An evidence- based approach
Colin O'Brien, ND
Healthy living and natural approaches can help prevent prostate problems and improve prostate health.
When it comes to men’s prostate health, there is often some confusion over symptoms and conditions. The term lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) can be used to describe two common prostate conditions.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) involves enlargement of the prostate and is present in 50 percent of those aged 50 years old. The excessive growth of prostate cells leads to the classic symptoms of increased urinary frequency, urgency, and a weak stream, often with incomplete bladder emptying.
A similar, yet distinctly separate, condition called chronic prostatitis (CP) is often confused for BPH, with the main differentiating feature being pain and/or discomfort on ejaculation. Fortunately, many of the effective treatment interventions for these two conditions are overlapping.
Prevention and treatment of LUTS
Diet and lifestyle
The primary treatment for LUTS should be diet and lifestyle. Research suggests that a diet low in animal fat, high in fibre, and high in vegetables can reduce the progression of BPH.
A meta-analysis of 11 studies found that moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce the risk of LUTS by up to 25 percent, and this protective effect is increased with higher levels of activity. The role of exercise only strengthens the findings that obesity and excess abdominal fat have been associated with greater LUTS symptom progression and complications.
Emerging as a promising treatment for BPH, research has found that vitamin D administration is effective in reducing prostate volume and also reducing risk of developing BPH. This makes sense given that vitamin D deficiency has been independently linked to a higher risk of BPH.
Once diet, lifestyle, and basic nutrient deficiencies have been addressed, defined pollen extract may have a place in the treatment of BPH and CP. Defined pollen extract (rye pollen) has been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effects, in addition to smooth muscle relaxant effects on the bladder and urethra.
Double-blind placebo-controlled trials in CP patients have shown that pollen extract can improve quality of life scores, reduce pain, and lead to fewer voiding symptoms after only six weeks of treatment. The newest research shows that a blend of pollen extract and B vitamins can provide these significant benefits in only 30 days when compared with treatment with ibuprofen.
Contrary to popular belief, research done on saw palmetto for BPH and CP has proven ineffective or inconclusive, even after long-term, high quality studies have been performed. For treating prostate discomfort and LUTS (including BPH and CP), it seems diet, exercise, vitamin D, and defined pollen extract may be better choices given the current available research.