Prostate Health

Proper Prostate Care, Naturally

Listen up, men – start paying attention to the health of your prostate NOW! Don’t wait for a negative test result. There is an abundance of clinically-proven natural methods of warding off prostate problems, anything from BPH to cancer. For instance, eating enough cruciferous vegetables cuts prostate cancer risk almost in half! Science has also discovered that specific nutrients can make a true difference, such as vitamin D and pygeum. Start today with a prevention plan and, if issues have already come up, these recommendations will be doubly important to follow.

Prostate 101

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland below the bladder that secretes fluids to help transport sperm. Cancer of this gland is the second most common cancer in men after the lung. The good news is this common form of cancer is nearly 100% survivable if detected early.[1] Men are also susceptible to additional prostate issues, including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a painful enlargement of the gland that may obstruct or even block urine flow.[2] Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate, usually caused by bacterial, fungal, or viral infections.[3] When discussing these latter two conditions, Dr. Katz, director of the Center for Holistic Urology, Colombia University Medical Center, says “…just about every man who walks the Earth will suffer from one or the other, either chronically or periodically, after he turns 50.”[4] Clearly, men of every age should take action to protect the heath of their prostate, which can help heal and prevent further problems or reduce one’s risk of them ever occurring.

Feeding the Prostate Properly

The number one prostate-protecting family of vegetables is called cruciferous, which includes such members as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. A five-year study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute evaluated over 1200 men and found that those eating three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week cut their risk of prostate cancer almost in half (41%) compared with 602 men eating less than once serving per week. It was also discovered that those who simply consumed more vegetables (28 or more servings per week) were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer as compared to those consuming fewer than 14 servings per week.[5] The hardy cruciferous varieties are bursting with particularly active cancer-protective nutrients, such as indole-3-carbinol,[6] glucaric acid (calcium D-glucarate),[7] and sulforaphane.[8] The high concentration of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may also play a cancer-protective role with their breakdown of environmental carcinogens.[9]

Flaxseed meal is another powerful prostate-protective food. These buttery seeds provide many nutrients, but the lignans are most notable. These antioxidant compounds are metabolized by intestinal bacteria into substances that possess anti-cancer properties.[10],[11] Men with prostate cancer who consumed three heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily were found to have more slowly-dividing tumor cells and a greater rate of tumor cell death than those without the flaxseed-enhanced diet. The lignans are thought to bind to testosterone and help remove it from the body. This could, in turn, help suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells.[12]

Tomatoes are famous for protecting the prostate. Lycopene, the carotenoid that makes this fruit red, concentrates in the prostate.[13] When Harvard Medical School researchers surveyed nearly 48,000 men about their diets and assessed their prostate cancer risk, they found those who ate 10 or more servings (one-half cup) of tomato-based foods each week had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who ate only 1.5 servings.[14] Further research has found up to an 83% risk reduction for those with the highest lycopene concentration in their prostate tissue compared to those with the lowest.[15]  Although lycopene is also found in watermelon, apricots, and guava, tomatoes are the richest source. The absorption of this carotenoid is also enhanced with heat, and in combination with fats,[16],[17] such as slow-cooked tomato sauce with olive oil.

Fish-eaters have a lower risk of prostate cancer.[18] This protective connection is believed to be due to the omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in these sea-going creatures.[19] A Swedish study involving 3136 pairs of male twins performed over 30 years concluded that men who never eat fish have a two-to-three-fold higher risk of prostate cancer than men who eat moderate to high amounts.[20] Remember, the fats in fish are found predominately in the wild varieties, compared to farmed, because they are allowed to forage for the foods that increase their EPA and DHA content. Stick with the fattier, cold-water fish like salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel.

Quercetin-rich foods are also on the prostate-protective roster. This plant compound is abundant in apples, onions, teas, and red wine. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that quercetin reduced or prevented prostate cancer cell growth by blocking activity of androgen hormones, which have been linked to the development of this cancer.[21] Finally, pumpkin seeds and their oil contain a group of nutrients (namely zinc, certain fatty acids, and plant sterol) believed to provide a protective effect for the prostate. Pumpkin seed oil in combination with saw palmetto has been shown to reduce symptoms of BPH.[22],[23] Additional research has found improvements with using pumpkin seed oil on its own.[24],[25]

Ultimately, focus on simple, whole foods found in nature – organically-grown when possible. It is clear that simply consuming nourishing foods can make a significant difference when dealing with prostate health.

Herbs and Supplements for Prostate Health

Below are descriptions of the nutrients and the research to back them up as main players on the prostate-protecting field.

Vitamin D is gaining quite an anti-cancer reputation, including prostate cancer. Interestingly, the incidence of prostate cancer (as well as other cancers) is higher where sun exposure is low.[26] Vitamin D is produced by the body through the skin’s exposure to sunlight. Although called a “vitamin,” it actually has hormone-like functions within the body. In its activated hormone state, vitamin D has strong anti-cancer properties. In one trial, men with the highest blood levels of this nutrient had a 50% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, especially aggressive forms, than those with lower levels.[27]

Fish oils, specifically DHA and EPA, lower the risk of total prostate cancer as well as advanced levels. The researchers of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed a group of 47,866 cancer-free men aged 40–75 years for 14 years. Among the 2,965 new cases of prostate cancer during this time, 448 were advanced. Men with the highest amounts of EPA and DHA combined had an 11% lower total prostate cancer risk, while advanced prostate cancer risk was lowered 26%.[28] Cod liver oil is a great source of these unique fats, as well as a natural form of vitamin D.

Lycopene, found abundantly in tomatoes, not only has a preventative role for the prostate, it has also shown benefit in men with prostate cancer.[29] In one study, cancer patients taking 30 mg daily of supplemental lycopene had smaller tumors, less surgery, and less cancerous tissue than the control group. Another study found men taking 15 mg twice a day had less aggressive cancer cell growth than those not taking the nutrient.[30]

Zinc is found in high concentrations in the prostate, around 10 times more than any other body tissue. Those diagnosed with prostate cancer frequently have lower levels of this vital mineral.[31] Zinc is believed to interfere with prostate cancer cell growth by initiating cell death.[32],[33] This mineral has also been shown to reduce prostate size in BPH in 74% of the men studied.[34] In this trial, the men took 150 mg of zinc daily for two months, and then reduced it to 50 to 100 mg daily. Additionally, zinc plays a role in urinary tract infection resistance, which is often an issue for those with prostatsis.[35],[36],[37]Although more research is needed on the connection between zinc and these prostate conditions, many physicians highly recommend it due to its overall role in prostate function. Zinc may interfere with copper absorption.[38],[39] Thus, many zinc supplements include copper to prevent zinc-induced copper deficiency.

Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help those with prostatitis. Two separate reports have shown significant symptom improvement in men suffering from chronic prostatitis taking 500 mg of quercetin twice daily for at least two weeks.[40],[41] Another research group found positive results by adding bromelain and papain (enzymes with potent anti-inflammatory effects) to 1,000 mg per day of quercetin.[42] These enzymes not only improve the absorption of quercetin, but of all other nutrients as well, which means better prostate-protective power.[43]

Selenium has anti-cancer properties.[44],[45],[46],[47] Low blood levels of this mineral are found more often in those with prostate cancer than those without.[48],[49],[50] A study of over one thousand men showed a 63% decrease in prostate cancer incidence in those taking 200 mcg of a yeast-based selenium per day compared to those taking a placebo.[51] One reason for selenium’s protective effects is its antioxidant role in the body, which safeguards body cells from free radical damage. It works synergistically with vitamin E as a free radical scavenger team.[52]  In fact, a just-published study found that men with the highest blood levels of fat-soluble vitamin E (both alpha and gamma tocopherols) were around 50% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels.[53]

Saw palmetto is the “go-to” herb for BPH and with good reason. When used routinely, the extract of this herb helps keep BPH symptoms in check, such as nighttime trips to the restroom, reduced urination force, and dribbling.[54] A German study, using 160 mg of saw palmetto extra twice daily, found a 73% reduction in nighttime urination and significantly improved urinary flow rates.[55] When compared to one of the most commonly-prescribed BPH drugs, this herb has been shown to be just as effective, but without the side effects.[56] It is believed that saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to its more active, and less desirable, form – dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This herb not only blocks DHT’s production, but also prevents it from binding in the prostate.[57] A one-year study discovered that one 320 mg dose of saw palmetto was just as effective as two doses of 160 mg twice a day.[58] Prostatitis may also be helped by saw palmetto,[59] due to its ability to reduce swelling and inflammation.[60]

Pygeum has good clinical support for improving symptoms of BPH.[61],[62],[63] Most studies have used 50 to 100 mg of the extract (standardized to contain 13% total sterols) twice per day. Pygeum has several functions; it works as an anti-inflammatory, has diuretic action, and positively affects testosterone.[64] Although more has been used in several studies, one trial found that 100 mg once a day was just as effective as 50 mg twice per day.[65] This herb has also been found useful for chronic prostatitis.[66]

Stinging nettle can increase urinary volume and flow rate in those with BPH.[67] Besides providing anti-inflammatory benefits, [68] another action of nettle root is to affect compounds in the body that carry sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, essentially encouraging balance. [69] Nettle is often found in combination products specific to prostate support.[70]

Men, there is nothing un-manly about paying close attention to your prostate. In fact, taking steps to improve prostate health is a gift to yourself and family! The proven preventative and therapeutic measures at your fingertips are simple to implement and will pay off one-hundred-fold!

This information is provided solely to aid consumers in discussing supplements with their healthcare providers. It is not advised, nor is this information intended to advocate, promote, or encourage self use of these supplements for cancer risk reduction or treatment. Furthermore, none of this information should be misconstrued to suggest that dietary or herbal supplements can or should be used in place of conventional anticancer approaches or treatments.


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