Understanding and Improving Prostate Health

The prostate gland is a dense fibromuscular gland mainly responsible for supporting the male reproductive system. It influences many functions in men (1).

The prostate gland enlarges with age as some of the prostate tissue gets replaced with a scar-like tissue. These changes bring a plethora of prostate-related problems.

From inflammation of the prostate to prostate cancer, this gland can be the site of many health complications. Specific to males, the problems related to enlarged prostate glands are very common in old age.

Lifestyle, proper diet, exercise, losing weight, and reduced stress can go a long way to ensure a successful approach towards a healthy prostate.

What is Prostate?

prostate gland

The prostate is a chestnut-sized, muscular gland located right below the gall bladder in men. The gland weighs approximately an ounce and surrounds the urethra (2), the passage through which semen and urine go out of the male body.

The word ‘prostate’ has its origin in the Greek language (3). The term literally means “one who stands before” thus indicating the position of the prostate gland.

The prostate gland is an important part of the male reproductive system. The primary function of the prostate gland is to produce and secrete a prostate fluid that forms approximately 30 percent of the male semen. This fluid is vital in protecting the semen during its interaction in the woman’s vagina.

Prostate keeps growing with age (4). It undergoes two main growth spurts. First, during puberty when it grows to 20 gms and second starts from the age of 30 and it continues till 70 years when it grows to 40 grams.

The Importance of Prostate Health

The prostate plays a very important supportive role in the male reproductive system. The various functions are:

  • It produces a part of semen. With the sperm cells from the testicles, the fluid from the seminal vesicle and the secretion of a small pea-nut size gland (bulbourethral gland), the prostate fluid produces semen. The mixing up is done in the urethra.
  • The secretion from the prostate is extremely crucial for the functioning of the sperm cells. Hence, very important for fertility in men.
  • It also helps in the closing of the urethra up to the bladder during ejaculation and closing of the seminal duct during urination.
  • In the prostate, testosterone (the male sex hormone) is transformed into its biologically active form which is the dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Poor prostate health can lead to erectile dysfunction in males and reduce overall sexual satisfaction. An unhealthy prostate gland can severely impact a man’s fertility. Improper functioning of the prostate gland can also cause frequent and painful urination.

Additionally, good prostate health is important for supporting hormonal metabolism in the male body (5). In brief, it would not be wrong to say that while ill prostate health does not endanger life in most cases, it certainly affects the overall quality of life in males.

The 3 Most Common Prostate Health Problems

It is very important for men to keep their prostate gland in good health. As mentioned earlier, the prostate continues to grow with age. But, when it grows abnormally, it can sometimes lead to a condition called enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Other conditions include inflammation of the prostate gland or prostatitis and prostate cancer.

All three issues relating to prostate health can cause serious discomfort to men, especially for elderly men. The symptoms and complications relating to each of these issues have been detailed below:

Prostatitis

Prostatitis

Prostatitis is a medical condition that can be related to the swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland. Although this issue can arise at any age, males between 30-50 years of age are more prone to it (6).

In fact, prostatitis is the most common prostate issue among men below 50 years of age. The general symptoms of prostatitis include painful urination, frequent and urgent urge to urinate, blood particles in the urine, pain in the groin, abdomen, or around the pelvic area, painful ejaculation. At times, one suffering from prostatitis can also show flu-like symptoms, usually in the case of bacterial prostatitis.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) categorize prostatitis into four types:

  • acute bacterial prostatitis
  • chronic bacterial prostatitis
  • chronic prostatitis syndrome
  • asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis

Apart from asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, others usually cause discomfort in men and need treatment (7). 

Summary: Prostatitis involves swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland. It is usually diagnosed among males below 50 years of age.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

According to one of the studies, almost half the men at 60 years suffer from BPH or the problem of an enlarged prostate. The study further claims that this figure reaches almost 90% when they reach 85 years (8).

It has also been argued in the study that usually the symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland are overlooked in the beginning because these are considered a natural part of aging.

Though there are no specific causes of BPH, age, obesity, ethnicity, and family history of BPH can be the factors that can be associated with a higher risk. The common symptoms associated with BPH include a frequent urge to urinate, feeling that the bladder is not empty even after urinating, pain while urinating, poor libido, and reduced sexual performance. However, these symptoms may vary from person to person (9).

Summary: The enlargement of the prostate gland above normal limits is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This is a very common medical condition among males above 60 years.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and also ranked the sixth prominent factor behind cancer death in males across the world. This is despite the fact that prostate cancer has the best recuperation chances of all the cancers in men.

In most cases, prostate cancer remains undiagnosed during the initial stages because the symptoms appear gradually (10).

The basic reason behind prostate cancer is the uncontrolled multiplication of cells in this gland (11). Other factors contributing to higher incidences of prostate cancer include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, positive family history, hypertension, extreme vitamin E supplements doses, and regularly high testosterone levels. The genetics of an individual also plays a crucial role in the formation of prostate cancer.

As far as the treatment is concerned, if the cancer is restricted to the prostate, it is easier to treat, rather than the condition where it is spread to the bones or any other body organs. The effectiveness of treatment for prostate cancer depends not only on the severity of the disease but also on the individual’s immunity, age, and medical history (12).

Summary: One of the most common cancers among males, prostate cancer occurs due to uncontrolled multiplication of cells in the prostate gland. Lifestyle, family history, overdoses of supplements, and genetics play an important role in the occurrence of prostate cancer.

5 Natural Ways to Improve Your Prostate Health

Once you are diagnosed with any of the abovementioned prostate issues, it is highly recommended that you see your healthcare provider, discuss the symptoms and seek his/her advice to aid your prostate health before the condition worsens.

Prostate problems can cause a lot of discomfort to the patients. These natural ways to improve prostate health may or may not work for everyone but, it can be assured that these measures would not provide any harm.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and reducing the stress levels have proven benefits for overall well-being.

Exercise Regularly

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is of extreme importance for treating your prostate health. Researchers have blamed an unhealthy prostate on the sedentary lifestyle of today (13). 

Ensure that you exercise every day. It doesn’t matter if you cannot do rigorous exercises, spending some time walking, jogging, swimming, or playing an outdoor game can help your prostate.

Regular exercise would be beneficial for obesity and hypertension which are considered potent causes of prostate issues.

Kegel exercises, the specific exercises to strengthen the pelvic area are considered the best for prostate treatment. It would, however, be great if you consult with your doctor the right kinds of exercises or physical activity that can benefit you the maximum.

Summary: A sedentary lifestyle is one of the triggers of prostate health problems. Regular exercise such as walking, jogging or playing outdoor games will be beneficial for your prostate health along with a host of other health benefits such as reducing body weight and hypertension.

Adopt A Healthy Diet

Mediterranean diet

Adopting a healthy diet pattern has proven benefits for overall health, including prostate health. There are many different names for the diet recommended by experts for a healthy prostate, like the Mediterranean diet, a prostate-friendly diet, and some even call it to be similar to a heart-friendly diet (14).

The crux of all these different diet patterns is to include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain, foods with omega-3 fatty acids, green tea, and nuts while cutting down on your intake of salt, sugar-sweeteners, and trans fats.

Including a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in antioxidants and vitamin C can aid your prostate health (15).

Fruits like pomegranate, guava, watermelon, oranges, strawberry, bananas, and raspberry and vegetables like tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, and broccoli have proven benefits for the prostate.

In addition to this, add a good amount of dried nuts like almonds, walnuts, and avocados to your daily diet. Studies also suggest to include olive oil in your diet to manage your prostate health (16).

Summary: Fruits and vegetables with nutrients such as Vitamin C and omega-3 rich foods like olive form part of a diet that promotes prostate health. Mediterranean diet is considered a prostate-friendly diet.

Cut Down on Certain Foods and Beverages

While the above-mentioned food items should be included in the diet to ensure good prostate health, there are some foods and beverages that you need to avoid.

If you are an ardent lover of non-vegetarian, then you must refrain from consuming red meat like beef, mutton, pork, and much of the processed meat. Instead, you can consider including fishes like Salmon, Tuna, and Sardines (17).

Similarly, studies have also suggested that caffeine intake can work against your prostate health because caffeine consumption leaves a diuretic effect on your body which means there will be a frequent urge to urinate.

People usually associate caffeine consumption with coffee but it is present in tea, soda, and chocolates as well. There is however a lack of consensus among studies as far as the consumption of alcohol for prostate health is concerned.

Even though fewer studies have claimed the positive benefits of red wine on prostate cancer,  it has been proved that neither red wine nor white wine or any other kind of alcohol has any impact on prostate cancer (18).

Summary: Red meat like beef, mutton, pork, and processed meat are best avoided if you are trying to improve prostate health. Caffeine intake is also not recommended.

Mitigate Your Stress Levels

As we all know, stress is detrimental to one’s health. Studies have shown that high-stress levels can harm your prostate health as well. Men suffering from BPH are unable to hold urine in their bladder which often creates a panic situation for them searching for an available bathroom.

This aggravates stress in prostate patients. The effect of stress is often released on the pelvic muscles, leading to tightening of these muscles and further complicating the prostate condition.

By managing your stress levels, you can aid your prostate gland. Some simple activities to this effect can include a regular regime of yoga and meditation, enhancing the intake of antioxidants, managing your weight, refraining from holding the urine, and seeking some sort of emotional therapy (19).

Summary: Increased stress levels may harm prostate health. Stress can cause our muscles to tighten up and the tightening of pelvic muscles can further complicate your prostate health conditions.

Boost Your Vitamin D Levels

Soaking in the sun for some time daily can help your prostate health. The intake of vitamin D can lessen your chances of falling prey to prostate cancer (20).

If you are already diagnosed with prostate cancer, vitamin D can still help you by reducing the inflammation and other symptoms.

An optimum intake of this vital vitamin can delay and even protect the disease to become severe. Some studies claim that boosting vitamin D intake either through exposure to the sun or taking supplements can help to avoid surgery in low-grade prostate cancers.

Summary: Vitamin D intake may help reduce inflammation and can help avoid surgery for those suffering from low-grade prostate cancers.

7 Over-the-Counter Prostate Supplements

Natural supplements have proven to be quite effective and sturdy in providing results. They are also available over the counter, making it possible for anyone to administer the dosages in safe and recommended proportions.

These supplements will aid in two ways, calming the prostate gland muscles or inhibiting the hormone that enables the prostate to exponentially grow in this condition.

We will look at 7 highly effective all-natural supplements that can get you up and running and help you find relief from this predicament.

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

A highly recommended herbal, all-natural supplement is an extract from the saw palmetto plant. It is a palm plant, and the extract from the berries is what makes all the difference for men having enlarged prostate glands (21).

It reduces the symptoms of an enlarged prostate such as the urgent need to urinate or to go to urinate often. As studies and surveys show, consuming about 320 milligrams of the herbal supplement daily, divided into 2 doses, can showcase results in about 4 to 6 weeks.

However, the research has not been 100% conclusive, making it a good shot to try as it is a completely natural extract with zero to few side effects.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle

Another plant that has been showing great promise in decreasing the symptoms of an enlarged prostate is the stinging nettle (Urticadioica). The leaves and roots are the ones who do the magic. Used as early as the great Egyptian civilization and right now until the Roman Empire, this healing plant would aid in various bodily discomforts and conditions (22).

The root extract is consistently proving to aid increase the urine flow and support other glaring symptoms of the condition of enlarged prostate glands.

Combined with other supplements, it can be quite a good treatment, as it actively prevents the conversion of testosterone to a more potent form which is responsible for the growth of the prostate gland (23)

Rye Grass Pollen

This extract (Cernilton) has, over time, proven to be a great extract made out of the pollen of ryegrass and timothy grass (24). It is consumed orally and has a lasting effect on many of the symptoms of BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia.

This extract can counter the symptoms of night-time urination and also the discomforts caused by frequent urination.

It also has proven to dramatically reduce prostate pain in some men, improving overall health to a great extent. The pollen extract is safe for consumption and there have been little to zero side effects.

Some men have experienced distention and nausea and in some cases, heartburn, which is easily countered by other natural extracts.

Pygeum

Pygeum (Prunus africanum) is a popular herbal supplement that is extracted from the bark of the African plum tree. It has many health benefits, with the most prominent one being its effect on reducing the symptoms of BPH in men over the age of 50.

As research has progressed further on, it has come to light that the extract may not only reduce the symptoms but also be an effective treatment to the condition of BPH. The chemicals contained within the extract have helped reduce the size of prostate glands and are then able to manage the many symptoms that go along with the condition (25).

Red Clover

The plant, Trifoliumpretense, produces flower tops that have proven to be a good supplement for varying conditions, and, in our case, for BPH.

If you wish to reduce the number of times that you visit the bathroom during the night, you can gain the benefits from the red clover extract. Consumption with care is needed for benefits (26).

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Pumpkin seed oil (Cucurbita pepo) is readily available in capsule form, and this is good news for those afflicted by prostate issues.

Research has effectively written about the benefits of this extract, making it one of the most popular natural choices. It not only improves prostate health but overall health as well (27).

South African Star Grass

Packed with beta sitosterols, the South African Star Grass (Hypoxishemerocallidea) is a medical marvel for conditions involving inflammation and prostate health. The natural root remedy can aid in regulating urine flow and many other symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate for men (28).

More and more doctors have seemingly supported the use of these herbal supplements that can help. And, with more and more data coming in to support this claim, more men are resorting to the all-natural line of supplements for their issues.

These are not currently actively prescribed by doctors or the FDA; however, they are surely being widely accepted as potent drivers of overall male health.

Summary: These supplements are based on natural plant extracts thus, people worldwide are using them for not only improving prostate health but to boost their entire body fitness. However, as mentioned earlier, in most cases, these supplements can only delay and provide temporary relief to prostate-related problems.

The Dosage and Side Effects of Prostate Supplements

The dosage recommendations of all supplements are different. So, you need to check the product label very carefully and strictly adhere to the recommended dosage to avoid any side effects and ensure maximum benefits.

While there is usually no harm in trying out these natural supplements if your prostate condition has not that worsened. But, it should also be noted that there is no sure-shot success formula for these supplements.

The effect of the supplements can vary across individuals. Some individuals absorb these supplements without any complaints but there can be others who experience vomiting, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea after consuming the prostate supplements.

The market is full of many such herbal supplements that make bigger claims to improve your prostate health. But, you must consider your medical history before selecting any of these supplements.

It is highly recommended that you consult your doctor when diagnosed with the issue and seek a treatment that would best aid your condition and not worsen the situation.

The Final Note

While most of the prostate-related problems are considered to be a natural process of aging, the fact that they still lead to serious discomfort cannot be denied.

It’s best, to begin with, healthy lifestyle changes to maintain good prostate health before it is late. Even when you are diagnosed with any prostate issue, you can try herbal supplements after consulting your doctor. The good news is that most cases of prostate diseases are not life-threatening.