Around 50% of all men over 50 years old and 80% of those aged over 80 years experience symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (sometimes referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy).
With these statistics in mind, it’s in your best interest to look after your prostate health, so in this article we explain what BPH is and how complementary medicines may be able to help.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut, responsible for producing prostatic fluid, which forms part of semen. It is located directly below the bladder and in front of the rectum, with the urethra passing through the centre of it.
What is BPH?
The inner layers of the prostate begin to slowly and progressively enlarge from around the time a man enters his 40s. This enlargement (or ‘hypertrophy’) may lead to obstruction of the urethra and retention of urine. BPH is a consequence of normal hormonal changes related to ageing, such as lowered testosterone, increased dihydrotestosterone and increased oestrogen.
Symptoms of BPH:
Although almost all men over 45 years have some degree of BPH, symptoms often do not become an issue before the age of 60. Symptoms may include:
- Urinary urgency and frequency.
- Hesitancy and dribbling when urinating.
- Reduced volume and force of urinary flow.
- Multiple visits to the toilet at night.
- Sensation of incomplete bladder emptying.
- Uncontrolled overflow incontinence - where the bladder continues to drip for some time after urination.
Some of the symptoms of BPH are similar to those of other, more serious prostate conditions, so if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described, please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Natural Support for your Prostate
Herbs and nutrients that may support prostate health include: Saw Palmetto: The dark red berries of the saw palmetto plant have been traditionally used in western herbal medicine to help maintain prostate health. Numerous scientific studies have shown that saw palmetto extract helps reduce symptoms of BPH such as needing to get up repeatedly during the night to urinate and weakened urinary flow. In mild to moderate cases of benign prostatic hypertrophy, benefits may be experienced in as little as four to eight weeks. Saw palmetto appears to work by reducing the formation of dihydrotestosterone and inhibiting its binding to receptors on prostate cells
Epilobium: Epilobium has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine as a male tonic and to assist reduced urinary flow. Clinical studies seeking to understand its actions in improving symptoms of BPH suggest that it may work by reducing the formation of dihydrotestosterone
Lycopene: Lycopene is a red-coloured carotenoid found in foods such as tomatoes, guavas, ruby grapefruit and watermelon. It is a powerful antioxidant that is stored by the body in the prostate gland and may help to maintain prostate health via a number of mechanisms. Cooked tomato products (including tomato sauce) are the best dietary sources of lycopene, but it is also available in supplement form.
Pumpkin Seed Oil: When taken alone or in combination with saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil has been shown to reduce symptoms of BPH and improve the quality of life of men affected by the condition. These effects may start to become noticeable after just three months of treatment, with additional improvements noted in subsequent months
Zinc: The prostate contains a higher concentration of zinc than any other body tissue and maintaining adequate zinc levels is important for overall prostate health and functioning. Some evidence suggests that men with BPH and some other prostate conditions have lower zinc levels in their prostates and prostatic secretions than men without prostate disease.
Researchers have hypothesised that zinc deficiency may contribute to these health problems by increasing oxidative stress (free radical damage)