The prostate, a walnut-sized gland located just below the bladder in men, becomes problematical for many men as they progress beyond fifty years of age. The two main concerns are benign enlargement of the gland (BPH) and cancer. The symptoms of BPH include an increase in the frequency of urination (especially at night) and the inability to completely empty the bladder. Ultimately, the urethra can become completely blocked, which requires emergency treatment. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in American men; in addition, African-American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world. Treatment includes hormonal therapy, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
The good news for men is that dietary supplementation can positively affect the outcome of both these conditions. Traditional medicine and modern science have combined to identify several key ingredients that are essential to a healthy prostate and the ongoing management of one that has become diseased:
Derived from the berries of a small palm-like plant grown in the West Indies and southeast U.S.A., this herbal extract has a long traditional history for the treatment of several prostate-related problems. Since the early 20th century it has been used in Europe for the treatment of BPH and, over the last 15 years, it has gradually gained increased acceptance in the U.S. as well. In the laboratory, saw palmetto has been shown to be able to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone—a process thought to be the cause of BPH. Although some U.S. doctors would like to see longer clinical trials performed, European research and clinical practice confirms that, for many patients, saw palmetto is a viable alternative to the standard pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for BPH. It is also considerably cheaper and produces fewer side effects. The extract consists mainly of fatty acids and various phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol.
Also known as the African Prune tree, this large evergreen tree is native to central and southern Africa. Extract from the tree’s bark has been successfully used in Europe since the 1980s to treat BPH. A 2002 study, conducted by the Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes in Minneapolis, reviewed all clinical trials carried out since 1966 that dealt with the use of pygeum to treat BPH symptoms. Trials were only included in the review if they passed stringent criteria. The results of the study led the authors to conclude: “A standardized preparation of pygeum africanum may be a useful treatment option for men with lower urinary symptoms consistent with BPH.” As with saw palmetto, laboratory studies have shown that pygeum extract is able to inhibit the damaging conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Pygeum contains three types of compounds that are beneficial to the prostate: phytosterols (including beta-sitosterol), which are anti-inflammatories; pentacyclic triterpenoids, which are diuretics; and ferulic esters, which help eliminate cholesterol deposits that may accompany BPH.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seeds, and the oil they contain, have a long-held reputation as being beneficial for the treatment of a range of urinary and prostate disorders. Several European clinical trials involving pumpkin seed oil alone and also when combined with saw palmetto have verified its effectiveness for the treatment of BPH. Anecdotal evidence and animal studies have demonstrated that pumpkin seeds are able to improve the function of both the bladder and urethra as well as act as a diuretic, all of which helps sufferers of BPH. Preliminary research has shown that pumpkin seed oil may reduce hormonal damage to prostate cells, which could lower the risk of prostate cancer. The Chinese have traditionally used pumpkin seeds to treat prostatitis, a painful condition caused by inflammation of the prostate. T