Common Prostate Problems: Tiny But Troublesome
If you can’t see it, it can be very difficult to understand what it is. This is especially difficult when it isn’t talked about very much except in hushed tones. Understanding what the prostate is before one notices its negative effects is very important. This little gland has the ability to determine a man’s fertility or cause him to lose sleep due to urination symptoms.
A Simple Explanation of the Prostate Gland
The prostate is a small gland that is around the internal urethra of the man. This essential gland works to produce semen, which is a thin milky-like fluid that provides the sperm a safe fluid for swimming. It also helps to flush out infections that may gather in the urethra. The prostate gland is typically assessed through a digital rectal exam or by blood work to look at the prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
Since the prostate gland is situated (in a doughnut-like fashion) around the urethra, it can negatively affect the flow of urine if it grows in size, blocking the outflow of urine.
Difficulties with the Prostate
As men mature into later adulthood, the prostate begins to grow in size. The growth is not due to cancer and is considered benign, but the symptoms that can affect a man can be quite noticeable. As the urine is squeezed off, men may get up multiple times in the night to use the restroom as they are unable to empty completely and may have residual urine left in the bladder. This condition is often referred to as BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia).
This residual can lead to infections, hesitancy, dribbling, and leaking, or urine issues because the full bladder attempts to push the urine through the tighter urethra. Without proper flow, men are at an increased risk for urinary tract infections and kidney damage.
While most men at 50 begin to experience some symptoms of this condition, the commonality of it does not make it any more comfortable. Men do struggle with the symptoms, and may not know that there are ways to help ameliorate the difficulties that they are having.
More Difficulties Understanding Prostate Cancer
Another issue that makes understanding prostate so tricky is the PSA test. One revolutionary study done by Dr. Matthew Boniol, presented to the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam, in 2013, found very conflicting results with PSA cancer screening. He stated that PSA screening was doing more harm than good.
Through population-data based research, he found that as PSA became more popular in testing in 2000, the prevalence of prostate cancer rose exponentially. However, the death rate of prostate cancer remained the same. More people were screened with the PSA, and more diagnostic procedures were ordered. A simple blood test, like the PSA, carries minimal risks with it. On the contrary, biopsies of the prostate gland, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery carry many more risks.
Dr. Boniol also noted in his work that too much diagnosis can lead to too many procedures in patients, which makes them more susceptible to other serious problems. Some of the risks that men face are side effects of the medication, impotence (lack of fertility), urinary incontinence, infections, bleeding, fecal incontinence, and even death.
Understanding the Why
As the anatomy is researched, the question begins to pop up. Why do men seem to struggle with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) as they grow older? 80-year-olds have an 80-90 percent chance of having prostate difficulties.
One of the reasons why the prostate keeps growing may be due to the hormone influence in men. In teenagers, the gland grows to about the size of a walnut and then stops growing for several years. Starting at 25 years, it begins to grow again. Male hormones begin to become very dominant with the influence of testosterone and androgen. Testosterone is converted into dihydrotesterone (DHT) by the prostate which then signals the cells that line the gland to grow.
Family history is also a possible cause for increased prostate growth. If a man’s father or grandfather struggled with this issue, then he is at an increased risk for developing BPH.
One surprising study done by the International Journal of Cardiology found that those who had increased urinary difficulties with BPH also had an increased prevalence of heart problems. While the scientists were unable to find one specific causal link between the heart problems and prostate issues, many reasons have been suggested. These include age, smoking, high blood pressure, increased stress, blood sugar difficulties, and most importantly, inflammation.
Inflammation: A Possible Hidden Cause
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to stress and foreign invaders. Whenever something is detected, the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response kicks into action. This silent watchtower keeps a keen eye over the whole body protecting by many different ways. It utilizes six different circuits to send the right hormones, nutrition, fluid, and antibodies to where they are needed to help keep the body in homeostasis.
One of the six circuits is the inflammation circuit. Acute inflammation is often recognized by four distinct markers:
The inflammation process allows extra blood and fluid to pass through the cell membranes to bring the white blood cells (specifically, the T-cells and B-cells) to fight off foreign invaders, bacteria, and viral pathogens. In a healthy body, when the danger is over, the inflammation process is stopped, and the body returns to normal. However, in chronically inflamed health conditions, such as BPH, the inflammation process is not turned off and you might not see the above 4 symptoms.
It is important to note that the body does not differentiate between physical and psychological stressors. The body sends the same response. While most viruses and bacteria are dealt with in a designated period, some illnesses and mental conditions may be present for months or years. This response puts the body in a constant state of increased inflammation which, as noted in the International Journal of Cardiology, may have a causal link to prostate and heart problems.
Worsening Inflammation and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
A chronically stressed body means that the NEM stress response is also pushed to its limits to try and stop the downward progression. To cool-off the inflammation response, the body produces cortisol. This powerful anti-inflammatory hormone provides the balance that the body needs. However, if too much stress is put on the body, the adrenal glands begin to tire and are not able to make the cortisol as they should.
The body begins to show symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), and can appear more fatigued and exhausted as it cannot meet the demands. Other symptoms can show up as low blood pressure, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, and increased infections.
Finding Balance and Healing
Healing from increased inflammation in the prostate can be done through medications and supplements. In Europe and Italy, many of the prostate medications are plant-based supplements versus a prescription medication. Open studies and double-blind studies have shown that saw palmetto berry extract can shrink the gland and, in turn, make it easier for the urine to flow. When compared with a popular medication to help BPH, there were almost no side effects.
Another supplement found in the evergreen pygeum tree in Africa is also being studied to help men with BPH and chronic prostatitis. After 60 days on the pygeum extract, all of the 18 men had improvements in their symptoms, and specifically, the sexual difficulties that they experienced were relieved. Another placebo-controlled study in France looked at 120 patients, and those who had pygeum were able to relieve their bladder more completely than those in the control group.
One way to work with inflammation in the prostate and the body is through a quality diet. It almost seems easier to take a pill to deal with a symptom versus remembering to eat correctly, but the truth of the matter is, a good diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to fight against the inflammation that is present in the body. Eating foods that do not have pesticides sprayed on them is very important because pesticides can interfere with how the body responds to the food. Foods that are high in essential fatty acids, low in carbohydrates, and high in lean proteins are excellent for a healthy diet. The focus should be on legumes (beans and lentils), organic vegetables and fruits, and nuts and seeds as these carry so many essential nutrients.
What can Men do to Prevent Prostate Problems
The prostate will continue to grow, but men should be aware if urinary problems occur and let their healthcare provider know immediately. Also eating a healthy diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce the inflammation within the prostate.
Summing it all up
The prostate is a very important gland within the male urinary and reproductive areas. This gland helps to provide fertility and keep the urinary tract free of infection. While it does continue to grow throughout a man’s life, the focus should be on making your healthcare provider aware of symptoms as they begin and speaking to them about possible natural supplements if they are right for your condition. Most importantly, decreasing body and prostate inflammation through a proper diet may ensure a strong immune system to provide health.
© Copyright 2012 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What can men do to prevent prostate problems
The prostate will continue to grow but men should be aware if urinary problems occur and let their healthcare provider know immediately. Also, eating a healthy diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce the inflammation within the prostate.
This is not a question but a long overdue thank you for my Christmas present you sent me -2 bottles of Allergone- remember? Well I was on Zyrtec at the time and you said I had to be off of Zyrtec for one month and then start on the Allergone. You said take 4 at night. I did this for 4 days and felt not-so-good, more anxiety, less sleep, etc. So, I stopped it for 2 or 3 days and then decided to try 2 in the morn. (on an empty stomach) just like I did the Zyrtec and guess what? Oh, my gosh - it works! I cannot believe it! My mind is so much clearer - even the trees outside look clearer - that may sound a little strange but it's true. My concentration and thought processes are so much improved also. I feel like my creative juices are starting to flow again and I don't seem to have the horrible afternoon (2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) lows as bad. I think this so strange - I have spent thousands of dollars and taken 2 or 3 anti-depressants, etc, etc., without any of it helping me. And, this anti-histamine / anti-inflammatory supplement helps me so much! Why do you feel this is helping me so much? Do you feel I am allergic to everything I am eating? Have you ever seen this before? I have none of the traditional allergenic symptoms that most people have with allergies. You didn't give me lots of hope of feeling better before 2 years and this is a wonderful feeling! I pray to God it continues to keep working. I couldn't wait till our next appt. to tell you! Thank you so much for all of the time you are spending on me and for taking my sisters as patients - we are a strange lot, don't you think!! And, you are an extremely rare concerned doctor that I can't quite figure out!