Constant trips to the bathroom interrupted sleep at night, and loss of libido are just a handful of the symptoms that make prostate problems so miserable. Fortunately, there are effective means of treatment that can reduce your quality of life and enhance your prostate health.
Guide to Your Prostate
Your prostate is a small gland that sits underneath your bladder and wraps around your urethra. During ejaculation, the prostate excretes a milky, white fluid that is alkaline. The prostatic fluid is the first to leave the body, and the sperm that exits during this secretion survive longer and have increased motility than the sperm that comes later, in the seminal vesicle fluid.
About the size of a walnut and weighing roughly 11 grams in an adult, the prostate sits just in front of the rectum, which makes it readily available for palpation during a rectal exam. Because it wraps around the urethra, enlarged prostates can make it extremely difficult (and sometimes impossible) to urinate.
There are a few issues that can arise over time. Let’s take a look.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Enlarged Prostate)
The good news about benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is that it doesn’t make you more likely to get prostate cancer (nor is it, itself, prostate cancer). The bad news is that BPH, also known as enlarged prostate, results in a growing prostate that puts pressure on the urethra.
This pressure can cause a weak or noncontinuous stream when you urinate, and it can cause you to need to use the restroom more often than normal. An enlarged prostate is extremely common. In fact, most men’s prostates begin growing again at about the age of 25.
Doctors don’t know why (they suspect it’s related to hormonal changes as we age), but it doesn’t always cause problems. For some men, however, BPH can lead to the following:
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your physician. He or she will likely prefer an exam, which involves a gloved finger gently inserted into the rectum to learn the shape and size of your prostate.
Next, your physician will likely order urine and blood tests to rule out things like kidney infections or infections or issues elsewhere. He might also order a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer and help solidify the diagnosis of BPH (high levels of PSA in the blood can indicate an enlarged prostate).
Finally, you might undergo a prostate or bladder ultrasound or a biopsy. You might also need to submit to a urine flow test or undergo urodynamics testing so that your doctor can fully understand the level of function your bladder has available to it.
Treatment for BPH ranges from barely invasive to outright removal of the prostate (though, this is rare). Noninvasive treatments are usually attractive options and are often good choices in the case of non-severe symptoms.
These kinds of treatments include lifestyle changes such as pelvic floor physical therapy, drinking less caffeine, and being careful about when you drink liquids. Sometimes, however, more invasive interventions are required.
These can include medication, such as alpha blockers, which help to relax the muscles in your prostate and bladder, enabling you to urinate with less difficulty. Alpha blockers typically get to work right away and will also help with frequent urination and poor urine flow.
They also have the benefit of helping with high blood pressure, but the downside is that they can lead to fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and other unpleasant side effects.
5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors are also commonly prescribed as they block a hormone that contributes to prostate growth. In some cases, the prostate will shrink, making this a good option for very large prostates. However, some side effects can include erectile dysfunction and decreased libido as well as a potential increased risk of cancer.
A less common drug used to treat BPH is a Phosphodiesterase-5 Inhibitor. These are also used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
Aside from medication, two common interventions are:
Both of these procedures are typically performed as outpatient procedures, though sometimes they’ll be used in conjunction with a prostatic stent.
An inflammation of the prostate is known as prostatitis. There are four distinct types of prostatitis, including acute, chronic bacterial, chronic non-bacterial, and male chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis are relatively uncommon, but the latter two types of inflammation account for 95% of diagnosed cases.
Four Main Types of Prostatitis
Acute bacterial prostatitis is a result of bacteria from the bladders, kidneys, or connecting tubes entering the prostate. It’s quick and can be severe. Symptoms include chills, muscle aches, high fever, pain at the base of the penis or behind the scrotum, wear urine stream or difficult urination, joint pain, or lower back pain.
Chronic bacterial prostatitis is less severe than the acute kind, and since its symptoms can come and go, it’s easy to miss. It can hang on for months and sometimes shows up if you’ve had a UTI. Many of the symptoms are the same as those for acute bacterial prostatitis, but also include pain after ejaculation, blood in the semen, and rectum pain.
Asymptomatic prostatitis (also known as chronic non-bacterial) has no symptoms and may only be diagnosed because of a blood test. It won’t cause pain or need treatment. However, it can cause infertility.
The final and most common type of prostatitis is chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CPPS). It has many of the same symptoms as bacterial prostatitis but isn’t caused by bacteria. In fact, medical experts are undecided about what does cause CPPS. We know, however, that stress, physical injury, and nerve damage nearby can trigger it.
Treatment for ProstatitisProstatitis treatment varies significantly according to the severity of the symptoms, the individual, and the type of prostatitis, but doctors usually rely on some mix of the following:
Nearly 3 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the United States. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers to impact older men (above the age of 60) in developed countries. It can also cause death, though some cases may require no treatment at all.
Symptoms of prostate cancer include:
Like most other cancers, experts aren’t sure what causes prostate cancer. They do know that certain risk factors will increase your risk of the disease. These include:
- Age (the older you are, the greater your risk of prostate cancer)
- Family history (we know genetics play an important role in cancer risk)
- Race (black men are more likely to have prostate cancer and are also more likely to have an aggressive or advanced form of prostate cancer)
- Obesity (men who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with a very advanced cancer)
Regardless of these symptoms and risk factors, the medical community is still divided on whether or not early detection is helpful and worth the risks. The important thing is to talk through your concerns and risk factors with your doctor. If you decide to move forward with early detection, you’ll likely undergo a rectal exam and a blood test to determine the PSA level in your blood.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
If PSA levels and/or a rectal exam indicate the need for additional tests, your doctor will order an ultrasound or a biopsy (the sample is usually collected through the rectum). MRI fusion is another diagnostic tool that doctors are utilizing more often.
One of the key factors doctors need to establish is how aggressive the cancer is. Some cancer is slow-growing and requires no treatment, particularly if the patient is advanced in age. The other important factor to learn is how widespread cancer has become.
Bone density scans, genomic testing, CT scans, and MRI scans might be called for, in addition to biopsies and prostate ultrasounds.
Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
If treatment is the decided course of option, there are several different methods your doctor may discuss with you.
Chemotherapy is frequently used in pill or via injection for other cancer types, though it’s less popular for prostate cancer because there are usually more effective, less invasive options available. Hormone therapy, for example, is commonly used and takes the form of inhibiting your body’s production of testosterone.
Because testosterone is necessary for the growth of prostate cancer cells, ending their supply means they’ll grow less quickly or stop growing altogether. Hormone therapy might include medications or, in some cases, might include the removal of your testicles.
Surgery to remove the prostate is another treatment option, as is external radiation (radiation aimed at your prostate from outside your body) and brachytherapy (radioactive seeds are placed inside your prostate and work for a long period).
Solutions for Prostate Relief
Medical intervention, whether it’s medication, surgery, or some other therapy, is usually uncomfortable at best and painful, riddle with side effects, and life-changing at worst. Fortunately, there are ways to treat many common prostate symptoms naturally and without the side effects.
There are also powerful aids to help prevent BPH, prostate cancer, and prostatitis. When you’re lucky for a prostate supplement, here are some of the ingredients you should look for.
Saw Palmetto is a plant that grows across the Southeastern United States (especially Florida). Is berries were used by the Seminole to treat urinary and reproductive issues and since 1906, when it was named a remedy in the US Pharmacopoeia, it has been used extensively.
Unlike some popularly used herbs, saw palmetto has been studied extensively. Saw palmetto is believed to assist with:
Saw palmetto is believed to work by inhibiting 5-reductase, the enzyme that helps break down testosterone in the body. It also has been shown to effectively block 1-adrenoceptors, meaning that it may be an effective treatment for prostate issues such as UTIs and benign prostatic obstruction.
Medical opinion on saw palmetto is sometimes conflicting, but enough anecdotal and statistical evidence has been accumulated that the herb is a strong choice for alternative therapy for most people who suffer from BPH.
In fact, in a 2003 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the authors concluded, “Saw palmetto has been shown in short-term trials to be efficacious in reducing the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.”
Two other studies (one a Cochrane review and one published in European Urology Focus) have found saw palmetto effectively treated certain symptoms of BPH as well as Propecia, a popularly prescribed 5-reductase inhibitor for BPH.
There are some conflicting studies questioning the efficacy of saw palmetto, so it’s not safe to rely exclusively on the herb, but it’s clear from the data that it has great potential and is a vital part of any prostate relief supplement.
Beta-sitosterol doesn’t shrink an enlarged prostate, but it has therapeutic effects on side effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Namely, patients who take it experience less difficulty urinating.
Beta-sitosterol, despite the long name, comes from plants. Its cholesterol-like structure is found in foods like corn oils, soybeans, wheat germ, rice bran, and peanuts, but it’s also available to take as a supplement.
In spite of its resemblance to cholesterol, beta-sitosterol might help to lower cholesterol levels. In fact, it might even reduce the risk of some cancer. Scientists don’t know for sure but suspect some kind of impact on the metabolism of cholesterol or the substance’s ability to battle inflammation.
In a 2000 Cochrane review, more than five hundred men from four trials were assessed. The assessment concluded that beta-sitosterols improved the urinary symptoms and the flow measures caused by BPH.
Unlike some other popular herbs and natural supplements, beta-sitosterol doesn’t need some to have any complications. A handful of men report an upset stomach or indigestion after starting a beta-sitosterol regimen, but most have no concerns or negative issues.
Again, while beta-sitosterol won’t shrink an enlarged prostate, it doesn’t offer tremendous value as a therapeutic aid for men with BPH.
The pygeum tree is found in central and southern Africa and has been used for thousands of years to treat bladder and urinary tract issues. Europeans became interested in the substance in the 1700s and began studying it.
In 1998, Current Medical Research & Opinion published a study detailing the results of supplementation with pygeum extract in men who were over the age of fifty and had been diagnosed with BPH. The study measured the quality of life and reduction or increase of urinary issues. The study lasted for two months with another follow up at three months.
The study concluded that pygeum extract significantly improved prostate symptoms and led to a substantial improvement in the study participant’s quality of life.
Another double-blind, placebo trial published in 2013 found more promising evidence of pygeum’s efficacy in relieving BPH symptoms. Overall symptoms were reduced by more than a third and, perhaps even more impressively, nighttime urination symptoms (nocturia) were reduced by almost 40%.
Finally, a 2002 review assessing more than 1,500 participants with BPH found an improvement of more than 50% in nocturia and urodynamic measurements (this indicates the effort necessary to urinate in relation to the size of the prostate).
These studies lead us to conclude that pygeum may well be one of the most important supplements in relieving your prostate symptoms.
In 2008, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition studied forty men with established BPH for six months. Half the men received a placebo, and half received a lycopene study. At the end of six months, the authors found that while prostate enlargement continued in the placebo group, it halted in the lycopene group.
Further, BPH symptoms were significantly improved in the lycopene group.
This study’s results offered great promise, even as lycopene has been somewhat maligned in more recent years by the medical community for failing to live it to some of its cancer-preventing hype.
That said, lycopene does show serious results when it comes to preventing or fighting prostate cancer. A 2005 study investigated prostate cancer patients already schedule for prostate removal. These men consumed tomato sauce daily for three weeks before their operation (tomatoes are high in lycopene) and their prostates were analyzed upon removal.
Doctors found that lycopene in the bloodstream tripled and that as a seeming result, oxidative DNA damage in prostate tissue and leukocytes was significantly lower than the control group.
In sum, lycopene is another powerful supplement that can not only provide relief for the millions of men that suffer from BPH but might also have positive impacts on prostate cancer.
Zinc is a common mineral that’s necessary for most human functions. It also plays a vital role in prostate health, as extremely large amounts are found in that organ, and the mineral plays an important role in regulating testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
Studies about the efficacy of zinc in promoting prostate health have been extremely contradictory, but what we do know is that cancerous tissue in the prostate contains very low levels of zinc. Why that is scientists don’t fully understand.
The other reason zinc consumption is difficult to study is that it’s found in many of the foods we eat, including grains, legumes, nuts, and red meats. The recommended daily allowance for zinc is only 11 mg, and while some claim that Americans can easily get this from their diet, others point to the vitamin and mineral deficiency present in many of our foods today, thanks to over farming and poor agricultural practices.
Our conclusion, after reviewing the data and considering that zinc causes few side effects, is to include it in your prostate health supplementation regimen. It’s an important mineral, and if there’s a chance it can aid in overall prostate health, even if we don’t fully understand the mechanisms, it’s worth including it in your life.
Nettle root (also known as stinging nettle) is one of the most popular herbs used throughout the western world. It’s been used since ancient times to treat blood sugar imbalances, redness and swelling, and a variety of other ailments.
It has also, however, shown incredible powers when it comes to relieving symptoms of BPH. A three-month study in Iran in 2011, for example, studied one hundred patients with BPH who were between forty and eighty years old. The group was randomly divided and double-blinded, and half was given 600mg of nettle daily while the other half was given a placebo.
After eight weeks, the study found that patients in the nettle group had clinically relieved symptoms compared to patients in the placebo group. This isn’t the only study that’s seen a strong correlation between stinging nettle and a relief in prostate symptoms.
While researchers don’t fully understand how nettle benefits men with BPH, they suspect it might be because compounds in the nettle inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT.
DHT is widely known for its impact on hair loss (it causes men to lose hair), but it’s also involved in the growth of enlarged prostates, so inhibiting the enzyme that allows it to flourish may be the reason nettle is so effective.
As it turns out, pumpkins aren’t just for Thanksgiving anymore! Pumpkin seeds are chock full of carotenoids, liposoluble vitamins, and zinc, and have been an effective treatment for anxiety, cancer, and diabetes. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends pumpkin seeds as an excellent source of zinc.
Do pumpkin seeds have merit in relieving prostate issues? Research says they do! Scientists have long had an eye on pumpkin seed for its potential benefits in fighting cancer, whether that’s reducing the impact of certain carcinogens or simply aiding in overall prostate health.
Pumpkin seed oil has been used as a folk medicine for years, but it also may provide serious relief for those suffering from BPH. In 2009, for example, one of many studies found that pumpkin seed oil alleviated many (if not all) of the symptoms suffered via BPH. It may also help you sleep better at night thanks to its ability to break down into serotonin.
Most doctors believe that diet plays an important role on most prostate issues, including BHP and prostate cancer. In fact, studies have shown that a diet of primarily red meat and dairy products can lead to an increased risk of cancer and prostate enlargement.
Here are some easy ways to make small changes to your diet to help you find prostate relief:
One powerful way to deal with prostatitis symptoms and reduce your risk of BPH is through regular exercise and maintaining an ideal body mass index (BMI).
When 30,000 men completed questionnaires in Harvard’s Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a correlation was found between regular physical activity and your likelihood of suffering from BPH. In other words, the more you work out (even if it’s light activity, such as walking), the lower your chances are of dealing with adverse side effects from an enlarged prostate.
In Italy, researchers found a way to test the impact of exercise on chronic prostatitis. More than two hundred men with the condition, who were sedentary, were assigned to one of two groups: an aerobic exercise group and a nonaerobic exercise group. After eighteen weeks of three times a week workouts, both groups reported feeling better.
The men in the aerobic group, however, experienced improved quality of life and less anxiety and depression.
Our Final Thoughts
Whether you’re actively suffering from prostatitis or an enlarged prostate, or simply want to avoid those issues later in life, we’ve supplied you with everything you need to know about the best supplements to take, the most important lifestyle changes to embark upon, and the best treatment options for every situation.