It is amazing how many men don’t know much about their prostate. It seems the only men who do anything are those who have a problem with it. This article will help explain why this gland is so important, what health issues can arise and how to support prostate health naturally.
The prostate gland is a small walnut-shaped organ that lies just below a man’s bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body through the penis. The prostate gland’s primary function is to produce the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Granted the prostate is often considered a non-vital gland (except for reproduction), yet its health is critical for a man’s overall health and wellbeing. There are three basic conditions that can occur with regards to prostate health: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (also known as BPH), Prostatitis, and Prostate cancer.
BPH is also known as an enlarged prostate. BPH and its symptoms impact an estimated 30-million men worldwide.[i] In the U.S. it is estimated that 50% or more of men 50 or over have this benign enlargement with the numbers reaching 80% in those 70 and older.[ii]
This enlargement can trigger symptoms such as:
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty getting a urine stream started
- Feelings that you haven’t completed urinating
If the prostate gland expands too much, it can block or compress the urethra and make it difficult to urinate. As we age, the incidence of BPH increases:
- 31-40 years about 8 percent
- 51-60 years 50 percent
- Over 80 years over 80 percent
Currently, there is no known link between having BPH and developing prostate cancer.
Prostatitis is the most common urinary tract problem for men younger than age 50 and the third most common urinary tract problem for men older than age 50.[iii] Prostatitis accounts for about two million visits to health care providers in the United States each year.[iv] Prostatitis is defined as an inflammation of the prostate. This inflammation is often caused by bacteria and is hardly ever considered a serious infection. While an infection is considered the primary cause of prostatitis, sitting too long, riding a bike, other non-bacterial microorganisms and chemicals in the urine can be underlying contributing factors. Many men confuse this condition with BPH due to some overlap in the symptoms. Common symptoms of prostatitis are frequent urination, urgency to urinate, fever, pelvic pain, nausea, cloudy urine, pain while urinating or ejaculating, and pain in the lower back.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men with over 1.28 million diagnosed worldwide in 2018.[v] Just like BPH, the chances of developing prostate cancer increase with age. Other factors including, having a family history of prostate cancer and race (African-Americans are more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasians) play a role in your risk for developing prostate cancer. Prostate cancer can go unnoticed because it often has no symptoms.
Prostate Health Isn’t Just a Man’s Problem
Yes, prostate problems affect women too! Prostate health is also a couple’s problem. Looking at what the symptoms can be with prostate cancer, BPH, and prostatitis, we can see how these symptoms[vi] may impact our significant other:
- Frequent urge to urinate.
- Impacts social life
- Need to get up many times during the night to urinate.
- Impact on all party’s sleep quality
- Pain or burning urination.
- Steady discomfort may impact other areas of daily life
- Painful ejaculation.
- Possible decrease in libido or desire for intercourse
- Frequent pain or stiffness in lower back, hips, pelvic or rectal area, or upper thighs.
- Dribbling of urine.
- Embarrassing situation either in public or home environment
Where to begin?
Dietary changes can have a huge impact on your overall prostate health. Changing your diet with these suggestions can get you moving in the right direction:
- Decrease the consumption of red meat
- Increase the amount of fish you eat
- Eat less animal fat
- Increase consumption of cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
- Eat more tomatoes
Supplements to Support Prostate Health
Luckily, there are several nutraceuticals that should play an important role in prostate health in general and with specific concerns. The research that follows will show you that some single ingredients or a combination of several is a great option for men (or women) with prostate health concerns.
Lycopene (SibeliusTM: LactoMato)
We start with lycopene because it is also a key part of the dietary suggestions mentioned above (eat more tomatoes). Just do a PubMed search and you will find hundreds of studies with lycopene and prostate health. Lycopene is a carotenoid (antioxidant of yellow, orange, or red color) that is commonly found in tomatoes and other fruits. Consumption of tomato products including pasta sauce, ketchup, tomato juice, etc. is the more common way this nutrient is consumed. It is one of the most potent antioxidants among carotenoids found in food. Even with this being a men’s health article, lycopene has also shown benefits in other non-gender specific conditions such as eye health[vii], oral health (gingivitis)[viii], and sunburn[ix]. Taking into consideration that lycopene is thought to be one of the most potent carotenoids antioxidants and that antioxidants are beneficial for reducing oxidative stress, we can extrapolate that there are most likely many other areas in which lycopene can provide health benefits.[x]
When looking at lycopene supplements as will all supplements, we need to look for those with solid science, proven absorption, and quality in mind. LactoMato is the frontrunner when looking at lycopene supplements. To better understand the superiority of LactoMato, it is important to understand the complexity of lycopene’s bioavailability (being able to be absorbed into the bloodstream). Concerning lycopene, several areas play a role in its bioavailability. First, lycopene absorption from tomatoes increases when they are cooked, and when they are ingested with fat.[xi] The process of absorbing lycopene involves many steps and can be complicated and not efficient. LactoMato absorption and bioavailability studies show impressive results when compared to tomato paste (one of the better accepted dietary forms of lycopene) and a placebo. Better bioavailability and absorption often lead to improved effectiveness.
Other Prostate Health Supplements
Other than lycopene, there are several well-studied dietary ingredients that support genitourinary health. Herbs such as saw palmetto, pygeum, beta-sitosterol, and ryegrass pollen are four that should be considered in combination with lycopene. The herb saw palmetto seems to have received the most attention for prostate health in the areas of support for BPH[xii] and prostatitis[xiii]. Some studies found that saw palmetto led to an increase in urine flow rate in men with BPH compared to placebo.[xiv] The herbal extract pygeum has been extensively studied regarding BPH with the results being positive yet inconsistent[xv]. This comes from a review of 18 randomized controlled trials. Pygeum does not have successful studies on other prostate or fertility health areas. Beta-sitosterol, like pygeum, shows an impact on BPH mostly on the symptoms such as but does not impact the prostate size.[xvi] [xvii][xviii] The last supplement of focus is ryegrass pollen. Ryegrass pollen shows benefits in BPH, prostatitis, and chronic pelvic pain. Taking rye grass pollen extract orally seems to improve symptoms such as frequency, need to get up to urinate at night, urgency, flow rate, dribbling, and pain in patients with mild to moderate BPH.[xix][xx] One study showed ryegrass pollen relieved some symptoms of chronic prostatitis and associated pelvic pain.[xxi] It is clear to see that though these herbs support different areas of prostate health, none have the impact across the board like that of lycopene.
Finally, the best approach to having a healthy prostate is to incorporate each of these supplement categories along with lifestyle changes such as the diet mentioned above. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of prostate issues, it is best to seek medical help first. Get a diagnosis and then consider the best options for your health and wellbeing. Even if you don’t suffer from prostate health issues, if you are a male over the age of 40, you should seek an antioxidant that contains at least a few of these key nutrients.
[i] Egan K, The Epidemiology of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Associated with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms Prevalence and Incident Rates, Urologic Clinics of North America 43 (2016) 289-297
[ii] Egan K, The Epidemiology of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Associated with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms Prevalence and Incident Rates, Urologic Clinics of North America 43 (2016) 289-297
[iii] Nickel JC. Prostatitis and related conditions, orchitis, and epididymitis. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2012: 327–356.
[iv] Barry MJ, Collins MM. Benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’s Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2011: 805–810
[v] World Health Organization website, Cancer, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer
[vi] NIH National Institute on Aging website, Prostate Problems, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prostate-problems
Last reviewed July 1, 2016, Accessed November 17, 2019
[vii] Dherani, M., Murthy, G. V., Gupta, S. K., Young, I. S., Maraini, G., Camparini, M., Price, G. M., John, N., Chakravarthy, U., and Fletcher, A. E. Blood levels of vitamin C, carotenoids and retinol are inversely associated with cataract in a North Indian population. Invest Ophthalmol.Vis.Sci. 2008;49(8):3328-3335.
[viii] Chandra, R. V., Prabhuji, M. L., Roopa, D. A., Ravirajan, S., and Kishore, H. C. Efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of gingivitis: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Oral Health Prev.Dent 2007;5(4):327-336
[ix] Aust O, Stahl W, Sies H, et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.
[x] Tan BL, Norhaizan ME, Liew WP, Sulaiman Rahman H. Antioxidant and Oxidative Stress: A Mutual Interplay in Age-Related Diseases. Front Pharmacol. 2018 Oct 16;9:1162. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.01162. PMID: 30405405; PMCID: PMC6204759.
[xi] Gartner C, Stahl W, Sies H. Lycopene is more bioavailable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66:116-22
[xii] Wilt T, Ishani A, Stark G, et al. Saw palmetto extracts for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review. JAMA. 1998;280:1604-1609.
[xiii] Aliaev, IuG, Vinarov, A. Z., Lokshin, K. L., and Spivak, L. G. [Efficiency and safety of prostamol-Uno in patients with chronic abacterial prostatitis]. Urologiia. 2006;(1):47-50
[xiv] Gordon AE, Shaughnessy AF. Saw palmetto for prostate disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67:1281-1286.
[xv] Ishani A, MacDonald R, Nelson D, Rutks I, Wilt T., Pygeum africanum for the treatment of patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review and quantitative meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2000 Dec 1;109(8):654-64.
[xvi] Berges RR, Windeler J, Trampisch HJ, et al. Randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Beta-sitosterol Study Group. Lancet 1995;345:1529-32
[xvii] Klippel KF, Hiltl DM, Schipp B. A multicentric, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of beta-sitosterol (phytosterol) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Br J Urol 1997;80:427-32.
[xviii] Wilt TJ, MacDonald R, Ishani A. beta-sitosterol for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review. BJU Int 1999;83:976-83.
[xix] Buck AC, Rees RW, Ebeling L. Treatment of chronic prostatitis and prostatodynia with pollen extract. Br J Urol 1989;64:496-9.
[xx] Yasumoto R, Kawanishi H, Tsujino T, et al. Clinical evaluation of long-term treatment using cernitin pollen extract in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Clin Ther 1995;17:82-7
[xxi] Buck AC, Rees RW, Ebeling L. Treatment of chronic prostatitis and prostatodynia with pollen extract. Br J Urol 1989;64:496-9