Problems with the prostate are very common in men, especially as they age. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located below the bladder. The prostate gland makes and stores fluid for semen, which transports sperm during ejaculation.
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy is an abnormal growth of the gland typically seen in aging men and often responsible for various degrees of urinary problems. The condition is not malignant – it won’t invade other tissues – but the gland becomes larger than normal. The primary signs and symptoms are general problems with urination, including urinary frequency, urinary urgency, nocturia (needing to get up at night to urinate), a sensation of incomplete emptying, overflow incontinence or total retention, hesitancy to urinate with a decreased force of stream, terminal dribbling (the final phase of urination as slow drips), burning on urination, and signs of infection such as chills and fever (due to the urine staying in the bladder).
Some researchers have suggested that BPH typically indicates low levels of male hormones. An abnormally high activity of the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), 5-alpha reductase, is usually seen in BPH. DHT may be a more potent stimulator of prostate cell growth than testosterone, and is also considered to be a factor in male pattern baldness. High levels of estrogen may also factor in the disease progression. Most medications used for PBH are from a class called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. They work by decreasing the endogenous synthesis of DHT by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase.
Another avenue to take for treatment is by increasing the hormones carriers, which will decrease the amount of available DHT and possibly even estrogen. For the prostate that is specifically sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Some herbs are thought to be beneficial in this way, nettle herb in particular. Nettle herb has been used with success both in clinical practice by naturopaths and in clinical studies to reduce symptoms associated with BPH. Another herb is saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). The fat soluble Saw palmetto extract can reduce the activity of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme which contributes to BPH. Saw palmetto also blocks DHT from binding in the prostate.
A change in diet to focus on whole, unprocessed food such as whole grains, legumes, vegetable, fruits, nuts and seeds can be helpful as well as adding more of the nutrients that are good for the prostate. Eating organic food whenever possible is important, as some pesticides can increase the activity of 5-alpha-reductase and stimulate the enlargement of the prostate. Raw pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, a mineral that is paramount to treating BPH, should be consumed, as well as almonds, sesame seeds and tahini.