meal in the evening and you’re done!
They fill you up, they’re easy to cook, and assuming you don’t slather them in butter or deep fry them, they won’t make you fat. This is important because the fatter you are, the worse your BPH symptoms will be. Put a full colour spectrum of vegetables on your plate each day and reap the rewards on your waistline and your urinary tract.
TIP: Don’t overcook your vegetables, as many vitamins and nutrients, especially vitamin C, are degraded by heat. And make sure they’re fresh: fruits and vegetables that lie around become limp and mouldy, and as they do, they lose their nutrients.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Finally, just to cheer you on as you contemplate your plant-based, ‘nutty’ and delicious future diet, keep in mind that moderate alcohol consumption—that means no more than two drinks a day—is associated with lower BPH risk. Enjoy!
Maserejian NM et al. Journal of Nutrition 2011; 141: 267-73
Bravi BF et al. Urology 2006; 67: 73-79