Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
More commonly known as an enlarged prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) affects more than half of all men over age 60. As the prostate enlarges, it can surround the urethra, squeezing it like a clamp on a hose. This, in turn, can cause a number of uncomfortable and inconvenient urinary symptoms. A male hormone called dihydroteststosterone (DHT) appears to play a role in prostate enlargement. Removing the supply of DHT seems to help control growth and that’s the rationale behind finasteride (Proscar), the most common drug used to treat BPH. However, there are a number of natural strategies that can help prevent an enlarged prostate and ease symptoms for those already suffering from mild to moderate BPH.
Recent studies conducted at the University of California, San Diego, suggest that diet strongly influences the production of DHT and other male reproductive hormones. Cutting back on meat and dairy products, and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, appears to turn down hormonal stimulation of the prostate. Being overweight may also contribute to prostate enlargement by producing excess estrogen.
Numerous studies suggest that regular exercise decreases the risk of BPH by regulating hormone levels. One recent trial of 56 elderly men with BPH found that those who practiced Tai chi for 12 weeks experienced an improvement in symptoms; their testosterone levels also improved. Other studies have found that moderate alcohol intake (no more than two drinks per day) also has a protective affect against BPH.
Beta-sitosterol: reduces BPH symptoms by lowering cholesterol within prostate tissue that promotes the conversion of testosterone to DHT and stimulates prostate growth. One randomized double-blind study of 200 patients with BPH found that those taking supplemental beta-sitosterol increased their peak urine flow. Voiding time and urinary volume retention also improved. Typical dosage: 60 to 130 mg daily.
Pygeum africanum: contains phytosterols that have an anti-inflammatory effect and interfere with the formation of DHT. This herb also contains ferulic esters, compounds that indirectly control testosterone activity in the prostate. Pygeum has been shown to improve urinary flow and other symptoms of mild to moderate BPH in 66 percent of users. Typical dosage: 50 to 100 mg of pygeum twice a day.
Rye grass pollen: (also known as Cernilton) is a potent anti-inflammatory supplement that relaxes the muscles surrounding the urethra and inhibits the growth of prostate cells. Together, these actions improve urine flow rate, reduce the frequency of urination, and lessen the amount of urine remaining in the bladder. Typical dosage: Look for a preparation that contains 92 percent rye pollen and take 80 to 120 mg per day.
Saw palmetto: is one of the most prostate-friendly herbs available. It inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT and prevents the hormone from binding to prostate tissue. There is also some evidence that saw palmetto reduces inflammation and growth factors that may contribute to BPH. In one study of 110 men, saw palmetto decreased nighttime urination by 45 percent, increased urinary flow rate by more than 50 percent and reduced the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination by 42 percent. Typical dosage: 320 mg daily.
Urtica DioicaL: (Nettles) is a plant most people just think is a pesky weed in their backyard. However, urtica is thought to modulate the conversion of testosterone to DHT and can be effective in healing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In one six-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, comparative trial in 2005; of 588 men, 81% of the subjects taking the herb shown significant improvement versus 16% in the placebo group, with particular improvement in peak flow rates. A second 48 week trial of 543 patients comparing the action of nettles in combination with sabal extract showed the herbs worked as well as the drug Finasteride (Proscar) for BPH. Moreover, the herbs showed far fewer cases of sexual problems and headache.