Prostate problems have become one of the biggest health issues for men today. Lifestyle and poor diet are known risk factors for developing prostate problems. For those who think prostate issues are far away, know that how we treat our bodies when we are younger can greatly impact us in later years. All men are susceptible. Remember that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!
So why all the fuss about the prostate anyway?
A part of the male reproductive system, the prostate is a walnut shaped gland closely linked to the urinary system. The prostate surrounds the urethra, which is a tube that transports urine and semen. It plays a role in making and filtering semen to ensure healthy offspring. The prostate gradually grows larger as a man ages. Excessive enlargement can cause a variety of medical conditions and highly unpleasant symptoms. These include urinary problems, pain and sexual dysfunction.
Prostatitis (the most common prostate problem for men under 50) is the swelling of the prostate gland caused by infection. An estimated 30-50 percent of males are affected by this.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is the excessive enlargement of the prostate. Sixty percent of men over the age of sixty and 80 percent of men over the age of 80 have been diagnosed with BPH.
Prostate cancer (which sometimes has no symptoms) is one of the most common types of cancer and a major cause of death among older men in developed countries. One man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is more common in black men than men of any other race.
Learn more about diet and prostate cancer
What to Avoid:
Refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, white rice) and sugars (sugar feeds cancer!), processed foods, hydrogenated oils (e.g. margarine), and added nitrates and nitrites (like those in cold cuts & hot dogs) are bad news for the prostate. Stick to a diet mostly of quality, organic and non-GMO whole foods. Avoid processed foods that are stripped of bioavailable nutrients and laden with chemicals and trans fats.
On a budget? Check out the dirty dozen list that the Environmental Working Group puts
out yearly. The Institute of Responsible Technology has great information on GMOs.
Watch your dairy intake. According to the American Nutrition Association, several studies have shown a consistent link between excessive intake of conventionally produced dairy with prostate cancer.
Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogen mimicking molecules found commonly in plastic, the lining of canned food, agricultural chemicals, toiletries and colognes. These environmental estrogens can lead to prostate dysfunction. Hormone disruptors can throw off the delicate estrogen-testosterone balance in the body. To help, avoid canned food and use glass or stainless steel instead of plastic. Eat organic and use natural toiletries and scents whenever possible.
Nutrition for a healthy prostate
Whole fruit and vegetables contain fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants to ensure that the prostate stays healthy. The following is not an exhaustive list….consult with a professional to get the whole scoop. Here are just some of the superstars when it comes to prostate health:
This vitamin is extremely important and most of us in North America are deficient. Multiple studies show vitamin D deficiency linked to multiple types of cancer, including that of the prostate. Get your vitamin D from safe moderate sun exposure and a supplement (especially in winter months). When taking therapeutic doses of vitamin D, get your vitamin D levels tested to stay in check.
Tomatoes and Lycopene
Tomatoes are GREAT for prostate health! They contain an antioxidant compound called lycopene. Most studies and research have shown that men who`s diets contain the highest amounts of lycopene, have the lowest incidences of prostate cancer. Cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene. Stay away from canned tomatoes and eat FRESH whenever possible (the BPA in the lining of cans is a concern due to the acidity in tomatoes!). Don`t like tomatoes? Try red or pink grapefruit and watermelon.
Pumpkin Seeds and Zinc
The mineral zinc is needed in abundance in the male prostate. Zinc deficiency is very common. Zinc in the prostate helps fight infection and a deficiency can lead to BPH. It has been shown to shrink an enlarged prostate. A great source of zinc is raw pumpkin seeds. Alternative sources are grass fed beef and cashews.
Eat more vegetables from the cruciferous family of vegetables….these include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli. They contain phytochemicals that appear to be protective to the prostate gland. Cauliflower and broccoli are particularly beneficial for the prostate.
Omega-3s are found in some of your good fats. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body, and therefore help reduce inflammation in the prostate gland. You can get your omega-3s from wild caught salmon. If you don’t eat fish, they are also in walnuts and freshly ground flax seeds. A quality supplement is usually beneficial.
Green tea contains an antioxidant called EGCG that helps fight abnormal cancer cells. Research has shown a link between green tea consumption and lowered risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Learn more about diet and prostate health
Herbs, Water and Lifestyle
Herbs like saw palmetto are used to help BPH. This small woody shrub produces berries with high concentrations of a medicinal oil that has an influence on testosterone metabolism and the prostate.
Because we are all biochemically individual and may have other health issues going on, always consult with your health care provider before going on any supplements, herbs or making any major dietary changes.
Drinking plenty of pure water can help prevent bladder infections and kidney problems that are linked to prostate enlargement. Cut down on caffeine (green tea being the exception), alcohol and sugary drinks.
Regular exercise is needed to bring adequate circulation to the prostate to provide it with fresh blood and oxygen. A sedentary lifestyle means congestion and stagnation in the prostate. Those that sit for long hours have an increased risk of prostate enlargement, so get moving every day! Sweat is a great way to detox and infrared saunas can help.
Let’s not forget that no matter how good our nutrition is, stress is a major player in disease. Keeping general good health which incorporates good quality sleep and good stress management techniques are also very important parts of helping to keep your prostate healthy and happy for years to come!