For many years I had very few men coming in worried about a high PSA test. In fact, I could count them on one hand over a 10 year span. So imagine my surprise when in the last year I have had 45 men come in because of high PSA readings. Why the change? Are there really so many more men with high PSA? Has the testing process changed in some way? Whatever the reason, the result is still the same - the push to have a biopsy. And in the meantime, the men are freaking out! When professor Richard Ablin discovered prostate-specific antigen in 1970, it was meant to aid in detecting cancer after a malignant prostate had been removed. He never advocated nor suggested that it be used in healthy men as a screening tool. Once the FDA approved the PSA test in 1986, prostate cancer became the second-most commonly detected cancer in men. Ablin's response: "PSA testing has been a hugely expensive public health disaster. More than 1 million men have been overdiagnosed and treated for prostate cancer [that they didn't have]."
So where do we stand now? Well the profit margin in prostate cancer detection and treatment is a huge source of income for doctors, labs and hospitals. How many urologists complain about giving up on PSA testing because of the amount of money they generate from it? The result is a firestorm of criticism on both sides. So what's a healthy guy to do?
Let's look at the findings of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force discovered that there is no major medical group that recommends routine PSA tests, that all men should not receive the test routinely and that the time, energy and money spent on PSA testing should instead go towards developing a test that works. In fact, it would be much better to have a baseline reading done in your early 40's and then see how it goes from there. Gradual increases generally mean nothing conventionally, and so you are instead looking for more sudden changes.
You also need to understand what the results may mean. The truth is that PSA screening of the blood (prostate-specific antigen) only points out prostate cancer development occasionally. More often it points to a benign enlarged prostate or an undetected infection. An even more upsetting prospect is that it often can detect very small tumors that will never become deadly and there is no way to know who should receive aggressive treatment and who shouldn't, so of course, everyone does. The reality is that PSA screening has no real benefit, and there is no evidence that it prevents death from prostate cancer.
So the result of PSA screening may not be preventing cancer, but it is definitely causing damage to countless perfectly healthy men. The recommendations that emerge from a high PSA test have led to infections, incontinence, impotence and death. Many men live in pain for the rest of their lives. So without any history that makes prostate cancer a real concern, there is no reason to submit to this deadly game of dominoes.
Currently there are a few alternatives to PSA testing. The Hybritech fPSA (free PSA) test is significantly better at detecting prostate cancer, without providing false readings based on benign prostate conditions. It is currently approved by the FDA. A second option is to involve other testing results with which to view a PSA blood test, such as digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasound and PSA density and velocity. Even as far back as 2005, research was looking at tests that would detect antibodies against cancer cells in the prostate, a much less invasive testing method. The most common called the AMAS test measures serum levels of Anti-Malignin Antibody, malignin being a polypeptide that is present in most malignant cells regardless of cell type or location. Positive AMAS tests can often detect the presence of malignancy 1 to 19 months before clinical detection.
So what you are looking for are sudden changes, which are more obvious with a digital rectal examination (ouch!). Then you want to get multiple variations of testing so that you can get "second opinions". Once you have your test results and they seem to indicate cancer, the general consensus is this. If you have a less aggressive form of cancer (known as "indolent"), which is true among 70% of men diagnosed, then you should do nothing conventional at all. That's right, most clinical studies agree that invasive treatment for these less aggressive forms do significantly more harm than good.
Enlarged Prostate Factors...
Let's look at the reasons why you may have an enlarged prostate from a holistic viewpoint.
Age - Enlargement of the prostate is a natural process as men age for the majority of men of average or above-average height. This may not be true of men of smaller stature, particularly Asian men. So enlargement may be perfectly normal and mean nothing at all.
Toxicity - Biopsies of prostate tissue have shown numerous toxins that can accumulate in the prostate because of its vascular nature. Pharmaceutical drug residue, plastics, environmental pollutants and even heavy metals can all accumulate in vascular organs and fail to be removed through normal elimination pathways.
Since the prostate produces and ejects seminal fluid, toxicity can create disturbances in fertility and in the immunity of the sexual partner. Poor sperm quality, immune reactions in the female partner reducing fertility or chronic infection or reaction in the female after sex are all indicators that there may be a toxic presence in the prostate that is affecting the quality of the seminal fluid that is being produced.
Infection - Latent undiagnosed infections can be a contributing factor to any chronic inflammatory condition or the enlargement of any tissue in the body. Bacterial infections are common within the urinary apparatus and are also highly possible with the prostate. Opting for a course of antibiotics or utilizing natural antibiotic options such as high grade Goldenseal, Andrographis and Cat's Claw can all help to rule out any latent infective agent.
Trauma - Injury or irritation to the prostate is another possible cause of enlargement. Even enjoyable activities such as horseback riding, cruising on a motorcycle or off-roading on 4 wheelers can all create jolting vibrations that can create irritation and inflammation in the prostate which is barely protected. Work activities such as jack-hammering or wearing a harness for long periods of time can put pressure on the area of the prostate and cause swelling to occur.
Stones - the prostate gland, like the kidneys, liver and gallbladder, is very porous and excess minerals that are not ionized can accumulate forming stones. The presence of stones can be an irritant just as it is with any other organ. The mineral most likely to cause the problem is calcium. It is important for men to be sure they are absorbing and utilizing the calcium they are taking in order to prevent precipitation and the resulting formation of stones.
Parasites - I know everyone hates the idea that parasites can be to blame, but the truth is that parasites are exactly what their name implies - parasitic. They will migrate through channels to areas that are favorable as a living environment. Given the prostate's proximity to the outside via the urethra, it is more common than you might think for microscopic parasites to invade healthy tissue and create an immune reaction by the body.
Yeast / Fungal issues - Just as women can often develop a yeast infection after sex or during antibiotic use, or after their period, so too can men. In fact, there are numerous studies that indicate that yeast and fungal issues are transmittable between sexual partners just as any other infection. Rashes, external itching, skin discoloration or patches of eczema can all be signs of the presence of yeast.
pH - The tissue of the prostate tends to be alkaline, and a disturbance in the pH towards the acidic side of the spectrum can create changes that allow cells to mutate and alter in order to survive. By maintaining proper pH, the chances of cancerous alterations occurring are less.
Hormonal Imbalance - Many studies have shown that high levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) and Estrogen can reduce testosterone binding, and stimulate cell growth in the prostate in order to accommodate more binding receptor sites. This can be exacerbated by adrenal fatigue, the taking of exogenous testosterone that the body cannot recognize, or even high levels of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) produced in the liver.
Beginning even before you have a prostate problem is the best way to guard against any issues in the future. No sense having to bend over more than you have to! So gradually consider these suggestions to ensure a healthy prostate for life.
Age - There is nothing you can do about aging obviously, but making sure that antioxidants are a large part of your daily intake both nutritionally and supplementally can help to ensure that the aging process has no negative side effects for you. My recommendation is always MediHerb's HerbaVital along with lots of green tea and Standard Process's OPC Synergy.
Toxicity - Although there are no detoxification methods that just address the prostate (as we have with the liver), it is important to reduce your toxic exposure including your use of plastic and pharmaceuticals. But completing a detoxification program for the kidneys, urinary tract and blood is a great way to return to set point each year. I recommend a comprehensive three week program of foods, herbs and clays to reduce toxicity, including poultices and Infrared Sauna. Follow this up with lots of probiotic flora and you can notice a substantial difference in seminal quality.
Infection - As I mentioned, completing a round of conventional antibiotics may do the trick, but if you are asymptomatic, I prefer the natural blend of Cat's Claw, Goldenseal and Andrographis. Follow this up with a long-term course of Echinacea Angustifolia to prevent recurrance and also pay attention to your antioxidant intake as detailed above. Often the immune system can create inflammation simply as a response to large volumes of free radicals and low antioxidant levels.
Trauma - Protection of your treasure chest is an important consideration if you are a pirate, or if you are simply an adventurer. I have often recommended to my motorcycle aficionado clients to really pad their seat and where protective clothing that minimizes the transfer of vibration to that oh, so delicate area. Also, making sure that you take frequent breaks and give yourself time to recover. There are even breathing exercises that you can do to oxygenate this sensitive area and to increase the flow of blood.
Stones - There are a couple of issues with stones. First, you have to be sure you are taking ionized calcium as a supplement which is whole food-derived. I like Calcium Lactate by Standard Process. But you also have to be sure your body is utilizing the calcium you take in. Cataplex F tablets as well as Orchex can both do this (and Orchex is also a great tranquilizer for everything up to bear size!). Then synergistic formulas such as Magnesium Lactate and Phosphorus can help to reduce the accumulation of precipitated calcium.
Parasites - We are one of the only countries in the world that does not advocate annual anti-parasitic cleanses as a fact of life. We are no more immune than people in Australia, Japan or Borneo. In fact, most tourists return home with a hidden friend! Parasites are present at the beach, in the woods and in our food (and not just in sushi). And despite your crazy idea that you would recognize a parasite when you see it, you actually can't see most of them, which is why children get pinworms and adults walk around with Tinea. Black or Green Walnut, Wormwood, Standard Process's Zymex II, Garlic are all great things to include in an annual antiparasitic regimen.
Yeast / Fungal issues - Sugar cravings are the least indicative of a Candida problem. And many men walk around with jock itch for weeks or months, thinking that topical creams are the solution. The truth is that infection and reinfection can occur time and time again. This is a condition that requires treatment by both sexual partners simultaneously, and especially if one or the other has symptoms. Pau D'Arco, Oregano oil, high-grade Cat's Claw, Standard Process Zymex and Pharmax's Candaclear are all great options for an antifungal protocol. Combine this with an anti-Candida diet for a period of six weeks and see what improvement can be made.
pH - pH is the result of environment, water, food and lifestyle. The best ways to change pH is to change your diet and change your water. Including lots of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants and contribute alkalinity to the body is key for any healthy life. You can also introduce ionized electrolyzed water which can also contribute antioxidant molecules reducing acidity in body tissues. Even paying attention to the water you bathe in can make a difference. The pH of the skin is 5.5 which maintains the acid mantle that healthy bacteria that protect your skin require. Many waters contain chlorine and other additives that can alter the pH of the water and contribute contaminants that can be inhaled or absorbed during bathing.
Hormonal Imbalance - It is important to reduce levels of DHT and Estrogen in order for the bioavailability of testosterone to reach balanced levels. Simply increasing testosterone through androsteine, pregnenelone or DHEA usually cause a corresponding increase in DHT and estrogen as well, so that's not a great choice. SHBG produced by the liver is another hormone that should be kept in check. This is where stinging nettle root extract comes into play, which is great at reducing SHBG. There are numerous natural substances that can reduce DHT and allow testosterone levels to rise. Zinc, Green Tea, Lycopene, Saw Palmetto, GLA essential fatty acids and melatonin are all great choices. To reduce estrogen levels, try Cataplex C whole food vitamin C, olive oil, flaxseed oil, passion flower, grapeseed, resveratrol (found in HerbaVital), African Pygeum. But also consider avoiding alcohol, reducing soy and removing xenoestrogens that are found in the environment, which can also be chelated with Cataplex C and selenium.
The truth is that each individual has their own history, propensities, lifestyle and factors that will dictate the health or disease process of their prostate. By considering more comprehensive testing methods, healthier lifestyle habits and reducing those things that can negatively affect the prostate, you can ensure a healthy prostate future. Most men I see would dearly love to keep their prostate intact and undisturbed. By following these guidelines your wish can come true!