Solutions for the Prostate
Men are waking up to the fact that the prostate is a gland that demands attention and more and more men are turning to natural solutions for a variety of issues that are related to the prostate. So let’s begin with prostate 101... The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that surrounds the tube that comes down from the bladder called the urethra. The purpose of the prostate is to manufacture and release fluid that protects and suspends the sperm on its journey to the female partner. Since the vagina tends to secrete quite acidic compounds, the sperm require something to buffer and feed them as they journey through the vaginal canal.
Knowing this, if the man encounters a hostile reaction in the female mucus, such as during attempted conception, this can be a sign that there is a weakness early on in the prostate fluid production. There is also the idea that if a gland is not used very often (ah-hem...) then it can also develop atrophy problems and not function as well down the road.
The most common issue that develops concerning the prostate is BPH or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. This is where non-malignant epithelial tissue form nodes within the prostate causing it to enlarge. This interferes with normal urination and sexual function as well. The most common symptoms are a change in the force of urination, including hesitancy, intermittency, incomplete emptying, urinary retention, urgency, frequency and night urination. Basically you are looking for a change from what is normal for you.
BPH is more common with increasing age with 50% of men in the 50’s and 90% of men over 80 displaying symptoms of BPH. There are a few factors that are considered the strongest in developing BPH including hormones, structural or mechanical issues and the muscle tone surrounding the gland structures. It is widely accepted that the growth, function and maintenance of the prostate are dependent on androgen hormones. If there is an increase in androgen hormones, it is thought this could lead to a change in the prostate tissue composition. However, tests have shown that the levels of androgens tend to be similar in both BPH patients and those with no symptoms of BPH.
The second factor is estrogen which originate from testosterone and adrenal hormones in men. As men age, their ratios of estrogen to androgens can shift and estrogen dominance can produce a change in the development and growth of the epithelial tissue of the prostate.
The third factor has to do with obstruction of the urethra because of changes in the smooth involuntary muscles of the prostate and bladder. If these muscles are chronically restricted, then it can cause inflammation and subsequent tissue changes. I have personally noticed a correlation in those men who use jackhammers in their work consistently or who ride motorcycles regularly and an increase in inflammation of the prostate.
Herbal treatment for BPH uses herbs that specifically target prostate tissue along with herbs that can improve the tone and function of the bladder and reduce spasmodic muscle issues. In addition there are food concentrates that provide much-needed mineral and vitamin compounds that are essential for the healthy function of the prostate. There is a theory in the natural community that since the prostate utilizes calcium in large amounts, if it fails to receive adequate calcium, it will enlarge to have greater access to the blood supply of nutrients.
Food concentrates are the basis of any good protocol for the prostate including phosphatase for proper calcium assimilation and transport and essential fatty acids that help to move minerals into glandular tissue. Tomatoes are amazing sources of essential nutrients along with the amino acid alanine and loads of zinc. This alone can reduce inflammation and provide relief from symptoms.
It is also important to provide large amounts of hydration which both provide fluid for hormone production and clear bacteria and toxins from the kidneys and bladder. The herbs that are essential for the prostate include Saw Palmetto, Nettle Root, and Crataeva. The use of saw palmetto berries dates back hundreds of years and it was highly regarded for prostate issues by Eclectic physicians. The berries are anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic and possibly have antiandrogenic properties. Saw Palmetto berries are also used as a sexual tonic. Nettle Root from the stinging nettle plant also has a long tradition of use in Germany and clinical research has shown amazing improvement in BPH symptoms. Crataeva is one of the most important Ayurvedic herbs that influence the urinary tract. It also is anti-inflammatory and acts as a bladder tonic. Clinical research has pointed out that poor bladder tone over time can definitely create BPH symptoms, so focusing on the bladder early on can prevent issues with the prostate.
Prostate cancer is a separate issue and is the most common cancer in males. Understanding the trends in the development of prostate cancer can go a long way to living a life of prevention. For instance African-Americans have the highest rate while Asian men have the lowest and the risk increases dramatically after age 50. Saturated fat intake also seems to be a contributing factor. In this situation there also seems to a lack of an essential enzyme that helps to deactivate testosterone activity, leaving larger amounts of available hormone in the blood. Studies have shown a strong correlation between higher levels of testosterone in the blood and the development of prostate cancer.
But in the last 40 years, evidence has been accumulating that point to environmental pollutants such as pesticides and industrial chemicals that have hormonal-like effects in humans and animals. These chemicals can mimic the effects of hormones, including testosterone, tricking the glands into reacting as though there are higher levels in the blood. Also these chemicals can disrupt normal pathways for the metabolism and control of hormone levels. This is especially true in men who have jobs that involve chemicals such as farmers, industrial workers or painters.
Another trend that seems to lead towards a higher incidence of prostate cancer is HPV or Human Papillomavirus. Several studies have suggested that HPV can cause genetic mutations in prostatic cells leading to prostate cancer.
Natural prevention begins with diet. Many studies have shown a substantially decreased risk of prostate cancer in those who consume larger quantities of soy. Even in those with tumors, when soy was introduced there was a slowing of tumor growth and invasive tumors were fewer. In fact, soy consumption is believed to be the most protective of any dietary factor.
Treatment involves similar herbs to BPH such as Crataeva. In this case, Essiac is very useful, which includes burdock root, rhubarb root, sheep sorrel and slippery elm with 90% in a study reporting positive change. Antivirals may be important as well if there is any history of chronic or insidious viral infection. Thuja is a great choice for this unless the virus is encapsulated, in which case St. John’s Wort would be a better choice. Other herbs that may be used are turmeric, red clover, green tea, saw palmetto, astragalus, cat’s claw and schisandra.
Liver cleansing is crucial which is the case for any cancer. Additionally Prostate PMG from Standard Process is a wonderful protomorphagenic compound that can help to stabilize the cellular matrix. I also suggest lots of fiber, which often is something that has been lacking dietarily for years.
So if you are thinking in terms of prevention, high fiber, healthy essential fatty acids, water-soluble calcium with phosphatase, soy products and annual liver cleansing can go a long way to keep the prostate healthy.