Understanding Prostate Health
4th December, 2020
Did you know that the majority of Aussie males over the age of 40 will experience some issue related with their prostate?
Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a common condition in older men, where the prostate cells begin to multiply and as a result the prostate gland becomes enlarged. Although it’s a non-cancerous condition, BPH can cause numerous, uncomfortable symptoms such as frequent night time urination, urgency and other lower urinary tract issues which can progress and begin to affect the quality of life for some men.
According to the Medical Journal of Australia, 20% of men aged under the age of 45 years and 70% of men aged 80 years and over suffer from problems with their lower urinary tract, where many of the symptoms can be attributed to prostate enlargement1.
What is the prostate and how does it cause so much trouble?
The prostate is a small, walnut sized gland located beneath the bladder, encircling the first part of the urethra. The urethra is the tube which carries urine from the bladder and can become constricted as the prostate grows. The main purpose of the prostate is to produce a fluid which nourishes and protects sperm and makes up part of semen.
As men age, their hormones begin to change. In the prostate, type II 5-alpha-reductase converts testosterone into a more powerful form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT binds to the androgen receptors in the prostate and contributes to an increase in the size of prostate cells, which in turn causes the prostate to enlarge.
As the prostate increases in size it can begin to impinge upon the urethra causing urinary symptoms that may include; a weak urine stream, trouble starting and stopping, the frequent feeling of needing to urinate, needing to urinate two or more times per night, strong and sudden urge to urinate, leaking or dribbling, and the sense that the bladder isn’t empty after urination.
Although these symptoms are very common in older males, they should not be ignored. It is vital that men over the age of 40 have an annual prostate examination with their doctor.
Foods to support prostate health
Eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables is fundamental for good health for everybody, however there are a few foods which can help to support prostate health.
Include more tomatoes in your diet. Tomatoes contain high amounts of lycopene, a phytochemical and an antioxidant that has many benefits specific to the prostate gland. Cooking helps to make lycopene more available, so enjoy tomatoes in pasta sauce, soups or casseroles to get the best out of them.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have been shown to have potent plant chemicals which have protective qualities to help support prostate health. Try adding some broccoli to a colourful stir fry, some cabbage to a fresh salad or cauliflower in a delicious creamy soup.
Include healthy fats in your diet. Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are full of beneficial oils, as are avocados and oily fish such as salmon. As you increase the healthy fats, make sure to avoid the bad fats which are generally found in processed, fried or packaged foods.
Zinc is important for the healthy functioning of the prostate, so make sure to include high zinc foods in your diet. Zinc can be found in a wide variety of foods. Great sources include; oysters, beef, nuts and pumpkin seeds – to name a few!
Keep hydrated! Good hydration is a pivotal for our bodies to function well in all areas, aim for at least two litres a day and try to cut out drinks which aren’t beneficial to your health, such as alcohol and soft drinks. Limit your evening water intake, to help minimise disruptions to sleep during the night.
There are herbs which have been shown to be clinically effective in relieving the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate, such as Pygeum and Saw palmetto.
Doing the best we can to implement healthy diet and lifestyle changes is important, as well as letting your doctor know at your regular health check-ups, if you are experiencing any lower urinary tract symptoms.