We are going to review a few simple steps you can take to maintain the health of your prostate gland. So, if you're like most men, you have a general idea of where your prostate is located, but you may be a little unfamiliar with what its function is. So, the prostate gland's primary function is to aid male fertility by secreting liquid ejaculate rich in fructose that nourishes and protects sperm. As men age, the prostate gland can become problematic because it can start to grow. And the urethra, which runs down from the bladder through the prostate gland and out the penis for urination, can become restricted from this prostate growth. And, of course, prostate growth can make it difficult to urinate. This enlargement of the prostate gland is called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH for short. It can affect around 25% of men by the age of 40. Unfortunately, this number increases exponentially as men age, and by the time they reach 70 years old, around 80% of men are affected by BPH.

 

What is BPH and What Causes it?

BPH isn't a life-threatening condition, but it can be pretty aggravating living with the symptoms daily. And in some cases, it can be so debilitating that it requires a trip to the emergency room for surgery. The two leading causes of BPH are hormonal imbalances and inflammation in the body. So, when it comes to hormones, the main culprit is the antigenic hormone dihydrotestosterone or DHT for short. Now, this is a derivative of testosterone that is made via the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. So as men age, the levels of this enzyme increase, which increasingly converts your testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone. A little DHT is important for men's health, especially when it comes to sexual function, but too much can cause growth of the prostate gland and male pattern baldness.

Inflammation is another cause of BPH. And for most men, this is caused by a processed diet and a diet rich in omega six vegetable oils. Some omega-six fatty acids are essential for our health, but when levels rise too high in the body, it can drive inflammation.

 

How Can BPH Be Treated?

 In rare cases, inflammation of the prostate gland, which is called prostatitis, is caused by a bacterial infection. So, of course, this needs to be tested and treated by your doctor with antibiotics. Now, conventional treatment of BPH is typically a prescription of a class of drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. As the name suggests, these drugs prevent the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone by suppressing the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Now, these drugs are quite effective in reducing growth of the prostate gland, and studies have shown that they reduce the prostate gland by up to 25%.

 

Side Effects of BPH Drugs

Unfortunately, there is a downside to taking these drugs. Some  patients suffer serious sexual side effects. These side effects include loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, inability to ejaculate, and penile and testis tissue shrinkage. So many of these side effects can be reversed when stopping the medication, but there are rare cases of men who stop the medication and still experience these sexual side effects for years after the fact. So, you have to consider seriously before going on these drugs by talking to your physician and your pharmacist. Now, if you'd like to avoid the potential side effects of these drugs, there are some more natural treatments that you can try first.

 

How to Prevent BPH

A recent study found that men classified as clinically obese men were three and a half times more likely to develop BPH than men of average weight. This study suggests a direct correlation between body fat percentage and developing prostate problems later on in life. So, one of the simplest things you can do to try and prevent BPH and maintain the health of your prostate gland is to lose body fat. And you can do this by hiring a personal trainer or a nutritionist to work on your exercise and nutrition to lose body fat and build lean muscle.

 

Are There Any Supplements Taken for BPH?

In terms of taking supplements to support your prostate health, the two that some experts recommend saw palmetto and zinc. These both have proven efficacy in research studies and clinical observations when it comes to maintaining the health of the prostate gland in aging men. So saw palmetto is derived from a wild plant rich in fatty acid and phytosterols that are healthy for the prostate gland. And in fact, saw palmetto has been the most widely used natural treatment for BPH in North America since the 1800s.

Saw Palmetto works comparably to the 5-alpha reductase inhibitors in terms of partially blocking the 5-alpha reductase enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. However, it's not as powerful as the drugs, so there's less potential for side effects. One study found that participants had a 50% reduction in BPH symptoms after eight weeks on high dose saw palmetto supplementation. The standard amount is 320 milligrams of saw palmetto per day until your symptoms subside.

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is important for male health, especially regarding fertility and immune function. A recent study on zinc and prostate health shows that 140 of 200 men gain complete relief of their BPH symptoms after 16 weeks on high-dose zinc supplementation. So, the standard dose of zinc supplementation to treat BPH is 80 milligrams per day until your symptoms subside, and then reduce it down to 40 milligrams per day as a maintenance dose.

A word of caution with high-dose zinc supplementation, anything over 100 milligrams per day can suppress your immune system. And there is some evidence that zinc can contribute to prostate cancer. So, make sure to only stick to the 80 milligrams per day until your symptoms go away and then reduce it down to the 40 milligrams. Also, high-dose zinc supplementation can drive down copper stores in the body, and copper is essential for health because it aids red blood cell production and also immune function. So, take two to three milligrams of copper along with your high-dose zinc to balance them out.

 

What Prostate Exams Do Doctors Perform for BPH?

Your doctor may determine that a digital rectal exam (DRE) is useful in evaluating your prostate health. The prostate is just in front of the rectum. For this test, your doctor will gently insert a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to examine the prostate for irregularities in size, shape, and texture.

He or she will also order a PSA test.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is produced exclusively by cells of the prostate gland. Used in conjunction with the digital rectal examination, PSA is a useful screening test for benign prostate enlargement, prostatitis and prostate cancer development.

There are some things a man should not do before having a PSA test. This list of “don’ts” will help ensure your test results are as accurate as possible.

 

Prior to a PSA Test: Don’t Do These Activities

  • Participate in vigorous exercise and activities that stimulate or “jostle” the prostate, such as bike riding, motorcycling, and riding a horse, ATV, or tractor, or getting a prostatic massage for 48 hours before your test.
  • Participate in sexual activity that involves ejaculation for 48 hours before your test. Ejaculation within this time frame may affect PSA results, especially in younger men.
  • Schedule your PSA test to be done for at least six weeks after undergoing any of the following procedures: prostate biopsy, transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) for BPH, urethral catheter, cystoscopy, or any other procedure that involves the prostate. If you are in doubt about the possible impact of any procedure on your PSA test, talk to your doctor.
  • Schedule a PSA test if you have a urinary tract infection. A bacterial infection in the urinary tract can cause PSA levels to rise temporarily. If you are not sure if you have a urinary tract infection, have a urine test before your PSA test to make sure. If you do have a urinary tract infection, you should wait at least six weeks after you have completed your antibiotic treatment before you have your PSA test.
  • Schedule a digital rectal examination (DRE) before your PSA test. Although a DRE should not have an impact on PSA levels, having the PSA test first is a precaution.

Don’t forget to tell your doctor if you are going to get a PSA test:

  • If you undergoing chemotherapy, as these drugs can cause an elevated PSA level
  • If you are taking any medications, especially statins, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or medications that control urinary problems such as dustasteride or finasteride. All of these substances have the potential to affect PSA levels.
  • If you have undergone urinary tract or prostate surgery recently, or if you have suffered a pelvic injury or sports injury.
  • If you have prostatitis or BPH.

Why Your High PSA Test May Not Be Prostate Cancer

 

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