All things BPH

March 4, 2021 at 1:24 pm


The prostate gland is a unique walnut-sized organ. Its main function is to produce the milky fluid component of semen, providing a slippery medium for sperm to easily swim within. The prostate gland is located directly below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, a tube which allows urine to flow from the bladder to the outside environment.

The size of the prostate gland changes throughout a man’s life. Beginning at about age 25 the prostate gland begins to slowly enlarge. This growth is non-cancerous and is linked to changes in sex hormones. Testosterone is a sex hormone that is responsible for sex drive, muscle mass and body hair. As men age testosterone levels gradually decline and a substantial amount of testosterone is converted into another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) using an enzyme called 5α-reductase. The net result is higher amounts of DHT in the body compared to testosterone. DHT then binds locally to prostate cells, impacting the size of the prostate gland as a whole.  

DHT naturally has a stronger attraction and binding capacity to prostate cells than testosterone. So, the strong bond and high amounts of DHT can result in an enlarged prostate gland as testosterone levels continue to decline with age. The medical term for this enlargement is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is very common, affecting fifty percent of men by age 60 and ninety percent of men who are 80 years of age.

Although BPH is not a harmful condition it cause a number of urinary complaints in men, impacting them on a daily basis for the rest of their lives, which can dramatically take a toll on quality of life.

Common symptoms of BPH include:

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination at night
  • Difficulty initiating urination
  • Weak urinary stream or a stream that starts and stops
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Unable to completely empty the bladder

These changes can considerably influence sleep, energy, mood and overall mental well-being. So, it’s not surprising that men who are affected by BPH often seek out medical care.

Treatments for BPH can range between medications and medical procedures to help improve the symptoms of BPH. The choice of treatment depends on a variety of factors including age, size of prostate enlargement, overall health and intensity of symptoms. Not all treatments are successful and in some cases symptoms return after medical intervention.

For men with mild to moderate symptoms, natural options may be considered. Traditional herbal medicine and nutritional science have shown to help address common symptoms associated with BPH. Let’s examine some options:

  • Saw palmetto is a palm tree native to the coastal regions of the southern United States. The dried fruit has been studied and shown to help improve the symptoms associated with BPH. Although the mechanism is still not well understood, research suggests saw palmetto addresses the underlying hormonal changes.
  • Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol that is touted to help lower cholesterol levels. As per Michigan Medicine, in addition to addressing healthy cholesterol levels, beta-sitosterol has anti-inflammatory effects that help relieve symptoms of BPH.
  • Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in zinc, carotenoids and plant sterol compounds. These compounds have all been found to contribute to a healthy prostate, including targeting urinary symptoms of BPH.
  • Stinging nettle is a North America plant. Both the root and leaves are used for prostate health, addressing both the underlying hormonal changes that lead to prostate enlargement and the symptoms of BPH. 

There are a number of other natural compounds for prostate health. Many of these agents are currently being researched for their effect on BPH.

Prostate cancer occurs when the cells of the prostate gland change into a cancerous form. Individuals with BPH are not at a higher risk of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer can affect men from a young age but men who are over 50 years of age have a higher risk of prostate cancer. Regular screening and checkup visits with your doctor are important measures for overall prostate health.

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