What can we do to ensure that the men in our lives are healthy and happy?
One of the aims of the Naturopath is to education and aid in the prevention of disease. When we know what the common health risks are we can take steps towards preventing them from becoming a problem. An area of men’s health that’s often not considered until discomfort strikes is prostate health.
Prostate enlargement is said to affect up to 10% of men at the age of 30 and this dramatically increases to 90% of men by 85 years of age.
The prostate is a walnut sized gland that sits below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The prostate secretes an alkaline fluid that increases sperm motility and lubricates the urethra to prevent potential infections. Benign enlargement of the prostate is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition is very common and will present with symptoms associated with bladder obstruction including increased urinary frequency, pain on urination, night time waking to void the bladder and alteration to the flow of urine. It is important for men experiencing these symptoms to present to their health care practitioner for appropriate testing to ensure a differential diagnosis of more serious conditions such as prostate cancer is ruled out.
What are the driving factors in the development of BPH?
BPH is directly linked to the balance of male sex hormones and a breakdown in cellular regulation that occurs as men age allowing the prostate cells to proliferate and form additional tissue. Levels of testosterone tend to decrease with age while oestrogen, prolactin, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone tend to increase. The combined effect of these changes means that there is an increases of conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) within the prostate gland. DHT can stimulate the growth of the prostate. The removal of DHT from the prostate gland is hindered by elevated levels of oestrogen and exacerbated by increased activity of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase which converts testosterone to DHT. Increased levels of DHT are also linked to hair loss in men. In addition to this, high levels of inflammatory markers and insulin-like growth factors can also contribute to BPH.
What can be done to prevent BPH?
As always, how we choose to nourish our body plays a crucial role in the development of any imbalance within. Prostate health is no exception. A diet that is low in refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, white rice) and has adequate levels of protein can aid in the inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase activity. Conversely, a diet that is higher in refined carbohydrate and low in protein will stimulate the activity of this enzyme and also increase inflammatory markers and levels of insulin-like growth factors.
Zinc uptake is impaired by high levels of oestrogen that may be present in men with BPH potentially leading to deficiency. Zinc has been shown to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha-reductase the enzyme that increases the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Another hormone called prolactin can increase the uptake of testosterone by the prostate, zinc may help to inhibit the secretion of prolactin by the pituitary gland. Alcohol, especially beer can also cause a raise in prolactin levels and may be an aggravating factor in the development of BHP.
Fatty acid deficiency is very common with most people not getting enough Omega 3 in their diet. This imbalance can lead to high levels of inflammation within the body which has been determined to be a risk factor in BPH. Healthy fats are also needed to produce a balanced hormonal profile.
Studies have also shown that regular exercise is great news for the health of the prostate gland. A Harvard based health study found that men that were engaged in regular moderate exercise such as walking were less likely to suffer from BHP. In the treatment of prostate inflammation, an Italian study found that men with chronic prostatitis that walked briskly had a reduction in their symptoms when compared to men that did not factor regular exercise into their lifestyle.
How can your Naturopath help prevent the development of BPH?
- -Dietary analysis and clear nutritional and lifestyle guidelines to improve prostate health.
- -Correction of nutritional deficiency states through short term supplementation.
- -Herbal medicine to balance the male hormonal profile. Herbs that may help in the natural treatment of BPH include Saw Palmetto, Nettle, Hydrangea and Horsetail.
Awareness and education can help to support and prevent conditions of the prostate becoming an issue for the special men in our lives. If you know of anyone experiencing issues with prostate health why not suggest a complimentary 10 minute chat with one of our practitioners to determine how Naturopathy can support health naturally.
Emma Tippett - Naturopath
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