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When it comes to prostate health, the most common concern for men is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an age-associated condition that involves enlargement of the prostate gland. As men age, their likelihood of developing BPH and associated symptoms increases dramatically. This common condition affects approximately 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60. And roughly 90 percent of men over age 80 have this condition.
When BPH occurs, it reduces urine flow, which causes a variety of troublesome symptoms. Men with BPH often experience waking up multiple times at night to urinate, frequent or urgent need to urinate, waiting for the urine flow to occur while standing at the toilet, a slow urinary stream, dribbling at the end of urination, and the inability to empty their bladders completely.
Men with severe cases of BPH can end up with urinary retention and hospitalization or surgery. Pharmaceuticals are often used to treat BPH, but they carry risks such as sexual dysfunction, breast enlargement, fatigue, decreased libido, and headache.
Why Do So Many Men Get BPH?
There is no single cause of BPH; instead, there are several different causes, including genetic factors. However, one thing that researchers can agree on is that as men age, changes in hormone levels affect prostate enlargement. Research has mainly focused on testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, progesterone, and estrogen.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a metabolite of testosterone, is associated with BPH. Prostate gland tissue contains the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT. The production of estrogen is primarily controlled by the enzyme known as aromatase. Aromatase converts the hormone androstenedione (synthesized by the testicles and adrenal glands) into the estrogen known as estradiol. Also, aromatase converts testosterone into estradiol from fat and muscle cells.
Men tend to accumulate fat as they age, which provides more aromatase activity. There is a direct correlation between increasing obesity in men and increased aromatase activity.
Nutritional Imbalances & BPH
All of these are associated with an increased risk of BPH:
- High intakes of animal protein;
- A high-calorie diet;
- High-saturated fat diet and cholesterol intake;
- Insufficient consumption of omega-3 fatty acids; and
- Vitamin D deficiency.
And the combination of obesity, reduced physical activity, and poor diet is known to increase the risk of symptomatic BPH and lower urinary tract symptoms.
Follow a Mediterranean Diet
Fortunately, dietary changes and targeted nutritional supplements can help. A modified Mediterranean Diet that is low in simple carbohydrates (refined grains) and red meat, and plentiful in vegetables, ground whole flaxseeds, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish is often helpful in treating BPH.
did you know … Many American men choose nonsurgical options for the treatment of BPH, including 40 percent of men who use herbal supplements alone or with other medications.
Best Supplements for BPH
Research has demonstrated that beta-sitosterol reduces BPH symptoms, including urinary symptom scores and flow measures, better than placebo. A study of 200 men with BPH who were given either 20 mg of beta-sitosterol three times daily or a placebo showed improvements in urinary flow for participants on the supplement, while the placebo group did not experience improvements. Try: NOW Clinical Strength Prostate Health.
Rye-grass flower pollen extract has been an herbal treatment in Europe for many decades. And several studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of BPH. For example, in a 12-week study of men with BPH, supplementing with a patented rye pollen extract (Cernitin) at a dosage of 126 mg three times daily resulted in an overall improvement of symptom scores of 85 percent. Symptoms that were significantly improved included urgency, difficult urination, nocturia, incomplete emptying, prolonged voiding, delayed voiding, intermittency, and dribbling at the end of urination. Try: Life Extension Ultra Prostate Formula.
Saw palmetto has several mechanisms that likely are responsible for reducing BPH symptoms. In prostate tissue, saw palmetto inhibits the conversion of testosterone into DHT, has anti-estrogenic effects, and inhibits binding to the prostate extracellular receptors. Saw palmetto works best in treating mild-to-moderate symptoms of early-stage BPH. About 90 percent of men with mild-to-moderate symptoms of BPH notice an improvement within 4–6 weeks of daily supplementation with 320 mg of a standardized saw palmetto extract. Try: Doctor’s Best Saw Palmetto Standardized Extract.
According to researchers who examined Pycnogenol’s (pine bark extract) effects in a placebo-controlled study, “BPH symptoms like emptying, frequency, intermittency, urgency, weak flow, straining, and nocturia, were all significantly improved with Pycnogenol, and the difference with both control groups was statistically significant.” For example, bladder emptying improved by 42 percent in the treatment group compared to 9 percent in the control group. Also, the frequency of urination was reduced by 37 percent in the treatment group compared to 12 percent in the control group. Try: Bluebonnet Pycnogenol 100 mg.
- 7 Super Foods for Prostate Health
- How to Get Started on the Mediterranean Diet
- Men’s Health Handbook