Posted on August 5, 2010 - No Comments
So, what is the natural approach to support our little buddy the prostate gland?
Let’s start with the most important nutrient for men and the prostate gland, which is zinc. Men have twice the zinc needs of women, as women have twice the iron needs of men. This is because women lose iron during menstruation and men lose zinc during ejaculation. Zinc deficiency 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 get zinc lozenges and add up the zinc content while eating them until you taste the zinc (which will taste metallic, astringent and/or acidic). Do not do this on an empty stomach, as zinc will make you nauseous.
Zinc has been shown to inhibit the activity of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT and can lead to BPH. Levels of zinc are commonly inadequate in the average male leading to higher 5-alpha reductase levels. The prostate gland normally contains about ten times more zinc than any other organ in the body. As a preventative supplement 15mg to 30mg per day is usually sufficient.
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 30mg or more daily should be taken with a small amount of copper, one or two milligrams, if used on an ongoing basis, since high zinc intake can deplete the body of copper. The vitamin B-6 is also required for the absorption of zinc.
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 Nettles have been shown to actually inhibit the activity of 5-alpha reductase, as we as supporting endocrine gland activity.
But the first choice in treating BPH is the use of a standardized fat-soluble extract of the fruit of the Saw Palmetto. 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.
Next to Saw Palmetto the most renown herb for the prostate is Pygeum Africanum. In a European double-blind study that involved almost 700 men, pygeum worked to alleviate symptoms in 66% of the cases. While pygeum is often included in saw palmetto formulas, it should be noted that pygeum can be effective for treating prostate infection, which saw palmetto is not. Therefore, if prostatitis is the concern, one should focus on getting a higher dose of pygeum than saw palmetto. Dosage runs at about 50 mg of a standardized extract, twice per day.
Phytosterols are cholesterol analogs found in vegetables which 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. Various extracts of one phytosterol, beta-sitosterol, have been studied for the treatment of BPH under double-blind conditions, and in most studies have shown efficacy. Dosage levels are from 200mg to 300mg daily. A further advantage to beta-sitosterol is that in laboratory experiments it was able to reduce prostate cancer cell growth by 24% and quadrupled cancerous cell death.
One the most important nutrients to prevent prostate cancer 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. As selenium intake is frequently inadequate in the Western diet, supplementing with 100 to 200 mcg daily is a good idea.
Studies have found that a specific combination of amino acids (L-glutamic acid 530 mg, L-alanine 200 mg and glycine 90 mg) taken 3 times daily, to have some therapeutic efficacy. More than 90% of the subjects experienced reduction in residual urine and shrinkage of the prostate. The effectiveness of this combination has become so well accepted that has been used as the ‘control drug’ against which to test other possibly therapeutic substances.
While lycopene is commonly used as a supplement to protect the prostate gland from cancer, the American FDA has determined that lycopene in isolation does not have the benefits that it does when in its natural state (in stewed tomatoes for example). When approached to allow health claims regarding lycopene and risk reduction for some forms of cancer, the FDA concluded: “there was no credible evidence to support an association between lycopene intake and a reduced risk of prostate and other cancers.”
They found that intake of cooked tomatoes (ideally with some fat in it) was inversely associated with prostate cancer risk, but found no relationship between intake of raw tomatoes and prostate cancer risk. Naturally derived lycopene from tomato can be purchased in supplement form, but ensure the label indicates the product is in a base of tomato extract, to ensure it is of value.
One of the few natural substances that can lower PSA levels is an uncommon very specific extract of rye pollen (Cernilton).