Prostate problems are one of the most common and bothersome medical problems of men as they age. In fact, current trends are that most men will develop BOTH an enlarged prostate AND cancer of the prostate if they live long enough. The older we become, the greater the risk.
Applying research-based strategies to protect the prostate as we age is possible and an ounce of prevention, in this case, is certainly worth a “pound” of cure! Having the prostate partially or completely removed surgically to treat either an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer can result in problems such as complete impotence, weak erections, urinary leakage, and/or difficulty with ejaculations, any of which will affect quality of life. Although many treatment options now exist and complications are less common, prevention is the far better option!
If you are a man (or if you know and love one), read on to learn protective strategies for maintaining prostate health.
Every man can support the health of his prostate by embracing some or all of these 10 simple strategies:
Prostate Strategy # 1: Stay Trim and Fit.
Prostate cancer is one of many cancers that can be triggered by weight gain. Obesity increases the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 20% if mildly obese and 34% if moderately obese. Benign prostate enlargement (BPH) is also more common in men who are obese or inactive, especially if there is metabolic syndrome or diabetes type 2. Abdominal weight gain negatively impacts sex hormones causing the prostate to enlarge and cancer cells to grow. Staying fit and trim is a positive for sexual health on multiple levels, including keeping the prostate normal size and functioning as intended. Staying physically active and within 15-20 pounds of your weight at age 21 also helps to minimize risks of prostate cancer.
Prostate Strategy # 2: Avoid Soda and Sugary Cereals
Prostate cancer risks over a 15 year time span were 40% higher in men who drank sugar-sweetened sodas. Sugary breakfast cereals also appear to increase prostate cancer risks. Limit sugar… your prostate is worth it!
Prostate Strategy # 3: Limit Dairy Products
Men consuming more than 2 ½ servings of dairy products daily have been found to be at higher risk of prostate cancer. Although low fat dairy also increases the risk of prostate cancer, whole milk increased the risk of actually dying from prostate cancer. Dairy has many health benefits, but use low fat when consuming dairy and limit servings to 1-2 daily.
Prostate Strategy # 4: The Use It Or Lose It Strategy
Sexual activity is associated with a lower the risk of prostate cancer. Frequent sex is thought to lower the concentration of cancer-causing compounds that can accumulate in an “unused” prostate. A study published in JAMA in 2004 of 29,000 men showed that each additional increment of 3 ejaculations per month is associated with a 15% decrease in the overall risk of prostate cancer. Compared to men with sexual activity 4-7 times a month, men who reported 21 or more episodes per month (averaging 5 or more per week) were found to have a 33% lower total prostate cancer risk, which increased to a 75% lower risk if continued long term. Bottom line… more is better for prostate cancer risks.
Prostate Strategy # 5: Avoid “Folic Acid” in Multivitamins
Folic Acid, a synthetic version of the vitamin folate, is still used in some lower quality multivitamins, but is associated with an increase in cancer risks, including prostate cancer. Do not take folic acid unless your physician recommends it for a specific reason. It was found in one study to increase the risk for prostate cancer by 163%! Natural folate, however, such as calcium folinate, is not associated with an increase in risk. If the label says “folic acid”, I recommend against it.
Note: Our multi formulas, such as Metabolism Essentials Multi have only natural folate.
Prostate Strategy # 6: Eat Tomatoes and Watermelon
10-30 mg daily of the plant nutrient lycopene is recommended for prostate health and seems to lower the risks of prostate cancer. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauces, watermelon, and lycopene supplements. Low-sodium V-8 juice contains 25 mg of lycopene in a 12 oz can. Less aggressive growth of prostate cancer cells has been found in prostate cancer patients receiving 15 mg of lycopene twice daily. Supplements should contain at least 10 mg as a daily dose for health promotion, but your healthcare provider may recommend 30 mg daily if diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Prostate Strategy # 7: Vitamin D
Research using Vitamin D at 4,000 IU per day in men with known prostate cancer showed an improvement in the cancer severity after one year of supplementation in 55% of the men. More research is needed, but there is no reason not to keep your vitamin D in an optimal range. Natural Vitamin D3 is recommended. Two capsules (4,000 IU) is a typical daily dose.
Prostate Strategy # 8: Flax Seed
3 tablespoons daily, along with a low fat diet, was researched at Duke University and found to result in a slower growth of prostate cancer cells and higher rates of prostate cancer cell death. The flax seed lowered testosterone levels in the blood, which may have been partially responsible for the benefit. Flax seed lignans are thought to provide the benefit. I recommend ground flax seed and/or flax seed lignans for men with prostate cancer.
Prostate Strategy # 9: Green Tea
A green tea extract was associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer in high-risk men in one study. The equivalent of Ultra Green Tea supplement, 1 capsule twice daily, was used in the research. Green tea drinkers in Japan also tend to have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate Strategy # 10: Prostate Health Supplements
Research suggests saw palmetto (the most popular prostate supplement) may delay the progression of BPH in men with mild prostate symptoms, potentially avoiding the need for eventual surgery. Other studies show saw palmetto, used alone, may not be effective for BPH within 6-9 months. Urtica dioica (stinging nettle root extract), used with saw palmetto, however, showed a 23% improvement in urine flow in men with BPH. Research suggests that saw palmetto should always be combined with urtica dioica for best results. Research also suggests that beta-sitosterol is effective at significantly improving the symptoms of prostate enlargement. Other supplements also work to support prostate health. Examples of recommended supplements include:
- Beta-sitosterol 100-200 mg per day
- Saw Palmetto 160-320 mg per day
- Urtica dioica 240 mg per day
- Zinc 30-60 mg per day
- Lycopene 10-30 mg per day
- Green Tea Extract (dose varies)
- Flax Seed Lignan Extract
Note: Prostate Health contains a combination of the ingredients noted above for supporting prostate health. As always, supplements are meant to be in addition to a healthy lifestyle, weight control, and a positive nutrition plan.
If you are a male, the reality is that you are at high risk of prostate disease, either a benign enlargement or true prostate cancer. Many treatments have unacceptable long-term consequences. I recommend healthy nutrition, staying fit, and keeping your weight controlled as primary strategies to keep your prostate healthy. Sexual health and sexual activity is a component of general health and, for the prostate, the “use it or lose it” philosophy appears to apply.
Avoid problem foods like sugar, sodas, and high fat dairy products. Don’t take vitamins with “folic acid” and consider vitamin D and green tea supplements as a part of your health plan even if you have no prostate symptoms. If you already have prostate problems or believe you are at high risk of disease, lose weight if needed and consider adding a quality supplement such as Prostate Health on a daily basis.
For Optimum Health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.