What is Prostate Health?
The prostate is a single, doughnut-shaped gland about the size of a walnut that lies below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The prostate secretes a thin, milky, alkaline fluid that increases sperm motility and lubricates the urethra to prevent infection.
There are two main conditions that affect the prostate. One is prostate enlargement, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Almost every man will develop an enlarged prostate if he lives long enough. BPH is not cancer and is not life threatening. The other condition, prostate cancer, is much more serious. It can cause symptoms similar to those in BPH, but it can also spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal. In men, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death due to cancer. (Lung cancer is by far the first.)
Symptoms of either BPH or early prostate cancer are due to bladder obstruction, such as increased urinary frequency, nighttime awakening to empty the bladder, and reduced force and flow speed of urine.
Warning: Prostate disorders can only be diagnosed by a physician. Do not self-diagnose. If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with BPH or prostate cancer, see your physician immediately for proper diagnosis.
What determines Prostate Health?
Many issues of poor prostate health are largely the result of hormonal changes associated with aging. These include many changes in both male (androgen), female (estrogen) and pituitary hormone levels in aging men. The ultimate effect of these changes is that there be an increased concentration of testosterone within the prostate gland, and an increased conversion of this testosterone to an even more potent form known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The increase in levels of testosterone and DHT is largely due to a decreased rate of removal combined with an increase in the activity of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT.
Which Dietary Factors are Important in Prostate Health?
Diet appears to play a critical role in the health of the prostate. A diet rich in natural, whole with a focus on legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is recommended. Eating ¼ cup of raw sunflower seeds, pumpkinseeds, or ground flaxseeds is often recommended for improving prostate health. Also, daily consumption of lycopene-rich vegetables, such as tomatoes, spinach, kale, mangoes, broccoli and berries, promotes prostate health. It is also important to reduce your intake of alcohol (especially beer), caffeine and sugar, all of which have an adverse effect on the way testosterone is metabolized and cleared from the body.