Finally, around the fifties, a small walnut sized organ called “The Prostate” decides to make its presence known. The size of this little organ slowly begins to grow until it impedes the flow of urine thus leading to such symptoms as: 1) the feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, 2) the need to urinate frequently, 3) the “stop and start” phenomena where the urine stream doesn’t flow easily, 4) a weak urine stream, and 5) difficulty beginning the urine stream. Even during the night, men can not hide from the prostate as it causes them to get up numerous times to run to the bathroom. This condition is known as BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia.
In this month’s article we will focus mainly on an herbal and nutritional approach to help shrink the prostate. We will forego a detailed discussion about the conventional approach, instead allowing you to discuss those options with your doctor. I will, however, give you a brief description of the options provided by conventional medicine.
There are two main types of medications used to treat an enlarged prostate. First is Hytrin (or like drugs), which is a blood pressure medication which seems to decrease the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate by relaxing the tone of smooth muscles, including the bladder neck and prostate. As a blood pressure, medication the most common side effects may include dizziness and/or low blood pressure. This medication does nothing to slow or stop the growth of the prostate. Thus, as the years go on, and the prostate continues to grow, the medication can lose its efficacy. The second medication is Proscar (Finasteride). This medication stops the body from changing the hormone testosterone into a form that causes the prostate to grow. Thus, the prostate can shrink and prevent the worsening of the condition. The most common side effect of this medication is erectile dysfunction. The best benefit of this drug appears to happen in men whose prostates are in the worst shape (the most enlarged). It also can take up to 6 months to work. Finally, there is the surgical option. Surgery (often called the Roto-Rooter) is usually reserved for severe cases of enlarged prostate or for those who have not responded well to other treatment. This procedure can be costly and the results are varied, with some people receiving dramatic improvement, some receiving little or no improvement and still others may have worsening symptoms. Side effects of the surgery can be erectile dysfunction and lifelong incontinence. Discuss all of the potential benefits and side effects with your urologist.
Following is a discussion of the natural alternatives to help build a healthy prostate. Clinical trials have found that many of these components alone and in combination can successfully reverse this condition without the side effects and complications found with the prescription medicines or surgery.
Saw Palmetto is one of the top ten herbs sold last year, and for good reason. In a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of medicine’s most reputable journals, researchers analyzed 18 research articles published on Saw Palmetto’s benefits in prostate enlargement. It was found that Saw Palmetto was as effective as Finasteride, one of the prescription medications discussed earlier. Saw Palmetto also stood the test of 16 double-blind placebo controlled studies (studies that test the herb against a sugar pill). The suggested dosage of Saw Palmetto standardized to 80-95% fatty acids is 320 mg per day, usually divided into 2 or 3 doses.
This herb has been studied extensively and shows significant improvements in symptoms of an enlarged prostate and laboratory measurements. In one study, published in a German journal, 263 men with enlarged prostate were given either Pygium extract or a sugar pill. Compared to the sugar pill, Pygium led to a significant improvement in symptoms such as night-time urination and day-time frequency. In addition, the bladder emptied better and the flow of urine was stronger (Bartlet et al, 1990). A review of 10 studies on Pygium confirmed the results of this study (Andro et al, 1995). The suggested dose of Pygium, standardized to 13% Beta Sitosterol, is 100 mg daily. Stinging Nettle, a different herb, has been shown to work well in conjunction with Pygium and is usually dosed at 300 mg daily.
L-Alanine, L-Glycine and Glutamic Acid:
In the early 1960’s researchers noted that when these three amino acids (building blocks of proteins) were administered at a dose of 400 mg each daily there was partial to complete relief from the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. To my knowledge there has been no more research to study these components. In our clinical experience, formulas that contain these inexpensive amino acids works better then those that do not.
This is a plant pigment similar to that of beta carotene. It is found in such fruits as tomatoes, watermelon, and strawberries. Recent research demonstrates that lycopene can prevent, and perhaps even treat, prostate cancer. You get the highest concentrations from processed tomato products such as tomato soup, juice, or sauce. Additional supplementation may also be of benefit. There is no true scientific guideline for using lycopene as a supplement, however, we like to see 5 – 10 milligrams in a daily supplement for prevention.
Although all of these individual ingredients have been demonstrated to be successful when administered alone, our clinical experience shows that there is greater symptomatic relief when given together. Many patients have noted dramatic improvements in the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate. Usually, the first thing they notice is that they are not waking up as often at night to urinate. They also note an improvement in the flow of urine and the decrease in the frequency of urination during the day. In addition, it is not uncommon, upon re-examination, for the doctor to be impressed by the smaller size of the prostate when they do their annual poking and prodding. We always counsel our patients to give a quality prostate formula a full 3 months before evaluating whether or not it is working, but usually patients are calling us back within 2 weeks reporting an uninterrupted night of sleep, sometimes their first in a long while.
Many physicians feel it is only a matter of time before every man shows up with an enlarged prostate. We feel there are many reasons why this may be true. A lifetime of eating the standard American diet, one based on cooked and processed foods, and one that does not supply adequate amounts of needed nutrients, including zinc, is one of these reasons. But when it comes to the treatment of an enlarged prostate, or BPH, first have it properly diagnosed, and then find the least invasive, least likely to cause side effects way of treating it.