Ronald G. Reichert, ND
The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that sits slightly above the pubic bone in men. While the prostate is small in size, it can cause big problems for men. Low-risk complementary alternative therapies can help.
The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that sits slightly above the pubic bone in men. While the prostate is small in size, it can cause big problems. Low-risk complementary alternative therapies can help.
Prostate difficulties can include enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), prostate cancer, and chronic prostate irritation (prostatitis).
Chronic prostatitis affects approximately 11.5 percent of Canadian men under 50 years of age. Men with this condition typically complain of constant pelvic pain that feels as though they are sitting on a tennis ball. Difficult or painful urination are also common symptoms.
While certain types of bacteria such as E. coli can cause an acute infection of the prostate, in 90 percent of afflicted men a reason cannot be found. Scientists suspect that initial exposure to a bacterial agent results in a persistent localized autoimmune reaction, leading to chronic tissue inflammation.
Therapies for Prostatitis
Conventional therapy has not been successful in treating chronic prostatitis, whereas prostatic massage is proven effective. In one study, 73 patients (average age 43.5 years) with chronic prostatitis for 6.7 years were given both antibiotics and prostate massage up to three times each week for two to eight weeks. Overall, 29 patients (40 percent) had a complete resolution of their problems with a further 15 patients (21 percent) noting partial symptom reduction.
Natural health products have also been proven to support treatment of prostatitis. In a double-blind study from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California, 60 patients between 20 and 55 years of age were randomized to receive 74 mg of a concentrated pollen extract (Graminae species) or placebo three times daily for six months. Of the 30 patients taking the flower pollen extract, 22 saw improvement in their condition or were completely cured; in contrast, only 10 of the 28 patients taking the placebo medication showed improvement.
Natural Medicines and BPH
Men in their forties, fifties, and sixties often complain of urgent or frequent urination, incomplete bladder emptying, and the need to urinate at night. This cluster of symptoms is commonly known as BPH and can be treated medically using specific drugs (finasteride) and/or surgery. While 320 mg daily of a standardized extract of the herb saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has been shown to be as effective as drug therapy in treating BPH symptoms, research also supports the use of other herbs and vitamins in treating this condition.
Beta-sitosterol, extracted from rye grass pollen, in combination with flower pollen extracts, vitamin E, and saw palmetto, were successfully employed by Dr. Harry G. Preuss and his associates from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. He evaluated 144 men with BPH who used the beta-sitosterol mixture daily over a three-month period. By the end of the double-blind clinical trial, those taking the natural mixture had an 88 percent overall improvement in symptom scores. Specific symptoms of nighttime urination and frequency of urination also improved dramatically. Given that 25 percent of the men over the age of 40 already have symptoms of lower urinary tract infection, natural products should be the first line of defence for this condition.
Soy can Help
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, research suggests that increasing specific dietary estrogens from plant sources can help.
In a double-blind research study, 29 men (60.5 to 61.7 years) diagnosed with prostate cancer and scheduled to have their prostates surgically removed were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a control group that ate wheat bread alone; a group that ate bread with 50 grams of heat-treated soy grits (117 mg of soy isoflavones); and a group that ate bread with 50 grams of heat-treated soy grits and linseed.
Results showed that men who ate bread with soy grits alone showed a 12.7 percent reduction in PSA scores, compared with a 21.3 percent increase in PSA scores among men in the linseed and soy grits group and a 40 percent rise in the wheat group.
As such, dietary soy grits alone may be helpful in both prevention and adjunctive treatment of prostate cancer.
Another recent and remarkable clinical trial led by Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) in Sausalito, California, studied 93 men aged 44 to 49 years who had early-stage prostate cancer (and who had not undergone conventional treatment). Participants were randomized to an active group that required them to make dramatic lifestyle changes or to a control group that followed standard care protocols.
The results from this multitherapy trial fully support the old adage that you are what you eat. After 12 months of therapy, the active treatment group had a 4 percent reduction in PSA scores, compared to a 6 percent increase in the control group.
Achieving Better Prostate Health
Whether you are dealing with chronic prostatitis, BPH, or early-stage prostate cancer, medical research underlines the effectiveness of natural health care approaches either as primary or adjunctive therapies. Following the comprehensive lifestyle changes prescribed by Dr. Ornish and other researchers can help you achieve better prostate health.
Symptoms of Enlarged Prostate
PSA Tests and Early Prostate Cancer
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a common blood test for screening and early detection of tissue changes associated with prostate cancer. Although the PSA score is a useful tool to help the physician determine the need for a prostate biopsy, it does have some inherent disadvantages when used as single test. For example, PSA can be elevated in men with noncancerous BPH, and conversely, it can be at low levels in men with active prostate cancer.
As such, several additional tests should be performed to determine the need for biopsy and help with the diagnosis. These include a manual examination of the prostate (digital rectal exam), prostate density via ultrasound, the rate of change in PSA scores over time, and the newer laboratory blood measurements of PSA subgroups such as free and complexed PSA.
Dr. Ornish Recommends
Dr. Ornish and his colleagues at PMRI recommend the following lifestyle changes to slow the progress of early-stage prostate cancer: