The prostate gland normally measures about the size of a walnut. Found only in men, this gland sits under the urinary bladder and wraps around the top of the urethra (the tube through which urine and semen flow out of the body). Enlargement of the prostate is a condition that usually affects men over 50. The reason for this enlargement is not always clear, but hormone levels appear to play a role.
Alternative therapies approach the problem of an enlarged prostate much differently. Several therapies offer viable options beyond drugs and surgery.
Herbal Medicine for Enlarged Prostate
Herbal therapy has a lot to offer the treatment of prostate problems. Herbs can reduce the size of an enlarged prostate and even prevent one. Relief from the annoying symptoms is also possible.
First, it's important to understand the probable cause of this condition. The abnormal growth may be triggered by the presence of dihydrotestosterone, which is produced in the body by the male hormone testosterone and an enzyme.
An extract of saw palmetto berries can halt the body's manufacture of dihydrotestosterone, according to several studies, reducing the size of the gland, making urination easier and less frequent, and relieving any accompanying pain and discomfort. The berries come from a small palm tree that's native to the southeastern coast of the United States.
Panax ginseng can also offer relief from some of the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, postponing the need for drugs or surgery. This herb can be taken in the form of an extract or as a dried root.
Bark from the Pygeum africanum tree has received widespread use for treating enlarged prostate in some European countries. Researchers have found that it significantly lessens the symptoms.
Other helpful herbs include:
- couch grass
Nutritional Therapy for Enlarged Prostate
According to nutritional therapy, diet and supplements can effectively treat an enlarged prostate. High cholesterol levels have been linked with a larger than normal prostate and its accompanying symptoms. A diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, can help lower cholesterol. A vegetarian diet, eating no meat, poultry, or seafood, can be one way to achieve an overall reduction in dietary fat and saturated fat. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians typically have lower total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the so-called "bad cholesterol") levels than meat-eaters.
Diet can have a direct effect on the health of the prostate as well. Certain foods may irritate the prostate, causing symptoms to worsen. Some of the foods to avoid include:
- coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated)
- other caffeine sources (soda, chocolate, and tea)
- red pepper
Sometimes food allergies may be the source of some irritation in the urinary tract, thus exacerbating the problem of frequent urination. Potential allergens should be investigated and avoided.
Zinc disables the enzyme that helps produce dihydrotestosterone and is, therefore, commonly recommended to men with prostate problems. Researchers have shown that patients can decrease their enlarged prostate symptoms by adding zinc to their diet. (Care should be taken with zinc supplementation, though, as large doses of zinc decrease the body's absorption of copper and may lead to copper deficiencies; check with your practitioner before taking zinc.)
As an alternative to zinc supplements, try pumpkin seeds. They provide a lot of the minerals, as well as essential fatty acids, which are also beneficial to men who have enlarged prostates.
Other good sources of essential fatty acids include cold-pressed unrefined vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil. (Sunflower and sesame oil are also decent sources.) Vitamin B6 supplements are typically prescribed along with zinc.
To boost the levels of dietary zinc, a naturopathic physician may recommend eating raw pumpkin seeds rather than taking a supplement, as the pumpkin seeds may contain other beneficial substances as well.
Other Enlarged Prostate Therapies
- Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Enlarged Prostate -- A short-term cleansing diet may eliminate some of the causes of an enlarged prostate including constipation (possibly bowel toxicity) and waste products in the blood.
- Environmental Medicine for Enlarged Prostate -- Pesticides and other chemicals have been linked to prostate growth. A whole-foods, organic diet can bolster the body against these toxins.
- Homeopathy for Enlarged Prostate -- Several remedies can be helpful, but chronic problems with the prostate require a professional homeopath who can tailor the remedy to the individual's symptoms.
- Hydrotherapy for Enlarged Prostate -- Alternating hot and cold water sprays or sitz baths can offer pain relief.
- Yoga for Enlarged Prostate -- Breathing exercises and postures can reduce stress, provide exercise, and balance the energy flow.