All men have one, none of them can spell it and only half of them know where it is! A small gland roughly the size of a walnut, the prostate (not prostrate – which means ‘lying flat’) sits under the bladder by the urethra (the urine duct). It is responsible for making the fluid that helps sperm swim along.
Often, especially in older men, the prostate gets swollen, making urination more difficult. This can be a result of inflammation of the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which statistically affects one in three men over the age of 60.
The link between BPH and prostate cancer is still unclear, apart from the symptom of difficult urination. Many men avoid going to the doctor, so the earlier an examination takes place, the better.
Prostate cancer is increasing worldwide. Current screening measures the blood for a substance called PSA (prostate-specific antigen), which is produced by the prostate gland. High levels may be an early indicator of prostate cancer. However, many false positives occur. In BPH, levels are raised, so a high level doesn’t mean you have cancer. The general consensus for good health of the prostate are levels of PSA below 2.5, if you’re under 60, or 4 if you are over 60.
Ways to keep your prostate healthy
1. Reduce animal fats
Fats found in milk, cheese, meat, and non-organic eggs contain hormone-disrupting chemicals which can increase the risk if eaten in large amounts. So, focus on moving more towards a vegetarian diet. Proteins that help keep the prostate healthy include beans, lentils, raw nuts and seeds. You don’t have to go completely veggie to protect your prostate. Fish, especially organic or wild, or organic omega-3 rich eggs are a great source of protein and contain healthy fats.
2. Increase omega-3 fats
Fish oils, which are powerfully anti-inflammatory, have been shown in trials to be protective against prostate cancer. Fish such as mackerel, wild salmon and sardines should be consumed regularly for their omega 3 fats, however, with increasing concern over pollution and heavy metals in oily fish, it is wise to consider supplementation with a purified omega 3 fish oil containing good amounts of EPA & DHA. Aim for a minimum of 1000mg for protection.
3. Don’t drink milk
Switzerland has the highest number of prostate cancer deaths and has the highest dairy intake. Milk has been listed as the highest dietary risk factor for prostate cancer (and breast cancer). The reason for this is because of a hormone in milk called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF), which helps baby cows grow. Rapid growth may be wonderful for baby cows, but not so good for our own bodies’ hormone-sensitive tissues, such as those found in the prostate and breast. These tissues have hormone receptors for IFG-I and IGF-II. The more IGF you have circulating around your body, the higher your risk of hormone-related cancers. A pint of milk a day (or the equivalent in other products such as cheese), increases the risk four-fold. You may be unaware of the amount of dairy you are actually consuming – a little milk on breakfast cereal, a couple of lattes a day and a cheese sandwich, will take you over a pint.
4. Eat more fruit and vegetables
We all know we should eat more fresh fruits & vegetables and the reason they are so beneficial for prostate health is due to their phytochemicals and antioxidant content. Organic is best, as pesticides are bad news for prostate health. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower are very beneficial, as are tomatoes for the lycopene content, which gets more concentrated when you cook them. Make your plate a rainbow to get as many antioxidants as possible.
5. Snack on pumpkin seeds
Men in Turkey have been shown to have lower rates of prostate problems and this may be down to their habit of snacking on pumpkin seeds. All raw seeds can be beneficial – try pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds.
6. Take an antioxidant supplement
Antioxidants work as team players, so it’s best not to supplement them individually. In fact, the synergy of different antioxidants working together makes them much more powerful as they help to recycle each other and neutralise damaging free-radicals in the body. Take a quality supplement containing selenium, vitamins A, C & E, combined with beta-carotene and zinc.
7. Eat more lentils, beans, nuts and seeds
Phytooestrogens present in these foods have a profoundly protective effect against excessive oestrogenisation (yes, oestrogen plays a role even in male hormonal imbalances). 15mg a day of phytooestrogens has been shown to provide maximum protection. That’s the equivalent of either a serving of chick peas or other beans, a small serving of tofu or tempeh, a third of a glass of soya milk, plus a handful of seeds, nuts or rye bread. When prostate problems have already set in, a higher dose supplement may be of benefit.
8. Supplement saw palmetto
This herb been proven to reduce inflammation of the prostate and help inhibit cancer growth. It has the action of inhibiting an enzyme, called 5-alpha reductase, which turns testosterone into DHT. DHT is the form of testosterone that promotes prostate cancer. Recent research has shown that saw palmetto also inhibits the growth-promoting effects of IGF-1 in milk. Choose a high quality supplement that has been standardised to contain 45% fatty acids, which make it more biologically active.
Hormones in havoc
Plastics, synthetic body care products, paints, solvents, pesticides and other industrial compounds are classified as xenoestrogens, which mimic the role of oestrogen in the body. Oestrogen stimulates growth of hormone-sensitive tissue. When taken in to the body on top of the natural oestrogen present in men and women, plus the oestrogen and other growth promotors found in dairy and meat, a person can become “over-oestrogenised”. Eat organic foods and minimise your exposure to synthetic chemicals by using natural cleaning and body care products as well as avoiding plastics, especially heated ones (coffee in a polystyrene cup, or a dinner cooked in plastic in a microwave, are recipes for disaster!).
It’s all in the balance
Everybody wants to be healthy and happy, so focus on the things that bring you joy. Alongside healthy food choices and avoidance of carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals, a healthy emotional balance contributes to overall wellbeing. Keep your stress in check by managing your work-life balance, meaning decent working hours, regular breaks, a proper lunch break and quality relaxation in the evenings, as well as learning stress-relieving breathing techniques and exercising regularly.
Living life to to the full is not about cramming as much into one day as possible, it’s about living in the moment, enjoying each and every experience with mindfullness. Slowing things down helps you appreciate your life, your loved ones and your self. Appreciation and gratitude are the magic keys to unlock health and abundance and bring you into your perfect wellbeing. Relax, laugh, play, rest, eat well and give love to yourself and others.
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist.