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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:
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:
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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