In the Western world it’s almost a given that men over the age of 45 develop symptoms of prostate problems. These problems fall into three categories:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – non-cancerous prostate enlargement
- Prostatitis – inflammation of the prostate
- Prostate cancer
An alarming number of men progress through all three of these problem states.
The prostate is a walnut sized gland located just below a man’s bladder. Its role is to produce an optimal portion of the seminal fluid that carries sperm. The prostate initially becomes active during puberty, and usually remains healthy until midlife when prostate enlargement signals the end of carefree days.
Why is prostate enlargement a problems? An enlarged prostate slowly develops a strangle hold on the urethra, and difficulties with urination and sexual dysfunction follow, including:
- frequent urination, particularly at night
- difficulty urinating
- inability to fully empty the bladder
- feeling of urgency to urinate
- burning sensation when urinating
- uncontrolled dribbling
- painful ejaculation
- pain behind the scrotum
Drugs to stop prostate enlargement have devastating side effects
As men enter midlife their hormone status begins to change, just as it does in women but the change is more subtle. The high level of testosterone that has kept them fit, virile, reproductive, and free of degenerative disease starts to drop, and some of what is left begins to be converted into other hormones, in this case dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It is DHT that powers prostate enlargement, and blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT is the goal of drugs that treat prostate enlargement.
Drugs such as finasteride and dutasteride have proven useful in reducing symptoms of prostate enlargement in patients with BPH, but that improvement comes at high cost, with such side effects as:
- loss of libido
- erectile dysfunction
- inability to achieve orgasm
- increased high grade prostate cancer incidence
- heart failure
- other cardiovascular events
- lowered quality of life
Nature knows best
The good news is that prostate health can be restored with natural substances, some of which are probably in your kitchen right now.
Tomatoes – are chocked full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant carotenoid that is responsible for their deep red color. Lycopene has been shown to shrink enlarged prostates, calm inflammation in the prostate (prostititis), and inhibit the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.
Levels of lycopene are maintained or even increased when tomatoes are cooked and turned into foods such as soups and sauces. Lycopene is better absorbed in the body when consumed with fats like olive oil. Other sources of lycopene include sweet red bell peppers, pink grapefruit, watermelon and papaya. The lycopene in them is readily available without heating.
Hot red chili pepper – Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers and the one that turns up the heat. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have found that capsaicin induced 80 percent of human prostate cancer cells in mice to die. They also found that prostate cancerous tumors in mice fed with capsaicin were a fifth the size of tumors in non-treated mice.
Those scientists estimated the dose of capsaicin needed to achieve these results was equivalent to 400 mgs of capsaicin taken three times a week by a 200 pound man. Capsaicin has also been shown to reduce production of prostate specific antigen (PSA), currently thought to be a protein marker for the presence of prostate cancer.
*Best tip – to ward off all three prostate problems, drink an eight ounce glass of bottled organic tomato juice each morning, laced with a quarter teaspoon of organic red pepper, and a shot of extra virgin olive oil.
Pumpkin seeds – are loaded with monounsaturated fat that has been shown to interrupt the triggering of prostate enlargement by DHT. Monounsaturated fat is one of the reasons people who eat the Mediterranean diet live longer, healthier lives. Pumpkin seeds have large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, other carotenoids in addition to lycopene that lower risk for prostate enlargement. They are rich in zinc, a mineral that protects prostates and breasts.
*Best tip – shop for organic sprouted pumpkin seeds online or at your local health oriented store. Bag up a quarter cup of them to take to work with you for a mid-morning snack, or put them in your lunchtime salad.
More vegetables – A report from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center says that all vegetables — especially the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard and collard greens, and radishes — could substantially reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Eating just three servings of vegetables a day can cut a man’s risk of prostate cancer nearly in half.
“The bottom line is that if you eat a lot of vegetables, you can cut your risk of prostate cancer by 45 percent,” says Dr Alan Kristal, co-investigator of the study. “And, if some of these vegetables are from the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, you may reduce your risk even further.”
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