We all know of at least one male with a well honed knack of avoiding dealing with his health issues. Procrastination is commonplace for XY’s of the species as, unlike us women, men are not accustomed to being poked and prodded in their nether regions in the name of preventative health care, preferring the ostrich approach.
Mother Nature has in some respects let these blokes off the hook. The most common area for male health problems is the prostate gland; however, luckily for men, prostate diseases, including prostate cancer (PCa) are very slow in their progression, therefore early detection and treatment are possible.
The prostate gland (often mispronounced as the prostrate gland – and in all honesty, prostrate is what you will be if you ignore the cries of help from your prostate!) is a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra (a urethra is the tube that transports urine from the bladder). The prostate gland secretes a slightly alkaline fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid – the fluid that contains sperm.
What is prostate disease?
Non-cancerous conditions that affect the prostate are known as benign prostate problems. These are quite common and occur in men of all ages:
Prostatitis – an inflammatory condition causing discomfort, changes in urination and sometimes fever.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – an enlargement of the prostate and the most common prostate disorder. Signs of BPH are discomfort and urination problems including passing urine more frequently, difficulty – with topping and starting, poor flow and increased urination during the night.
These symptoms can also indicate prostate cancer too so don’t ignore these changes – early detection is the message we need to get through to men!
BPH can also raise PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels two to three times higher than the normal level. While healthy men have low PSA levels in their blood, the amount does increase normally with age due to a gradual increase in the size of the prostate gland. PSA levels may also increase due to inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) or prostate cancer – although raised PSA doesn’t indicate a person has prostate cancer, high PSA readings do point to an increased likelihood of this.
Procedures used to evaluate prostate problems:
An annual physical examination – with blood and urine tests is recommended for men above the age of 40, and for those considered high risk for PCa; risk factors include having elevated PSA levels, a family history of PCa, obese men with insulin resistance, and certain ethnicities.
DRE (digital rectal examination) – this is recommended annually for men over the age of 50. In a digital rectal examination, the physician feels the prostate through the wall of the rectum. Hard or lumpy areas may indicate that cancer is present.
PSA level testing – annually for men over the age of 50. Consult your physician to determine what is considered an elevated PSA level for your age.
Natural chemotherapeutic treatments and lifestyle recommendations
While there is great diversity in the genetic and environmental factors known to play key roles in the development of PCa, studies do back the use of dietary changes and specific nutritional supplements, alone or in combination with pharmaceutical agents. Interestingly, most men would prefer to take a dietary supplement each day over changing their diet.
Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that are found in Green tea (called catechins) and Resveratrol. Studies suggest that Green tea has encouraging chemoprotective potential to decrease the incidence of PCa, decrease PSA levels and improve urinary symptoms associated with prostate problems. There were no significant side-effects or adverse reactions.
Resveratrol has been shown to enhance anti-tumour activity, including programmed cell death, when used in combination with standard cancer chemotherapeutics.
Lycopene is a type of antioxidant called a carotenoid. It gives tomatoes their red colour and is found in other red fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, pink grapefruit and papayas. Studies suggest that a frequent consumption of tomato products (or lycopene) is associated with protective effects and a lower risk of PCa, as well as benefits for BPH.
Research published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that a diet low in saturated and trans fats and high in vegetables and fruit – specifically tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, green tea and Vitamin E and selenium supported prostate health. They also recommended lowering overall calorie intake (eating less), and limiting meat and dairy product intake. Studies also show that people who follow a traditional Japanese or Mediterranean Diet (For more information see – http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/is-there-prostate-cancer-diet) had a reduced PCa risk than those on a typical western diet.
Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight also decrease PCa risk.