Prostate gland problems are a very common problem among men. An enlargement of the prostate gland is known as BPH. The majority of men over fifty years old have either been diagnosed with BPH or at least have significant prostate enlargement. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate can include: frequent and/or painful urination, weak urine stream, difficulty urinating, blood in urine, pain in the lower back, and chills. Lifestyle can play a large role in the health of the prostate. Obese men are 50% more likely to have prostate problems. If BPH is not treated, prostate cancer can occur. Almost 200,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in America, and over 30,000 men die from this disease yearly. An enlarged prostate can not only lead to cancer, it can also cause bladder and kidney damage. The standard medical test to distinguish BPH from prostate cancer is the PSA blood test. High PSA levels can indicate either BPH or cancer, depending on the age of the person tested.
What does the prostate gland do, and why is it important? The function of the prostate is to produce liquid to blend with sperm to produce semen. It is also linked with the urinary tract, which makes it susceptible to bacterial infection. Prostate problems can be temporary, and are usually caused by bacterial infection. Bacteria can also cause longer-term prostatitis. These infections are most often treated with antibiotics. However some supplements such as zinc and vitamin C may also be able to inhibit bacterial infections of the prostate.
The prostate gland is heavily influenced by hormones and environment. There are synthetic chemicals in the environment that can mimic the hormone estrogen, including pesticides and plastics. Contact with these and other man-made products can cause hormonal imbalances. Continual contact with the above substances may result in breast or endometrial cancer for women, and loss of testosterone dominance for men. Testosterone by itself is generally a positive and healthy hormone for men, but when men are exposed to estrogen-like chemicals for long periods of time, the ratio between testosterone and its more aggressive form, DHT, can be lowered. DHT stimulates growth of certain tissues, including the prostate, and if DHT levels are raised relative to testosterone, prostate enlargement and even prostate cancer may result. Stress can also raise DHT levels.
There are several lifestyle and supplemental changes men can perform to help slow or even reverse prostate problems. A low-fat diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and daily fiber intake can help prevent or slow prostate problems. Exercise is generally good for prostate problems, but bicycle riding can put pressure on the prostate, and should be minimized or avoided entirely. Certain supplements may help prostate problems significantly. A small study found that for men with BPH who supplemented with large amounts of zinc (150 milligrams a day) for two months had prostate shrinkage 75% of the time. Zinc doses this high should not be taken for long periods of time unless otherwise directed by a physician.
Herbs and some food products can also help improve prostate health. The herb Saw Palmetto can reduce symptoms of BPH up to 46% when taken for several months. The herb stinging nettle has been shown to increase urine flow in BPH, probably due to shrinkage of the prostate gland. Cranberry juice may help inhibit bacterial infections of the urinary tract, which links to the prostate. Pumpkin seeds have a high amount of zinc, which can help many prostate problems. Also, the pumpkin seed oil may help lessen prostate inflammation. There is some evidence that the amino acid glycine can slow tumor formation in some cancers, although it has not been conclusively shown to help prostate cancer.
In summary, prostate problems are largely an environmental condition, and this is fortunate, since a male can then change their environment to help their condition. Enlarged prostates do not have to stay enlarged or progress to cancer; with the therapies listed above, the prostate gland can even shrink back towards normal size in many cases. Although prostate problems are very common, in fact, inevitable with old age, they can still be taken care of by a variety of natural methods. In some ways, holistic treatment of prostate problems exemplifies the nature of the holistic field itself: a combination of lifestyle, food, and supplements to deal with an illness that is largely caused by environmental factors.
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