The prostate gland is a male reproductive organ that secretes the fluid that semen needs to transport sperm. Located underneath the bladder, the prostate surrounds the urethra, which is the duct through which urine passes. The prostate does naturally enlarge somewhat as a result of aging; however, problems occur when it grows to the extent that it chokes off this passageway, making urination difficult to impossible. That said, an enlarged prostate-known medically as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)- is an extremely common male malady, affecting 50 percent of men over 50, and 80 percent of men over 70.
Signs and Symptoms
- Frequent need to urinate, often with an inability to sleep through the night without frequent trips to the bathroom
- Difficulty urinating
- Diminished force of urine stream
- Dribbling after the end of urination
- Recurrent urinary tract infection
- Complete inability to urinate, even though the urge is present (emergency symptom)
Conventional Medical Treatment
To diagnose an enlarged prostate, your physician examines your prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum and feeling the gland. You also may undergo a urine test, an ultrasound of the prostate gland, and/or a bladder cystoscope test. A cytoscope is passed through the urethra into the bladder and allows your doctor to visualize the inside of the bladder.
Treatment depends on how enlarged the prostate is. New federal guidelines for treating benign enlarged prostates say that men with mild to moderate symptoms may want to consider periods of doctor-monitored observation instead of choosing drug or surgical therapy right away. The guidelines were prompted by the belief that some doctors may be urging surgery or drug therapy without considering how much the condition is actually interfering with the patient’s quality of life.
If symptoms are affecting your quality of life, medication is generally the first-tried option. Finasteride (Proscar) is a new drug that shrinks the prostate by decreasing the production of dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that promotes prostatic growth. While the benefits may not be noticeable for six months, up to 75 percent taking the drug report an average 30 percent improvement in symptoms. Terazosin (Hytrin) relaxes the muscle in the prostate and allows urine to pass more freely. In most patients, symptoms improve by about 50 percent in about a month. Drugs must be continued for life.
In severe cases, a transurethral prostate resection surgery-using a cutting device or laser to decrease the size of the gland, or a balloon procedure-in which a small balloon is moved up through the penis and is inflated in the prostate-is used to enlarge the opening through which the urethra travels. Complications of this surgery include impotence (erectile dysfunction) in about 5 percent of cases.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
Eat 1 to 4 ounces of raw pumpkin seeds daily. Rich in zinc, these seeds are beneficial for almost all prostate troubles. Increase your fluid intake; drink 2 to 3 quarts of spring or distilled water daily. This helps prevent cystitis and kidney infection as well as dehydration. Avoid chlorinated and fluoridated water, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and junk foods. Nutritionists recommend the following daily supplements:
- vitamin B complex (50 mg 3 times daily)-contains the anti-stress vitamins, supplemented with vitamin B6 (50 mg twice daily) especially helpful for its anticancer properties
- zinc (20 mg; do not exceed a total of 100 mg from all supplements)-deficiency has been linked to prostatitis; use lozenge form
- fish oil (as directed on label, 3 times daily) important in prostate function
- L-alanine, L-glutamic acid, and L-glycine (as directed on label)-helps maintain normal prostate function
- raw prostate glandular (as directed on label)-normalizes prostate function
- vitamin E (600 IU)-enhances the immune system; a potent antioxidant
- magnesium and calcium (as directed on label)-improves prostate function
- Pygeum africanum (as directed)
- saw palmetto (as directed)
- selenium (400 mcg)
Ayurvedic practitioners may recommend taking alma or an Ayurvedic mixture of punamava, shilajuit, and gokshura to temper the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. They also may suggest drinking ginseng, hibiscus, or horsetail tea several times daily.
Consult your healthcare provider before embarking on any new health regimen; early detection of serious prostate problems is critical.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture To lessen pain and in flammation, acupuncturists may concentrate on working points related to the bladder, kidney, spleen, and large intestine meridians. In addition, they also may focus on Gallbladder, and Conception Vessel, along with the ear points related to the prostate gland.
Acupressure To help lessen inflammation and discomfort, the practitioner will focus on these acupressure points: Bladder, Conception Vessel, Spleen, Kidney, and Liver .
If urinary retention is a problem, the acupuncturist also may include: Spleen, Bladder, and related ear points.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Herbs that may be given in formulas to correct the damp-heat imbalance that is believed to cause this ailment are malva, coptis, and talcum. Plantain is often used to help relieve the swelling and pain caused by prostatitis. Other herbs may be prescribed to remedy fever or back or abdominal pain, if necessary. Most herb-trained acupuncturists will also use saw palmetto/Pygeum extracts, along with treating the constitution to speed recovery.
Yoga and Meditation
Four yoga poses-the Wind Removal, Seated Sun, English Rooster, and Elevated Lotus-can boost circulation to the prostate area and calm prostate symptoms. In addition, a yoga exercise-the Stomach Lock can help prevent flare-ups. Perform each daily. Consult your doctor before starting this program if you have heart problems or a hiatal hernia.