In this article, I’m going to cover a topic of concern for most men: prostate health. But this topic is important for female readers too. This information will likely be helpful to someone you love who does have a prostate AND you’ll also find much of this information applies to breast or uterine health as well. Many scientists consider prostate cancer in men to be the equivalent of breast cancer in women because it is brought about by the same conditions, factors and imbalances that simply manifest in different sexual organs because of gender. So ladies, there is something here for you, too.
What is the Prostate and How Does it Work?
The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate wraps around the urethra, a tube that takes urine from the bladder out through the penis. The prostate makes the milky fluid that carries the sperm, which is made in the testicles, out through the penis during ejaculation.
As men get older, enlargement of the prostate is a common concern, affecting more than half of men by age 60 and an estimated 80% by age 80. As the prostate enlarges, it presses against the bladder, resulting in a disruption of the flow of urine, causing frequent urination, difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream or a feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied.
Looking at those statistics, it may seem that prostate challenges are inevitable. But research shows there is much we can do to prevent these problems. However, the conditions we create in our bodies do not appear magically overnight; they are the result of the many small choices we make each day. There are no quick fixes for good health, but the recommendations below can have a positive effect over time.
Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Prostate
Here are some of the things you can do to enhance prostate health (and if you are a woman, think breast health instead):
Eat a healthy balanced whole-food diet: Ensure you are consuming all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrients your body needs. Take a whole-food supplement to cover any gaps. Eat more fiber, especially from vegetables, as vegetable fiber is shown to help with blood sugar and reduce the risk of prostate problems. Reduce or eliminate white sugars and flours from your diet and choose foods lower on the glycemic index that are rich in fiber and healthy fats.
Hormonal balance is important and I’m going to talk about balancing our sex hormones shortly. But you cannot balance your secondary (sex) hormones (i.e., testosterone and estrogen, which are very important to prostate health) when your primary hormones, like insulin, are out of balance. Balance your primary hormones by making sure that your blood sugar is regulated so that insulin is not a concern.
Reduce internal inflammation: It’s directly connected to prostate problems and tied to many cancers including prostate and breast. Johns Hopkins research shows that early stages of prostate cancer go hand in hand with chronic inflammation and that an anti-inflammatory diet can help correct this. Pay attention to high cholesterol not because cholesterol is bad; cholesterol is part of your body’s natural healing process. Rather, high cholesterol is an indication that inflammation is occurring in the body. Ubiquinol can help prevent the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation that causes inflammation in the arteries. Omega 3 can help reduce inflammation already present.
Cholesterol levels are important for another reason: Higher cholesterol typically indicates higher levels of estrogen in the body. (Estrogen levels are also usually higher in obese men.) Higher estrogen levels are shown to double the risk of stroke, significantly increase the risk of heart disease and increase thickening of the arteries. High estrogen levels are tied to prostate cancer as well, though some scientists think it hasn’t been studied enough because many men with high estrogen levels succumb to other diseases long before prostate concerns manifest.
Hormones are always about balance and our sex hormones are no different. When estrogen levels increase, it means that relatively speaking, there is less testosterone. (Or in women, less progesterone.) Testosterone is required to maintain a healthy prostate and men with higher levels of testosterone are better able to prevent prostate problems. Because it’s about balance, we either need to raise testosterone levels or eliminate the excess estrogen. Increasing testosterone can only be done effectively through a prescription medication that comes with a host of side effects.
But there are a number of ways to avoid excess estrogen, including reducing your meat and dairy intake. Humans are the only species on the planet whose adults drink milk (or consume large amounts through cheese, ice cream and other dairy products). Milk from perennially pregnant cows is, not surprisingly, laden with hormones such as estrogen. And the feed given to animals these days can interfere with animal hormones, leaving excess estrogens stored in their fat.
In addition, we are bombarded daily with estrogenic compounds called xenoestrogens. These compounds can mimic estrogen and take up estrogen receptor sites, leaving the body’s estrogen to wander looking for an available receptor site. This excess estrogen imbalances our normal hormone ratios. Xenoestrogens are found in petroleum-based products, plastics, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. They are in car emissions, paint, nail polish, soap, lotion, food, water and the air.
Xenoestrogens result in an increase in belly fat or breast development in men as well as weight gain, allergies, sinus infections, fatigue, mood swings and the onset of andropause, the male equivalent of menopause. Andropause can result in impotence, low sex drive, low sperm count, low absorption of zinc, increased risk of heart disease, and not surprisingly, urination and prostate problems.
While we can reduce meat and dairy and improve our diets, we cannot control all the elements in our environment. This is where the supplement DIM (or diindolylmethane) that I speak about in my article on supplements everyone should take can help comes in. DIM is a phytonutrient that occurs naturally in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. It was discovered about 10 years ago, but its benefits are only just now being understood.
Taking DIM has the equivalent effect of eating three pounds of broccoli a day. DIM is a natural estrogen balancer in women and men. It can promote healthy estrogen metabolism and prevent estrogen dominance, and is also shown to protect against cancer, heart disease and to support healthy prostate tissue and prevent prostate enlargement.
The plant indoles in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to regulate hormone metabolism and not only manage estrogen in men, they have also been shown to support a more desirable testosterone function. DIM can help estrogen break down into its “good” metabolites, which are responsible for the positive things we hear about estrogen: protection of heart and brain activity.
Slow estrogen metabolism can result in too much active estrogen, or estradiol, in the body, which causes problems like weight gain, diminished sex drive, male pattern baldness and prostate enlargement. DIM increases the “good” estrogen metabolites, which serve as antioxidants in the body and simultaneously decreases the “bad” metabolites, which are not antioxidants and can cause cancer in the body.
I don’t normally recommend specific supplements, but many of us (male and female) are estrogen dominant as a result of our diets and our environment and thus have hormonal imbalance issues. For anyone concerned about estrogen metabolism or hormonal imbalance, or dealing with the physical manifestations of such, I recommend the BioResponse form of DIM, as it is a naturally occurring phytonutrient that is microencapsulated to ensure absorption.
Other Ways to Support Prostate Health
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is tied to many health issues including heart attacks, diabetes and prostate problems. Excess weight around the mid-section is a particular concern, as it’s far more detrimental to our health than weight gain anywhere else in the body. Gaining weight or enlargement of the breasts is also a concern as it reflects excess estrogen.
Exercise for physical health and to reduce stress. Research shows that as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day reduced the mortality rate of men with prostate cancer. As exercise intensity levels and frequency increased, so did survival rates. Men who exercised three or more hours a week (moderate to intense exercise like jogging, cycling, tennis or swimming) reduced mortality rates by 35%. Men who walked four or more hours a week reduced mortality by 23% while men who walked 90 or more minutes at a brisk pace had a 51% less risk of death than those who walked less than 90 minutes at a slower easier pace. Those who engaged in vigorous physical activity for five or more hours a week showed a significant reduction in mortality.
Engage in frequent sexual activity or masturbation. Studies show that carcinogens pool in seminal fluid and that releasing the toxins from your prostate regularly improves prostate health. It’s the ejaculation process that is beneficial. Improvements are shown at two times a week, with additional protection afforded at three or more times a week. (Dr. Oz recently commented that the average American has sex once a week, but that increasing the frequency to twice a week can add three years to your life.)
Release any buried anger and resentment. Holding onto it doesn’t serve you in any way and keeping negative emotions inside the body has a physical effect on our cells. Anger and resentment have long been correlated to cancerous cell growth in energy medicine and this idea is now being proven in research as well. Negative feelings increase the stress level cortisol, a hormone that has been consistently found to repress the function of the immune system. When the immune system is not at the top of its game, the cancer cells that are present in every body have a better environment in which to multiply and can form tumor sites.
Suppression of anger, hate, grief or resentment can also the damage the emotional reflex center in the brain. Over time, this will result in a breakdown that will result in wrong messages being sent to the organ it controls, creating deformed or cancerous cell growth. Numerous studies of cancer patients have identified an unresolved conflict, or suppressed and unexpressed emotion, usually occurring several years before cancer emerged.
And when adrenaline is low, the environment is better for cancerous cell growth. High stress levels will deplete your adrenaline reserves enabling a cancerous environment. Let your feelings out and release stress in other ways such as meditation, deep breathing, journaling, music, and laughter. Laughter is a powerful stress reliever, so when you’ve had a bad day, find some friends you can laugh about it with, or watch a favorite funny movie and laugh out loud.
Research shows that vitamin D helps prevent a variety of cancers, including prostate and breast. In one study, supplementation was shown to reduce the PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels in men with prostate cancer. Another study revealed that men with high vitamin D levels were half as likely to develop aggressive forms of prostate cancer as men with lower levels, so get outside and get your daily dose of sunshine.
As for specific supplements or foods to enhance prostate health, there are many. There are a number of food studies that indicate the benefits of certain foods such as garlic, scallions, pomegranate, walnuts (for the omega 3s and gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E), coffee (for the antioxidants), cooked tomatoes (for the lycopene), bee pollen (for the zinc) and it never hurts to add more healthy foods to our diets.
There are also nutrient studies touting saw palmetto, zinc, boron, K2 and selenium but there are also risks of taking too much of these in supplement form. Generally speaking, taking any supplement in isolation limits its effectiveness. When you eat the foods themselves, or the food sources of the minerals and phytonutrients, it’s hard to overdose and they can offer great prostate health benefits.
By eating a balanced whole food diet and taking a whole-food supplement, you will be getting all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrients you need together to absorb and fully utilize the benefits. That makes good sense for overall wellness as well as prostate health.
Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com
Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art