Today, we look at what happens when there’s excessive cell growth in the prostate in men and the vitamins that help shrink an enlarged prostate.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a health condition characterized by an enlarged prostate. It may also be referred to as benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Hyperplasia and hypertrophy are simply fancy ways to describe excessive cell growth.
The prostate develops benign nodes that grow in such a way that they squeeze the urethra – the tube that allows urine to exit the bladder – and trigger bladder problems.
The prostate gland is located between the lower part of the bladder and the rectum and wraps around the urethra.
Imagine a normal walnut-sized prostate that can grow to the size of a lemon while clamping on the urethra, and I’m sure you can picture the problem.
So, what are the symptoms of BPH?
Waking up frequently during the night to urinate.
An urgent need to pee more often.
Feeling that the bladder is not empty.
A stream that’s weak, slow, or stops and starts, and dribbles after urination.
Pain and burning sensation after ejaculation or during urination.
Urinary incontinence or leaking urine by accident.
If prostate problems go untreated, the bladder will not empty fully. As the volume of residual urine increases, it creates the perfect humid environment for bacteria to thrive.
This can cause infections in the lower urinary tract, resulting in symptoms like pain and fever. As BPH reaches the final stage, acute urinary retention occurs. This is extremely painful.
It should be pointed out that BPH, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), and prostate cancer often produce similar symptoms in their early stages, making it difficult to differentiate between them.
The only way to know for sure is to have a doctor perform a PSA test to see if your levels are abnormally high for your age, and also examine your prostate. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a fluid that is produced in the prostate.
Statistics show that roughly 25% of men in their 40s have BPH, and this number skyrockets to a startling 80% for men in their 70s.
Next, what causes BPH?
With aging, the amount of testosterone in the body decreases, and this leads to an increase in estrogen activity, which makes the prostate cells grow faster.
An enzyme called aromatase converts testosterone into estrogen. Studies have shown that high levels of estrogen-related enzymes lead to prostate decline.
A modern-day problem is that men are exposed to many estrogens in processed foods, commercial meats and dairy, plastics, and personal care products. Elevated levels of estrogen in men can lead to problems like a loss in muscle strength and mass, excessive body fat, hair loss, and an enlarged prostate. Additionally, having more visceral abdominal fat increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Worst of all, high estrogen levels decrease the body’s ability to produce testosterone and free testosterone. As you can see, it is particularly important to keep estrogen from harming prostate health.
Another theory about BPH focuses on dihydrotestosterone or DHT and the activity of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone in the body to DHT, which is at least ten times more powerful than simple testosterone. As men age, the activity of 5-alpha-reductase increases, which leads to a decrease in the ratio of testosterone to DHT.
DHT may make prostate cells grow, leading to hyperplasia. Lower levels of testosterone or a faster decline over time are important factors that trigger BPH.
Now, let’s look at the 7 vitamins that help shrink an enlarged prostate by targeting the causes.
We use the word “vitamins” broadly to include minerals and phytosterols or natural compounds found in plants. These have few, if any, side effects compared to BPH medications.
It’s important to note that one ingredient alone may not get the job done. Instead, it’s best to combine nutrients to effectively address BPH.
First up, we have Number 7. Zinc.
Did you know the prostate has the highest levels of zinc in a man’s body? Zinc is important for making testosterone and keeping the prostate healthy.
Zinc intake helps prevent and reverse prostate enlargement in two ways.
One. Zinc helps to prevent the excessive breakdown of testosterone into DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha- reductase.
Two. Zinc helps to block the conversion of testosterone by the enzyme aromatase to estradiol, the main type of estrogen.
The Journal of Nutrition published a study that found that a zinc-deficient diet leads to lower levels of testosterone and excess estrogen.
A study from 2011 showed that men with BPH had less zinc in their prostate tissue than normal. The study also found that these men were losing more zinc through their urine.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for zinc is only 11 mg, but most men do not get even this amount.
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are excellent sources of zinc. You can significantly increase your zinc levels by eating 2 ounces of pumpkin seeds per day.
Pumpkin seed oil contains carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have found that men who consume more carotenoids have a decreased chance of developing BPH.
Other excellent sources of zinc are meat, fish, and seafood.
For zinc supplements, the best results for treating BPH are seen with zinc picolinate. Many men experience improved urine flow, more complete bladder emptying, and less sleep disruption from nighttime bathroom visits.
If you decide to supplement with zinc, take 30 mg one to two times daily with food. Remember to also take a copper supplement of 2 mg per day, since these two minerals compete for absorption. If you don’t, zinc will win out and you may develop a copper deficiency.
Coming up next is Number 6, Vitamin C & Lycopene.
A recent 4-year study in China looked at the effects of diet on BPH symptoms in 2,000 men aged 65 and older. Researchers found that men with diets high in fruits and vegetables — especially leafy, dark vegetables and tomatoes — had less BPH, fewer symptoms of BPH, and were less likely to worsen their BPH. Researchers believe it’s not just one nutrient, but the combinations found in a healthful diet and lifestyle that are beneficial.
Oxidative stress is thought to be a contributing factor in BPH, so this may explain why powerful antioxidants such as vitamin C (in fruits and vegetables) and lycopene (in cooked tomatoes) may help reduce symptoms of hyperplasia.
Moving on to Number 5, we have Beta-sitosterol.
Beta-sitosterol is a phytosterol that helps reduce blood levels of cholesterol. In studies where men received 130 mg of beta-sitosterol daily, there was reduced swelling in the prostate and a significant improvement in urinary flow and symptoms. This was not the case for men who received a placebo. Foods rich in beta-sitosterol include peas, avocados, peanuts, almonds, kidney beans, soybeans, wheat germ, walnuts, and lentils. The next four nutrients also contain beta-sitosterol.
Next on our list is Number 4. Saw Palmetto.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa Repens) berry extract may be the most well-known natural treatment for prostate problems. However, it is most useful only for men with mild-to-moderate BPH symptoms.
If you supplement with saw palmetto extract, take 320 mg a day of a high-quality liposterolic extract, standardized for 80 to 95% fatty acids. This extract can help improve your prostate health by lowering your levels of DHT.
Research showed that saw palmetto in combination with lycopene and selenium helped to reverse lower urinary tract symptoms and shrink the size of the prostate in men with BPH.
Saw palmetto is not a prostate panacea. To receive the full desired effects, it needs to be combined with the additional nutrients listed here.
Getting into our top 3, Number 3 is Pygeum.
Pygeum africanum is an extract of the African cherry tree that contains beta-sitosterol and other chemicals that help shrink the prostate in men with BPH. It has been used for centuries to treat various urinary problems.
At typical doses of 100 mg per day, the extract can significantly improve International Prostate Symptom Scores (IPSS), reduce the frequency of nighttime urination, and increase peak urinary flow rates and quality of life. This extract has also shown evidence of potent anti-cancer effects.
Studies have shown that the benefits of saw palmetto and pygeum extracts are significantly enhanced when taken with beta-sitosterol and pumpkin seed oil.
Our number 2 is Rye grass pollen extract.
Studies have shown that rye grass pollen extract can significantly improve self-rated urinary symptoms in men with BPH. Men who use this extract are twice as likely to show improvement in nocturnal urination. In addition, these men showed a significant reduction in prostate size and improvements in reported pain and quality of life.
And at Number 1, we have Stinging nettle root.
Stinging nettle root (Urtica dioica) blocks DHT production and has been used as a therapy for BPH and hair loss for a long time.
Studies have shown that nettle root extract is effective in relieving BPH symptoms and in shrinking the size of the prostate.
Repeated studies also show that saw palmetto, when combined with nettle extract, can reduce nighttime urination by one episode per night. This is a significant difference.
An added benefit of stinging nettle is that it promotes increases in the levels of serum-free testosterone with no increase in total testosterone.
Amounts used in successful studies range from 6 to 12 mL of tincture per day in divided doses, or 120 mg capsules twice a day.
Before supplementing, talk with a healthcare professional first, if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
In addition, incorporate these lifestyle habits to take care of your prostate.
Stay lean to keep estrogen levels in check.
Avoid commercial toiletry products, these contain estrogenic and toxic chemicals. Use natural soap and shampoo.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fiber, protein, carbs, healthy fats and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low in sugars and processed foods.
Avoid processed vegetable oils and cut back on refined carbs.
Limit alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine.
Boost your testosterone levels with zinc, exercise and lift weights, minimize stress and cortisol levels, get enough sunlight or vitamin D and have plenty of restful high-quality sleep.