Prostate Disorders: Part Two
Posted on June 1, 2023 - No Comments
Prostate Disorders: Part Two
Part Two of this newsletter will examine the herbs, nutrients, and supplements we can use to protect the prostate, and to treat prostate conditions ranging from BPH to cancer. So, what are the best natural approaches to supporting our little buddy, the prostate gland?
Vitamins and Minerals
Let’s start with the most important nutrient for men and their prostate gland, which is zinc. Men have twice the zinc needs of women and, in a similar manner, women have twice the iron needs of men. This is because women lose iron during menstruation, and men lose zinc during ejaculation. Signs of severe zinc deficiency in both will show up as random white spots on the fingernails. Interestingly, we cannot taste zinc when we are deficient, so one easy test is to use zinc lozenges, adding up the zinc content while eating them, until you taste the zinc (which tastes metallic, astringent, and/or acidic). Liquid zinc can also be used to accomplish the same thing, however, note that most forms of zinc will make you nauseous when taken on an empty stomach.
Zinc has been shown to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can lead to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). (Source)
The prostate gland normally contains about ten times more zinc than any other organ in the body, and since zinc levels are often inadequate in the average male, higher 5-alpha reductase levels are all too common.
As a preventative supplement, 15 to 30 mg per day is usually sufficient, depending on age and the condition of the prostate. The older you are the more zinc you need, and if you have prostate infection you may require levels up to 50 mg per day to help fight the infection. Levels of 30 mg or more daily should be taken with a small amount of copper (1 – 2 mg), if used on an ongoing basis, since high zinc intake can deplete the body of copper. Along with copper, vitamin B-6 is also required for the absorption of zinc, so it usually makes sense to get your zinc in a men’s multivitamin, in order to also cover these other bases.
The link between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer has been well established: “Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. Epidemiological, molecular, and cellular studies have implicated vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development and/or progression of PCa. Studies using cell culture systems and animal models suggest that vitamin D acts to reduce the growth of PCa through regulation of cellular proliferation and differentiation.” (Source)
And, not long ago, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that vitamin D levels can even be used as a biomarker for spotting aggressive prostate cancer: “Now we have evidence that suggests that people who have aggressive prostate cancer have lower levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common in men with aggressive prostate cancer… Men with dark skin, low vitamin D intake, or low sun exposure should be tested for vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with an elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) level or prostate cancer.” (Source) (Quick D)
A 2008 epidemiological (population) study linked vitamin K2 levels with reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer. In this study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, over 11,000 men were studied by means of a dietary questionnaire. Vitamin K had already shown it had anti-carcinogenic activity against cancer cells in a laboratory, but here they could observe how both vitamin K1 and K2 affected the rates of developing prostate cancer in a functioning population, over nearly 10 years.
Observations indicated that the higher the intake of K2 the lower the risk of all forms of prostate cancer. But, the most significant protection offered by vitamin K2 was against advanced prostate cancer, in which case it was associated with a 63% reduction in risk. Vitamin K1, found mostly in leafy greens, showed no protective activity here, though other studies have shown it to be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. (Source). (Quick K2)
A pathetic prostate cancer study that began in 2004 (set to run for 12 years), was designed to test the effect of vitamin E and selenium on prostate cancer rates. A couple of years into the study it was stopped, based on the increased levels of prostate cancer in those receiving the nutrients. The ensuing headline (splashed all over newspapers and the internet), “Prostate cancer risk linked to vitamin E”, was easy to refute. I simply looked up the original study on PubMed (Source). Here I found that they used synthetic, petroleum-derived vitamin E (racemic alpha-tocopheryl) (Source), along with a less viable form of selenium, selenomethionine.
No one familiar with how to use vitamins, would ever suggest the use of synthetic vitamin E, which is not only debatable as to how effective it is, but also may actually block vitamin E-receptors in the body. Furthermore, on PubMed I found another study involving over 35,000 men (followed for a decade), showing a distinct protective advantage against advanced prostate cancer by taking 400 IU of natural vitamin E daily. (Source) (A dose level found in NutriPods for Men, along with zinc, copper, and B-6.)
One of the most important nutrients to prevent prostate problems is the mineral selenium. Researchers found cadmium (a heavy metal) concentrations in the prostate of those with BPH to be considerably higher than in normal tissue, with the DHT level directly proportional to cadmium concentrations. Although other investigators failed to confirm these findings, prostatic hyperplasia has been produced in animals by injecting cadmium into the prostate.
As well, in laboratory experiments, cadmium stimulates the over-growth of human prostatic epithelium (a sign of cancer). In these studies, the proper concentration of selenium inhibited cadmium-stimulated prostatic growth. (Source)
As selenium intake is frequently inadequate in the Western diet, supplementing with 100 to 200 mcg daily is a good idea. All my research has indicated that the best form of selenium is that derived from yeast, either generic, or the clinically-tested, trademarked SelenoExcell (which NutriStart uses in its NutriPods for Men, and Mineral Mix). Dr. Mercola has arrived at the same conclusion.
Nettle root extract has been used successfully to exert a decongestive action on the prostate, thus relieving the discomfort caused by the enlargement of this gland. The vitamins, minerals, and lipids found in nettle root have been shown to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha reductase, as well as supporting endocrine gland activity. (Nettle root concentrate is also a component of NutriPods for Men.)
Studies have confirmed nettle root to “have beneficial effects in the treatment of symptomatic BPH”. (Source) And, even better, an alcohol-extract (tincture) of nettle root was found to also inhibit the spread of human prostatic cancer cells. (Source)
Usually, the first choice for treating BPH is the use of a standardized fat-soluble extract of the fruit of the saw palmetto berry. (Source)
This extract is effective at preventing the conversion of testosterone to DHT, and also inhibits the binding of DHT to cellular receptor sites, thereby increasing the breakdown and excretion of DHT. A therapeutic dose of saw palmetto is 160 mg of a standardized extract taken twice per day, a maintenance dose being about half as much. One thing to be aware of is that the therapeutic dose of saw palmetto is based on an 85-95% fatty acid profile, and this is only found in softgel capsules, which contain a liquid extract of saw palmetto. Powdered saw palmetto in a capsule will only provide a 40-45% fatty acid profile, which, while potentially helpful, is not the full therapeutic strength.
Now, one of the key constituents of those fatty acids found in saw palmetto is phytosterols. Phytosterols are cholesterol analogs found in vegetables, which can decrease cholesterol absorption by displacing cholesterol from bile salt. At one point, about 50 years ago, they were actually patented as a drug for lowering cholesterol. And did so safely and effectively, until the patent ran out. Currently they are marketed for this purpose, over-the-counter, in vitamin stores, as well as being used to treat auto-immune conditions.
But, of course, they are also beneficial to the prostate and now constitute the second most common natural treatment for BPH, after saw palmetto. This is because extracts of one phytosterol, beta-sitosterol, have been studied for the treatment of BPH under double-blind conditions, and have proven to be highly effective. (Source)
One of the key ways beta-sitosterol works is by inhibiting the activity of 5-alpha-reductase, but there may be another mechanism as well, one which could also protect against prostate cancer.
In Part One we discussed how high cholesterol levels were associated with prostate cancer development. Recalling that, see what this study had to say: “We found that in general cholesterol promoted prostate cancer cell proliferation, adhesion, migration and invasion ability. In contrast, β-sitosterol suppressed prostate cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion.” (Source)
The therapeutic dose of beta-sitosterol for BPH ranges from 60 to 130 mg daily (in divided doses), and is probably more effective when it is part of a mixture of phytosterols. For cholesterol, however, doses are higher, ranging from 1 to 3 grams daily. (Source)
Next to saw palmetto, the most renowned herb for the prostate is Pygeum Africanum. A meta-analysis of pygeum studies done on BPH concluded that: “Compared to men receiving placebo, pygeum provided a moderately large improvement in the combined outcome of urologic symptoms and flow measures.” (Source)
While pygeum is often included in saw palmetto formulas, it should be noted that pygeum can be very effective for treating prostate infection, something which saw palmetto is not helpful for. Therefore, if prostatitis is the concern, one should focus on getting a higher dose of pygeum than saw palmetto. Dosage runs from 50 mg of a standardized extract, twice per day, for BPH, up to 100 mg, twice daily for prostatitis. (Source)
In Part Three of this series we will examine diet, foods, and some unexpected supplemental support.