The prostate is a small gland that sits just below the bladder, near to the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis. You might think that due to its small size, it wouldn’t be the cause of so many health problems in men, but you would be wrong. Not only is cancer of the prostate widespread, but the prostate can be the cause of many other health issues as well, including prostatitis – where the prostate gland swells as a result of inflammation – urinary retention, nocturia (or excessive nighttime urination), chronic bacterial prostatitis and a whole host of other issues.
Common Prostate Problems
Though many potential problems can affect the prostate gland, the following are the most common.
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH
Benign prostatic hyperplasia simply means an enlarged prostate. The condition is common among men of all ages but gets more common as men get older. Enlarged prostates affect around one in twelve men between the ages of 31 and 40, around one in two between 51 and 60 and more than 80 percent of men when they hit 80 – plus. As a result, this particular condition is more common than you might think.
The good news, however, is that in many cases BPH does not produce any symptoms. You can live with the condition for many years and not even realize that you’ve got it. What’s more, BPH does not necessarily lead to overt prostate cancer, hence the use of the word “benign.” But for men who do experience symptoms, it can be distressing.
Symptoms of BPH include
- Frequent need to urinate. Frequently getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, also known as nocturia, is a classic sign of BPH. An enlarged prostate puts additional pressure on the bladder, making it feel as if you constantly need to go to the toilet.
- Difficulty in starting urination. Do you struggle to start urinating? It could be a sign that your prostate is enlarged.
- Weak urine stream. As the prostate gland swells, it can put pressure on the urethra – the tube that connects the bladder to the penis – reducing the flow rate of your urine and causing it to trickle out slowly.
- Excessive dribbling after urination.
- Straining during urination. If you find yourself straining during urination, it could be a sign that your urethra is occluded (partially blocked).
- Difficult to fully empty the bladder. If you still feel as if you need to pee after you’ve been to the toilet, it could be a sign that your bladder isn’t emptying properly, something which is closely related to BPH.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the absolute size of your prostate isn’t directly correlated with the severity of your symptoms: these depend more on the direction in which your prostate has expanded. Sometimes symptoms can be severe, while at other times, they can be minor.
Causes of BPH
Major medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic suggest that BPH is part of the “natural aging process” for some men. An enlarged prostate is caused by the fact that the cells that make up the prostate gland continue to grow and multiply throughout life. For one reason or another, men’s bodies are unable to shut down this growth which can lead to problems further down the road.
Whether this is the whole story remains debatable. Why is it that some men have enlarged prostates while others don’t? A study from China published in the Chinese Medical Journal in 2000 found a striking difference in the pattern of BPH in China compared to Western countries. It wasn’t 80 percent of the population affected by enlarged prostate but rather a mere 80 cases in total over a 15 year time period between 1921 and 1935, according to the Peiping Union Medical College of Beijing. Something in the Chinese lifestyle was causing lower rates of BPH. Could Western men emulate the Chinese and get back their prostate health? Continue reading to find out more.
- Prostate Cancer
Nobody likes to talk about the big “C.” It’s a scary subject. But the fact of the matter is that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, affecting more than 13 percent of men during their lifetime, according to Cancer Research.
At first prostate cancer grows slowly, but then over time, more rapidly. Often cancerous cells on the prostate don’t cause any serious harm and patients can live with these cells in their prostate for decades, never realizing anything is wrong. In fact, this is the case among men living in Eastern population. They suffer far lower rates of overt prostate cancer, even though their prostates are often found to contain a large number of cancerous cells on autopsy.
The problem comes when prostate cancer progresses. If cancer begins to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body, the patient’s life can be put at risk. This is why there are so many medical campaigns dedicated to catching prostate cancer early.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include
- Difficulty in urinating – similar to when you have BPH
- Decreased urine flow – as with BPH
- Blood in the semen
- General discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
Causes of prostate cancer
The direct cause of prostate cancer is unknown. Scientists believe that mutations in the DNA of prostate cells cause them to start growing abnormally.
There is strong evidence that lifestyle plays a significant role. Some populations have fifty times less prostate cancer risk than Western populations, suggesting that prostate cancer is something which is amenable to lifestyle interventions.
Prostatitis is defined as the inflammation and swelling of the prostate gland. Like BPH, it tends to affect men over the age of 50, although it can become a problem well before this. Unfortunately, prostatitis can recur frequently, often going on for months.
Symptoms of prostatitis include
- Blood in urine
- Frequent need to urinate
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Pain in the area between the scrotum and the rectum
- Painful ejaculations
- Cloudy Urine
- Frequent peeing at night
- Flu-like symptoms
Causes of prostatitis include
In many cases of prostatitis, the actual cause is never identified. Prostatitis can result from bacterial infection if bacteria from your urine start to leak into your prostate. If this is the case, then the disease can be eliminated through the use of antibiotics. Sometimes, however, antibiotics are not effective and additional supplemental support is needed.
The other cause of prostatitis is believed to be trauma-induced nerve damage to the lower urinary tract.
Best Prostate Supplements on the Market
Treating prostate problems using modern medicine is painful and comes with a whole host of side effects. Often men have to endure a transurethral exam which involves putting a metal tube up the urethra to take a tissue sample. Not surprisingly, many men complain of pain and discomfort both during and after the procedure.
Is there a better way? That’s a good question and why so many men are asking themselves: “do supplements work?” We believe Natureotics Prostate Health (pictured above) is one of the best prostate supplements on the market. Though we may be biased =).
Fortunately, there is a whole host of natural supplements which can help improve your prostate health. Many of these supplements claim to help to boost the body’s natural defenses, providing you with protection and contribute to shrinking the prostate naturally. But is the science clear cut?
All the best prostate supplements contain a dose Saw palmetto. Saw palmetto is a type of herbal remedy derived from palm trees. For centuries, it’s been used in traditional herbal remedies to help combat a raft of urinary symptoms common in men suffering from BPH, prostatitis and prostate cancer.
Although many people might be skeptical of the efficacy of herbal remedies, a recent investigation by the NIH suggests that saw palmetto may be a safe method of relieving symptoms. They discovered that it did not interact with any other medicines, making it an excellent adjunct to standard treatment. Small studies indicated that it might have a role in reducing symptoms, although larger studies have not yet confirmed this.
If you’ve ever been stung by a stinging nettle, you know that it can be a painful experience. But despite their appearance, stinging nettles may contain compounds which help to improve prostate health. For many years, traditional medicine has used stinging nettles to improve prostate and urinary function. Recently, the effects of stinging nettles were put to the test. The results were inconclusive.
Pygeum is the bark of an African tree and has been used in medicine for centuries to treat prostate and urinary tract problems, just like saw palmetto. Pygeum is most common in Europe where it is used to treat BPH.
There is evidence to suggest that pygeum is possibly effective in reducing the size of the prostate. However, many of the studies to date are not sufficiently well designed to answer the question conclusively.
A small study reported in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine discovered that the use of pygeum in conjunction with other traditional medicines did help reduce the frequency of urination in men, suggesting that it did indeed reduce the size of their prostates.
Vitamin C and Zinc
Epidemiological evidence suggests that the food we eat can have a significant impact on the chances that we develop prostate health issues, like BPH. But can food – or the vitamins in food – relieve symptoms once there is disease?
The Mayo Clinic has investigated the issue thoroughly. They suggest that men who eat vitamin C and zinc can prevent BPH from developing and relieve symptoms. Although it is not clear exactly how this works, there is clear clinical evidence that nutrition can play a role in minimizing the consequences of prostate health problems.
Rye Grass Pollen
Rye grass pollen comes from three different types of grass: corn, rye, and timothy. WebMD says that rye grass pollen is “possibly effective” meaning that sufficient data have been collected to come to a tentative conclusion regarding its efficacy.
Researchers decided to conduct a meta-analysis (a method where all the data from all the studies on a particular topic are pooled together) to see whether rye grass pollen had any effect on symptoms of men with BPH. They found clear evidence that taking rye grass pollen led to a reduction in self-rated urinary symptoms, suggesting that the supplement was indeed useful. In trials lasting 12 to 24 weeks, the team of researchers writing in BJU International found that men taking the supplement experienced dramatic improvements in nocturia. More trials, however, are required to conclusively prove its effectiveness.
Beta-sitosterol is a substance derived from plant sterols, chemical substances which are similar to cholesterol but have radically different effects on the human body. Practitioners began using beta-sitosterols to relieve urinary symptoms of enlarged prostate, including reduced urinary flow.
One of the ways in which scientists think beta-sitosterol works is to reduce the amount of cholesterol available to the body. Reduction in cholesterol could help reduce aggravation of the prostate, returning it to a natural, healthy state.
In ancient times, selenium was found in large quantities in food. However, with the advent of agriculture, the amount of this trace mineral in the food has slowly declined. Today there are few good sources of selenium that remain. This is one of the reasons why so many health professionals now recommend people take selenium on a regular basis. Dietary sources include things like Brazil nuts, though it’s easier to get the mineral in the form of a supplement. Selenium has been shown to inhibit prostate cancer growth in vitro, suggesting that it might do the same if consumed in food or pill form.
Green Tea Extract
Matcha is all the rage right now among foodies for its health benefits. Scientists believe that green tea contains compounds which actively fight prostate cancer cells, including EGCG which may naturally prevent the prostate from becoming enlarged. Green tea is a healthy addition to any diet, and so including it in your daily regimen will help you look and feel better as well as possibly reduce urinary tract symptoms.
The bottom line is that there are many ways in which supplements could help relieve prostate health issues, helping you to avoid painful medical procedures and drugs with harmful side effects. But it’s still early days: we need more science to confirm the benefits and efficacy of supplementation.