Prostate Health 101: What Men Need to Know
If you’re a man of a “certain age,” then you probably are at least somewhat familiar with symptoms that creep up as a result of prostate changes.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that encircles the urethra—the tube that allows urine and semen to pass out of the body.
Unlike other organs in the body, the prostate goes through two periods of growth. As you’d suspect, the first occurs during puberty, when the prostate grows to its full adult size. The second starts in mid-life and continues indefinitely. During this second growth phase, the prostate can increase to the size of a lemon!
There are a few reasons this occurs. For one, testosterone levels decline with age, leaving a higher proportion of estrogen in relation to testosterone. The more likely culprit, though, is dihydrotestosterone (DHT)—a testosterone-derived hormone needed by the prostate to grow. Even though men produce less testosterone with age, they still create and accumulate DHT in the prostate, which encourages its growth.
All of this leads to a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is the formal way of saying “benign prostate enlargement.”
By age 60, close to 50% of men have BPH. By 85, nearly 90% of men are affected.
Over time, BPH can cause a great deal of discomfort. The larger the prostate becomes, the harder it squeezes the urethra, leading to symptoms like:
- Increased urgency and frequency of urination
- Trouble starting a urine stream
- Weak or interrupted urine stream
- Incomplete emptying of bladder
- Frequent waking at night to go to the bathroom
In severe cases, minimally-invasive laser therapies or even surgery can successfully treat BPH and its symptoms. But a big risk of these procedures is permanent issues with erectile function—a risk many men aren’t willing to take.
Medications are a more commonly used option.
One drug called finasteride decreases the production of DHT. Other drugs (terazosin, doxazosin, tamulosin, etc.) work by relaxing the muscles around the prostate.
While these medications do the job, they have side effects that can be troublesome in some men, including dizziness, decrease in semen production, sudden drops in blood pressure, lower sex drive, and even erectile dysfunction.
Nature to the Rescue
The good news is that Mother Nature has solutions for BPH and other prostate concerns that are not only safer, but in many cases just as effective as traditional treatments.
Some basic nutrients known to benefit prostate health include:
- Zinc: Research shows that men who have BPH tend to have lower levels of zinc. One study found that, compared to normal prostate tissue, BPH tissue had 61% less zinc. Blood levels of the mineral were also lower—by 18%.1
- Selenium: Likewise, some research shows that men with prostate concerns have lower-than-normal levels of the trace mineral selenium.
- Lycopene: This antioxidant found red and pink produce—but particularly abundant in tomatoes—has been shown to have a protective effect on the prostate. A study found that men taking lycopene supplements for six months had significantly greater reduction in BPH symptoms than the placebo group. Not only that, the prostates of the lycopene users stopped growing, and their BPH did not progress.3
- Vitamin D: A recent study of 108 men with BPH showed that those who supplemented vitamin D had greater symptom improvement and lower prostate volume and PSA levels than controls.4
These vitamins are usually included in high-quality multivitamins. If you don’t already take a multi, consider adding one to your daily regimen—and make sure it contains these four nutrients.
The Prostate Superstar
You can’t talk about natural prostate treatments without mentioning the superstar in this realm: Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extract, which is derived from the berry of the dwarf palm tree.
An early study of saw palmetto involving 110 patients found that, of the 50 who took the herb, 14 had greatly improved symptoms and 31 had improved symptoms. Nightly awakenings also decreased by 50%.5
A review published in 2011 concluded that, “most of the published trials regarding Serenoa repens demonstrate a significant improvement of urinary status and a favorable safety profile” as well as significantly less waking in the middle of the night to urinate compared to placebo.6
The clinically studied dose of saw palmetto is 320 mg daily. This botanical is readily available as a standalone product, or you can find it in prostate-specific formulas such as Newport Natural Health’s Prostate Plus, which also contains many of the other nutrients mentioned above.
Even more exciting, plenty of research suggests that combining nutrients can have even greater impact on prostate health. In fact, one trial found saw palmetto, selenium, and lycopene worked together better in managing BPH than any of the nutrients alone!7
Be patient; it can take a few weeks to notice real benefit. But once you do, you’ll feel a sense of freedom you haven’t felt for years!
- Christudoss P, et al. Zinc status of patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate carcinoma. Indian J Urol. 2011 Jan-mar;27(1):14-18.
- Zhigang C, et al. Serum selenium levels and prostate cancer risk. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Feb;96(5):e5944.
- Schwarz S, et al. Lycopene inhibits disease progression in patients with benign prostate hyperplasia. J Nutr. 2008 Jan;138(1):49-53.
- Zendehdel A, et al. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on the progression of benign prostatic hyperplasia: A randomized controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2021 May;40(5):3325-31.
- Champault G, et al. A double-blind trial of an extract of the plant Serenoa repens in benign prostatic hyperplasia. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1984 Sep;18(3):461-2.
- Geavlete P, et al. Serenoa repens extract in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Ther Adv Urol. 2011 Aug;3(4):193-8.
- Minutoli L, et al. Serenoa Repens, lycopene and selenium: a triple therapeutic approach to manage benign prostatic hyperplasia. Curr Med Chem. 2013;20(10):1306-12.