Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlargement of the prostate, occurs commonly as men age, often with a slow progression of urinary symptoms. The condition is common in men over the age of 50 and by age 70 nearly all men will have some prostate enlargement. The symptoms are caused by the growing prostate placing pressure on the urethra which can manifest in a wide range of mild to severe urinary problems including frequent urination, urinary urgency, weak or incomplete urine flow, and difficulty urinating. While BPH does not indicate a predisposition to cancer or other life threatening diseases, the symptoms can be problematic and cause significant daily life inconvenience.
In Chinese medicine, the use of herbs and advice for dietary and lifestyle changes can be very helpful to patients in decreasing prostate enlargement and therefore decreasing the severity of urinary symptoms. Reducing consumption of red meat and animal as well as an increase in vegetables intake and physical exercise is recommended. Some specific foods such as pumpkin seeds may be helpful dietary additions. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of dietary zinc, and zinc has been shown to decrease the conversion of testosterone to DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Increased levels of the hormone DHT is thought to be one cause of prostate growth in BPH.
Chinese medicine offers specific dietary advice and treats each person with herbs according to their individual constitution as well as including herbs that have commonly shown to be helpful in decreasing prostate enlargement and inflammation.
While most cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed late in life and develop slowly, the incidence is increasing in men younger than 50, requiring more careful screening and potential treatment. Traditional Western medicine with chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone suppression therapy is often recommended and can be effective for prostate cancer that is localized and responsive to androgens, however, when there is androgen resistance and metastasis, it can be challenging to treat.
Many herbs and phytochemicals have been shown to have healing potential via tumor inhibition, decreased inflammation and other metabolic pathways and can offer helpful support to conventional cancer treatment. It has been found that general chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of more than 20% of cancers and close to 80% of prostate biopsy samples indicate a chronic inflammation signature.
Making changes to lifestyle and diet is beneficial in the treatment of cancers in general and a westernized diet high in red or processed meat, sugar, fatty dairy products, refined grains, and little emphasis on fruits and vegetables has been correlated with increased susceptibility to cancer.
Chinese medicine treats each person individually taking into account their condition, constitution, and other health indicators, and with prostate cancer patients also integrates herbs well known for their anti-neoplastic properties. Herbs and dietary changes are successfully used to support conventional treatment, alleviate side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and prevent recurrence once the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) has reduced to normal and evidence of cancer diminished significantly.
Dietary Advice for Prostate Health
Eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber
Avoid or minimize alcohol, sugar, soda, red meat high in fat, dairy products, and fried foods
Eat plenty of vegetables (broccoli sprouts are especially good) and legumes
Include foods with the following nutrients:
Zinc – especially high in pumpkin seeds. Zinc is especially concentrated in the prostate and is an important in DNA synthesis, immune function and antioxidant activity. Evidence highly suggests that it has a strong protective role in prostate cancer progression.
Vitamin D – inhibits and reduces the proliferative effects of estrogen and testosterone.
Vitamin E – offers antioxidant effects, stimulates the immune system and research shows that it has a protective effect on prostate, breast, skin, and colo-rectal cancers.
Selenium – An NIH (National Institute of Health) review of 15 studies found that selenium levels were linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.
Quercetin – is a strong antioxidant, decreases pro-inflammatory cytokines and shows anti-androgen effects which support the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer
Lycopene – especially high in tomatoes – is a powerful antioxidant with potential anti-cancer effects.