Prostate problems are increasingly common these days. But, by making a few lifestyle changes and following the guidelines I give my patients, you can protect yourself ??? and your prostate ??? from complications.
There???s a saying you might have heard about the prostate gland that sums up the situation very nicely: The prostate is a young man???s best friend and a mature man???s worst enemy. That???s because typically the prostate is trouble-free until a man hits mid-life.
After age 50, though, this doughnut-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra in the lower abdomen (and is responsible for producing the prostatic fluid that transports and protects sperm) frequently becomes inflamed or enlarged. As a result, it constricts the flow of urine from the bladder.
When that happens, you end up not only running to the bathroom all day and night, but enduring sexual problems as well. And, of course, there are those two words every man dreads hearing from his doctor: prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the leading cancers among men, with more than a quarter of a million cases diagnosed each year and nearly 30,000 deaths annually. While it is most common in men over the age of 65, an increasing number of much younger men, some only in their 30s, are being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Those numbers may seem frightening, but there is a silver lining: Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from the disease. Generally, this type of cancer is so slow-growing that it???s possible to live with it for many years without complications.
Of course, prostate cancer is not the only problem that can occur. The prostate can also become inflamed (prostatitis) or enlarged ??? a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Either condition can create serious discomfort and symptoms, as my patient Wade found, including some that may mimic those of cancer, such as:
- Frequent, often urgent, urination
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Difficulty urinating
- Feeling an urge to urinate with little flow or ???dribbling??? problems
- Blood in the urine
- Ongoing lower back or pelvic pain
- Waking during the night to urinate
In addition to age, other risk factors for prostate problems include family history and race, with African-American men more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasians. Obviously, there???s very little you can do to about the passage of time, your relatives??? health, or your race. But there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from these difficulties ??? and heal your prostate at the same time.
5 Steps for Proper Prostate Care
No doubt you are familiar with the blood test known as PSA (prostate-specific antigen). This is the most common method of screening for prostate cancer. I encourage all of my male patients to get a PSA baseline test as early as possible, so we can keep a close eye on any changes that may occur.
Although some doctors feel that a score between 0 and 4 is ???normal,??? I prefer to be more proactive. For my patients, a PSA score above 1 means it???s time to make some changes. I also encourage my patients not to get too fixated on the numbers themselves but to pay attention to the up or down trend of the PSA readings, since this is more important than the numbers alone.
Conventional doctors usually write patients with benign prostate problems prescriptions for drugs like Finasteride (Proscar is the generic name) or Dutasteride (Avodart). But I???ve found that the side effects of these drugs ??? which include making some symptoms worse! ??? can be as bothersome as the condition itself.
Fortunately, there is a better way! The following five steps have helped my patients reduce their PSA scores and find relief from the very uncomfortable symptoms prostate problems can create.
Before starting with these recommendations, however, please make certain you only have BPH or another benign condition, rather than prostate cancer. Monitoring changes in PSA over time is one of the most important health steps that all men over age 40 must do. Your doctor should carefully review your PSA scores over time, since any increases must be closely monitored. There are many things that can spike PSA that are not an issue, including having sex within 24 hours of the test.
Step 1) Focus on Good Fats
Good fats ??? especially the omega-3 essential fatty acids found in certain types of fatty fish ??? are building blocks for healthy cell membranes throughout your body. Unfortunately, about four out of five adults are woefully lacking in omega-3 fats. This sets the stage for the inflammation that causes prostatitis, as well as hormonal dysfunction ??? and major prostate difficulties ??? because a starved cell membrane can easily fail, creating a falling dominoes scenario with other cells. Damaged cell membranes are an underlying reason for hormonal problems and many diseases, including pre-diabetes, diabetes, and weight problems.
You???re doing more than improving your hormones when you provide your body with healthy fats. According to research led by the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 100,000 Americans die each year from too few omega-3 fats in their diets. So, getting adequate omega-3s is not just about your prostate ??? this is really the foundation of overall good health. I recommend one to three grams daily from a stable, purified product that is free of toxins and chemicals.
For your convenience, you can find the omega-3 supplement I recommend to patients at my clinic here.
At the same time, I recommend reducing your intake of the bad fats known as trans fats. The same Harvard study I mentioned above also found that up to 97,000 people die annually from eating too many trans fats. How much is too much? Any amount.
Trans fats are vegetable oils transformed from their natural liquid state into solid form to increase shelf life and improve the texture of processed foods. On labels, look for ???partially hydrogenated??? oils. These could be soy, palm, or other oils ??? the type doesn???t matter. It???s the partial hydrogenation that leads to serious health problems.
Trans fats are found in just about all frozen, packaged, and fast foods, including prepared baked goods, such as breads, buns, cakes, cookies, crackers, and snack foods. But they also turn up in salad dressings, cereals, nutrition bars, sauces, soups, ready-to-eat popcorn, and any type of boxed or frozen entrée or side dish.
Step 2) Get Going
Exercise is so important that I recommend it to just about all of my patients, including those with prostate issues. The benefits of regular, moderate exercise include:
- Burning calories and helping maintain a healthy weight
- Thinning the blood and encouraging healthy circulation
- Disposing of waste material and toxic substances in the body
- Improving sleep and mood
- Strengthening the heart and immune system
- Reducing the risk of cancer and other serious illnesses
- Relieving stress
- Fortifying muscles, joints, and bones, and reducing the risk of falling
If someone invented a pill that provided these benefits, people would be lined up around the block to buy it ??? and you can get it for free just by exercising! So please take this advice to heart. Invest in a pair of comfortable shoes and schedule 30-minute walks each day. The pay-off is well worth it.
Step 3) Feed Your Prostate
The shamefully low nutrient content of the Standard American Diet (SAD) creates a shortage of vitamins and minerals in the body, leaving you vulnerable to cancer, as well as many other health problems. This is why I always recommend a diet built around vegetables, fruits, good fats, and lean protein, preferably only occasionally from red meat.
Don???t underestimate the power of good fats when it comes to your health. A recent study from the prestigious Duke University Medical Center found that men with prostate cancer whose diets contained healthy fats from olive oil and nuts were less likely to have their cancer spread to other parts of the body than men who consumed unhealthy fats in meat and processed foods.
The problem with meat is that it elevates levels of arachidonic acid in your body, and that, in turn, increases inflammation, the very thing an individual with prostate problems wants to avoid! Choosing lean poultry, wild-caught fish, beans, protein powder, or a protein-rich grain like quinoa is a smart move for anyone who wants to reduce inflammation.
Prostate-friendly foods include the entire family of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy. In addition, lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, has been shown to provide protection against prostate cancer and even inhibit its spread to other organs among those who already have the disease. You should know, however, that tomatoes cooked in a small amount of a good fat, such as olive oil, contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes. So spaghetti sauce is actually a health food! Here???s a refreshing idea for summer ??? freeze extra spaghetti sauce in an ice cube tray. When you need something cool, pop one out and enjoy it as a frozen snack, instead of sugary sodas.
Step 4) Pass On Plastics
In last year???s newsletter on estrogen, I mentioned the problems caused by estrogen-producing chemicals in our food, water, and environment. One of these chemicals ??? a synthetic form of estrogen known as bisphenol A or BPA ??? has been the subject of thousands of studies and is linked to a number of serious health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Hormonal dysfunction
- Rapid heart rate
- Digestive problems
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
BPA is still being studied to determine its full impact on our health. But I can tell you that we all have BPA in our bodies, and it is definitely causing problems.
So where does BPA come from? If you drink water from an ordinary plastic bottle, you???re also ingesting BPA because it???s in many plastics. (There are BPA-free plastics, but these products usually let you know that, since it???s becoming a major selling point. If it doesn???t say BPA-free, I would assume it contains the chemical.)
Even if you avoid plastic water bottles, you???re still at risk of BPA ingestion since it???s used to line many food and beverage cans and is also found in plastic wraps and the containers many people use to store food. It???s also present on the thermal-printed receipts given out by most stores, plastic housewares, product packaging, and on and on. The bottom line is that we are being overwhelmed with BPA and similar chemicals, and that is not good for your health in general and your prostate in particular.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to cut down on your exposure to BPA, including:
- Replace plastic food-storage containers with glass versions, which are now widely available;
- Avoid microwaving any food in plastic, because heat sends BPA molecules into the food;
- Invest in a reusable, stainless steel or glass water bottle instead of drinking from plastic;
- Look for alternatives to canned foods, such as frozen or fresh;
- Revisit my earlier newsletter on detoxification to explore ways to rid your body of these kinds of toxins.
Step 5) Take Targeted Nutrients
In Step One above, I recommended increasing your intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids for better prostate health. At the same time, you should be reducing your intake of inflammation-producing omega-6s, typically found in vegetable-based cooking oils, such as safflower, corn, sunflower, and soybean. (For more details on the importance of a balanced intake of omega-3s and omega-6s, please see my earlier newsletter on good and bad fats.)
When shopping for a quality omega-3 product, look for one that has been purified or molecularly distilled to remove toxins. Remember, too, that the best results are usually obtained from products that have two to three times the amount of DHA as EPA, two of the beneficial substances found in omega-3s. My recommended dosage for omega-3s is 3 grams daily.
In addition, I recommend the following:
- Vitamin D3, an essential nutrient for overall good health and a strong immune system, as well as a healthy prostate. Take 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.
- Curcumin, which I consider to be a ???must have??? for just about everyone who cares about his or her health. Hundreds of studies with curcumin show that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory, reducing the condition that underlies such ailments as heart disease, aging, diabetes, and prostate inflammation. Take 500 mg of curcumin one to three times daily.
If you are currently experiencing any of the annoying and, at times, debilitating symptoms of an enlarged prostate, I have just formulated a prostate-specific supplement combining the top ingredients shown in clinical trials to support a healthy prostate. These nutrients not only ease symptoms of prostate ailments, but they reduce the prostate???s size, as well.
There may be dramatic developments in the treatment of prostate cancer soon, since it was recently discovered that 90 percent of all cases are caused by a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes. Meanwhile, there are steps you can take, starting today, to create a healthier internal environment for your prostate and to reduce the likelihood of serious health complications. With some dietary tweaks, a commitment to regular, moderate exercise, avoidance of plastics, and a few carefully chosen supplements, you and your prostate should be able to maintain a healthy relationship for years to come.