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Prostate issues are some of the biggest health concerns for men today. In 2017, it is estimated that more than 162,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 26,000 will die. Other prostate problems can’t be ignored: Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis (prostate inflammation) result in pain, discomfort, and inconvenience, impacting quality of life. But there is good news. A number of integrative solutions can support prostate health, identify and reduce prostate cancer risks, and even fight aggressive cancer. More importantly, lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, and stress relief, can reduce risks of prostate cancer and support prostate and overall health.
It’s not just cancer that affects the prostate. BPH, prostatitis, and other prostate issues are increasingly common. Symptoms, such as pain in the groin area and difficult or frequent urination, often overlap-so getting the right diagnosis is critical. Some of the tests outlined below can help clarify these issues. Prostatitis doesn’t necessarily indicate cancer, but it can increase the risks by promoting inflammation, abnormal cellular growth, and other factors.
For years, men over age 40 were encouraged to get regular prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests to screen for prostate cancer. High PSA levels were once thought to indicate prostate cancer. But large-scale studies now suggest that the PSA test isn’t the gold-standard detection method we once thought it was. For example, it doesn’t differentiate between aggressive and nonaggressive tumors. This is an important distinction, because many slow-growing prostate cancers might give a high PSA reading, even though they aren’t high-risk tumors.
But based on an elevated PSA result, patients often undergo invasive procedures (such as biopsy) that disturb the surrounding tissue. A rare complication of prostate biopsy is the “seeding” of the biopsy needle path with cells from the biopsied tumor. Furthermore, the PSA test often doesn’t detect aggressive tumors early enough.
This doesn’t mean that PSA is useless. It simply means we need to look at elevated PSA levels together with additional information to determine the best approach for each person. Other tests can help.
High PSA levels were once thought to indicate prostate cancer. But studies now suggest that the PSA test isn’t the gold standard we once thought it was.
Galectin-3: A New Test
Galectin-3 is a protein produced in the body and is known as an important biomarker and driver of many chronic diseases. When present at normal levels, galectin-3 regulates cellular growth and cell-to-cell communication. However, elevated galectin-3 levels fuel inflammation, fibrosis, and tumor development, proliferation, and metastasis, and also suppress immunity. And because galectin-3 aggressively fuels chronic inflammation, it can serve as an active marker for prostatitis and BPH.
A study published in 2009 in The American Journal of Pathology showed that reducing levels of galectin-3 inhibited prostate cancer metastasis. And a 2013 study in Oncotarget reported galectin-3 to be a useful test for measuring prostate cancer risk and progression, alongside the PSA test. The researchers reported that prostate cancer patients had elevated levels of galectin-3 in the circulation.
What can you do to promote healthy galectin-3 expression in the body?
Modified Citrus Pectin
Modified citrus pectin (MCP) is currently gaining increased recognition in the scientific literature because it is the most-researched galectin-3 blocker, now shown in numerous peer-reviewed studies to bind and block excess galectin-3. Because of this unique ability, MCP can halt and even reverse the devastating damage caused by galectin-3. Importantly, MCP has also been shown in clinical studies to benefit prostate cancer patients and reduce PSA. For more information about MCP, read New Twist on Health: Modified Citrus Pectin for Cancer, Heart Disease and More, by health writer and cancer survivor Karolyn Gazella.
A Proactive Approach to Care
A key principle in integrative approaches to prostate health is “maximum diagnosis, minimum intervention.” That means we gather as much information as possible to assess a patient’s prostate health, and from there, we start with the least-invasive approaches. From an integrative standpoint, this means adopting habits that reduce prostate risks. While there is no such thing as 100 percent prevention, certain foods, supplements, and lifestyle factors can strengthen defenses against prostate problems, including cancer. This proactive approach differs than the passive, “watch and wait” protocol, because it empowers patients to take control of their prostate issues with solutions that also support overall health.
Why Diet Is So Important
The first step toward preventing and treating prostate cancer is to control diet. Avoid the “Western diet,” high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and processed ingredients that promote inflammation, damage DNA, and fuel numerous diseases. Instead, emphasize lean and plant-based proteins, whole grains, and organic fruits and vegetables.
Several studies have linked high-fat diets to cancer progression. A study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies showed that men with recurrent prostate cancer could lower (or slow down) their PSA levels by switching to a plant-based diet.
Follow a low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet of nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods that don’t spike blood sugar, such as low-starch vegetables, plant protein, and lots of fiber. Emphasize cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage, which have high levels of the phytonutrients associated with prostate cancer prevention. Cruciferous vegetables also detoxify cancer-causing compounds from the body and help metabolize hormones.
Stress Plays a Role in Cancer
The relationship between stress and cancer growth is well supported by research. For example, a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found a direct link between chronic stress and prostate cancer progression.
There are a variety of nonpharmaceutical ways to alleviate stress, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation. These mind-body practices have the added advantage of improving immunity, reducing inflammation, and increasing overall health. One recent study showed that yoga practice improves immune cell function at the genetic level. Meditation is also shown to improve quality of life in patients with prostate and other cancers.
Exercise is essential in reducing risks of prostate cancer. Numerous studies have compared activity levels with prostate cancer risk and found a direct link.
In addition to reducing stress, regular exercise helps balance hormones, enhances immunity, and boosts vital energy-all critical for supporting prostate health and fighting prostate cancer.
Prostate Health Supplements
A supplement program for prostate cancer or other prostate issues should emphasize ingredients that promote prostate health, reduce inflammation, detoxify the body, balance hormones, and provide antioxidant support. Such a program can address prostate issues from multiple angles while supporting the overall health of the patient-a key strategy in integrative medicine.
Some of my top recommendations for prostate health are medicinal mushrooms, which offer remarkable benefits on multiple levels. Medicinal mushrooms optimize immune function, control inflammation, and provide antioxidant support. They also detoxify the body. But most importantly, mushrooms have been specifically shown to fight cancer, including prostate cancer. Top varieties include maitake, mesima, reishi, and turkey tail.
Quercetin is another key supplement for prostate health. Part of the flavonoid family, quercetin is a powerful antioxidant found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and even red wine. Apples are an excellent food source. A number of studies have shown that quercetin inhibits cancer cell growth in different types of cancer, including prostate cancer. There is also research showing that quercetin can help with prostatitis, perhaps due to its immune-supporting, anti-inflammatory benefits.
A clinical study presented at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting showed that a combination of pomegranate, green tea, broccoli, and turmeric (in supplement form) slowed the rise of PSA in men with prostate cancer.
The data is impressive: Numerous supplements are shown to support prostate health. In my practice, I recommend a botanical blend that includes ingredients mentioned above, along with other important herbs and nutrients such as saw palmetto and stinging nettle.
It’s also important to take a multivitamin daily. Minerals such as zinc and magnesium play a role in maintaining prostate and immune health. Look for multis that contain a full-spectrum of minerals.
Prostate health is not something to seek out only when symptoms arise. It should be a way of life. Smart choices such as packing a nutritious lunch, following a targeted supplement plan, taking a long walk, or enjoying more time with friends and family don’t just support prostate health. These small decisions have a cumulative impact on overall well-being.
1. Gaia Herbs
2. Mushroom Wisdom
3. Natural Vitality
Organic Life Vitamins Raspberry-Cranberry
4. Source Naturals
5. Terry Naturally