Karim Dhanani, ND
During a man's lifetime, his prostate will undergo changes that can eventually lead to health challenge.
During a man's lifetime, his prostate will undergo changes that can eventually lead to health challenges. In men over age 40, enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) is a common condition that can cause urination problems and other discomforts.
Statistics show that 50 percent of men in their forties experience prostate problems, while one in 11 Canadian men over age 50 will develop prostate cancer. By the time they reach 70, more than 60 percent of Canadian men will have BPH; at age 80, the number goes up to 85 percent. Symptoms of BPH include dribbling, frequent or difficult urination, decrease in urine stream, and chronic discomfort in the pelvic area. Fortunately, medical scientists have demonstrated that the prostate is responsive to a variety of nutritional substances.
Saw Palmetto is Effective
One such substance is the fat-soluble extract of saw palmetto berries. Studies suggest that saw palmetto acts by inhibiting the enzyme that converts the male hormone testosterone into another form of the hormone, known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As reported by the National Cancer Institute, DHT plays a role in BPH and is believed to lead to the development of other prostate problems. Some scientists believe that saw palmetto, by regulating the level of DHT, thus helps control enlarged prostate.
Over the last decade, double-blind clinical trials have suggested that 320 milligrams per day of the fat-soluble extract of saw palmetto berries is a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of BPH. A recent review of studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1998), concluded that saw palmetto extract was as effective as the prescription medication finasteride, without side effects such as loss of libido. The clinical effectiveness of saw palmetto has been shown in trials to last six months to three years.
Nettle Root Helps
Saw palmetto extract has also been combined with a nettle root extract to successfully treat prostate problems. In one trial, a combination of saw palmetto extract (320 mg per day) and nettle root extract (240 mg per day) resulted in improved urine flow and decreased nighttime urination over a one-year treatment period. As men age, their ratio of estrogen to testosterone increases, which results in an increase in prostate cells. Nettle root helps to inhibit this increase, thus supporting normal prostate function.