Prostate Disorders: Part One
PROSTATE DISORDERS – Part One
This revised version of a blog originally published in 2010 will require three parts to cover all the new material that has been added. Part Two will look at beneficial herbs and supplements, and Part Three will examine diet in detail, with a special focus on prostate cancer.
Examining the Prostate
The prostate is a cluster of small, doughnut-shaped sex glands, encircling the urethra (the tube which conveys urine and semen) just below the bladder. Although all the functions of the prostate are not yet clear, its most direct purpose is to contract during ejaculation, squeezing the seminal fluid into and through the urethral tract. And, because the prostate is located so close to the urethra, any problem with the prostate can hinder the free flow of urine.
The most common disorder of the prostate gland is this hindering of urine flow, which is most often due to an unnatural swelling of the gland. This condition affects about 50% of men between the ages of 40 and 60, and is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Symptoms of BPH include increased frequency of urination, waking at night frequently to empty the bladder, and reduced force and caliber of urination.
The dominant medical belief, currently, is that BPH is caused by an accumulation of testosterone in the prostate. Within the prostate the enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase converts the male sex hormone, testosterone, into another more potent hormone known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which happens to be the same hormone linked to causing Male Pattern Baldness (MPB). Thus, both the medical and natural approachs to treating the prostate, are often the same treatments used to tackle MPB.
DHT controls the division of cells in the prostate, and when we have too much, it can stimulate the prostate cells into multiplying excessively, eventually causing the prostate to enlarge. Normally DHT would be excreted from the prostate gland in sufficient quantity to prevent such enlargement. However, if there is an imbalance between the male hormones (androgens) the DHT will not be adequately excreted, resulting in a swollen gland. Upon medical examination, an enlarged prostate usually reveals three to four times the normal levels of DHT.
The second most common ailment of the prostate is prostatitis, in which the swelling of the prostate gland is caused by bacterial infection. This can occur at any age and the symptoms are more severe than those of BPH. It begins with irritation during urination, then pain between the scrotum and rectum, pain in the lower back and, ultimately, blood in the urine. Urine flow can be partially or totally blocked, which can lead to urine retention in the bladder, in turn causing urinary infections.
Currently there is a link between accumulation of the metal nickel in the prostate and chronic prostatitis. Excess nickel enters the body mostly through deep-fried foods and cheap cookware (something that will be addressed in the forthcoming newsletter “Out of the Frying Pan”), and while there is limited information on removing nickel, it does appear that the amino acid L-histadine is the most effective compound for accomplishing this.
Now, aside from prostatitis induced by bacterial infection, there is another type known as “non-bacterial prostatitis”, and this problem has yet to be fully understood. It can strike young men as easily as older men (who are most prone to BPH), and obviously, cannot be treated with antibiotics.
We do know that, in the case of rats at least, alcohol intake was linked to chronic non-bacterial prostatitis. (Source) But, aside from avoiding alcohol, I always suggest that men with this problem also stop carrying cell phones in their pockets. This is a personal observation based on being a nutritional consultant for the last 30 years or so, and seeing a dramatic increase in young men with prostate problems. And, also based on my research into electromagnetic pollution, for Health Secrets Volume Two, in which the effect of cell phone radiation on the fertility of both men and women is well documented.
One of the very few treatments for non-bacterial prostatitis is rye grass pollen extract, trademarked under the name Cernitin® (another option available in Canada is Prostaphil-2).
This product is widely used for “treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and non-bacterial chronic prostatitis”. In laboratory studies, Cernitin had an anti-inflammatory effect on prostate cells, and “significantly reduced androgen receptor and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) protein expression”. (Source) Human studies have confirmed its beneficial effects on BPH. (Source)
The greatest danger that follows either of the aforementioned problems is that of a possible malignant change occurring. The metabolites (breakdown products) of cholesterol are cancer producing, and have a tendency to accumulate in the prostate gland. These metabolites initiate degeneration in the prostate cells, which can promote prostatic enlargement.
At this point in time, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men, world wide (lung cancer being first).
It is interesting to note that, as little as a hundred years ago, prostate problems were rarely mentioned in medical literature. This implies a link to the modern lifestyle, most likely to diet, and indeed, the connection between diet and prostate cancer has been clearly established. There is a high correlation between prostate cancer and fat consumption, especially saturated fat. (Source)
Worldwide autopsies reveal that wherever the diet is similar to a typical North American one (i.e. high in animal-fat consumption ) nearly 25% of all men develop latent cancer of the prostate by the time they reach old age.
A few years ago, The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that men who ate red meat at least five times a week had a two and a half times greater risk of developing prostate cancer than did men who ate red meat less than once a week (based on a study of 51,000 men). A study by the Chief of Urology at the Metropolitan Hospital in New York found that men with BPH had 80% more cholesterol in their blood than those without the condition. Remember that sex hormones (androgens) are built in the body from cholesterol, so there is a pretty direct link between cholesterol and testosterone.
Not long ago, dietary egg intake was linked to increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer, but this link has been debated, with one argument being that those with the highest egg intake also had the highest red meat intake, something already linked to prostate cancer.
I will look at diet in more depth in part two, however for now just be aware that industrially-produced animal foods (eggs, meat) are from animals fed a diet high in corn and soy, leading to animal protein containing an excessive amount of omega 6 fatty acids (not to mention glyphosate, or ”Roundup”, since most of the corn and soy is from GMO foods). The insane excess of omega 6 fatty acids in the modern diet is alone linked to a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including cancerous ones. (Source)
Thus, if we ensure the sources of our animal protein intake is from grass-fed animals, and poultry fed a high omega 3 diet, we can minimize this risk.
Now, maintaining safe cholesterol levels obviously involves watching saturated fat consumption, but it also must include restricting sugar intake, and ensuring an adequate amount of fiber. Both sugar and fiber are involved in the body’s ability to process and utilize cholesterol, either for good or bad. Another good reason to include high fiber content in your diet is the need for bowel regularity, especially since an unbalanced diet, high in animal foods (saturated fat), tends to be constipating.
Constipation is a frequent symptom accompanying BPH. It is implied that the long-term increase in pressure creates congestion in the lower pelvic region, where the prostate lies. Worsening matters is putrefying matter in this area, which can also contribute to prostatitis since constipation produces a cesspool of bad bacteria that can infect the prostate gland. Thus it is important to take a good quality probiotic or prebiotic (such as LactoSpore) on a regular basis, if we have any such problems. A healthy microbiome keeps us regular and protects the prostate with friendly flora.
It must be mentioned that 20 years ago the approach to prostate cancer was “you’ll die of old age before prostate cancer kills you.” However, roughly in the mid-90s the medical profession started diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, and now it is one of the leading causes of death among men. The prime tool used to track the health of the prostate, aside from the finger test (digital rectal exam) that the doctor uses to check for BPH, is the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.
The validity of this test has been questioned for some time now, but even more so with the release of two large international studies in March 2009. Following the release of these studies the Canadian Cancer Society announced: “Not only does it not appear to reduce death rates from prostate cancer overall, but there are significant harms associated with prostate cancer testing with PSA.” The “harms” mentioned, refer to the unnecessary surgery that may then occur, leading to many men suffering with incontinence and impotence following treatment. (Source)
Adding insult to injury, men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer are also at an increased risk of suicide. (Source) Reasons for this are complex but there is no doubt that for many men their self-image is tightly woven with their sense of virility, and the treatments for prosate cancer (chemical castration, surgical removal of the prostate) threaten this part of their self-worth.
While this protein (prostate-specific antigen) produced by the prostate may indicate prostate cancer when found at high levels in the blood, it may also be the result of other conditions, and one may have prostate cancer without having elevated PSA levels.
“In addition to prostate cancer, several benign (not cancerous) conditions can cause a person’s PSA level to rise, particularly prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (enlargement of the prostate). There is no evidence that either condition leads to prostate cancer.” (Source)
Heck, even riding a bike can increase PSA levels: “According to the results of our study, cycling caused an average 9.5% increase in PSA, in healthy male cyclists over 50 years old.” (Source)
Evidently, the PSA test has its place as one form of feedback, to be balanced out by other diagnostic techniques, but should not be relied upon singly as being the determinant of prostate cancer. A good doctor will use it as a guide, observing it over years and, if the levels are constantly rising over time, other tests may be called for before we get to the biopsy and treatment phase.
And speaking of biopsy, this invasive technique punches holes in the prostate to accumulate enough matter to biopsy, meanwhile causing pain, bleeding and inflammation. As cancer is in part an inflammatory condition, subjecting a delicate organ to this abuse may even cause a worsening and/or spreading of what cancerous cells may be present.