It is a fact that 50% of men over 50 will be affected by prostate health concerns. (1, 2) The prostate is a small gland the size of a walnut that surrounds the urethra between the bladder and penis.
The prostate can enlarge to more than a lemon size and squeeze off the urine flow through the urethra. While the prostate has no role in the passage of urine, when it is irritated men can have a host of urine flow related issues such as:
- Frequency and urgency to urinate
- Trouble starting or stopping the urine flow
- Waking up at night to urinate
- Never feeling the bladder fully emptied
According to WebMD, prostate concerns are a normal part of aging and will affect 90% of men over 85. According to Ayurveda, this is not considered a normal part of aging.
The Ayurvedic Prostate
According to Ayurveda, the prostate is a pitta organ, which means it is hot or prone to irritation. Men who have pitta body types are generally more susceptible to issues involving the prostate. Since prostate concerns rarely affect men till they are over 40, it is reasonable to assume that the underpinnings of the prostate’s ill health status lie somewhere else.
According to Ayurveda, the first stages of irritation in the body start in the digestive system presenting as occasional acid digestion issues and/or loose and frequent bowel movements. Once the intestinal villi become irritated, the lymph on the outside of the gut wall slowly congests.
The reproductive organs, which the prostate is a part of, drain through the gut associated lymph tissue (GALT). When the lymph drainage channels become blocked, the prostate can irritate and congest. It should be made clear that this is not a normal or expected process of aging.
Here are some pitta-reducing strategies that may support prostate health:
- Eat more pitta pacifying foods. These are cooling and predominately harvested in the summer. See Summer Grocery list here.
- Avoid hot, spicy, pungent, salty or sour foods.
- Stay hydrated with plain room temperature water.
- Get regular exercise and/or practice yoga to move the lymph.
- Address any digestive issues – see digestive health articles.
Herbal Support for Lifelong Prostate Health
There are a few herbs that have shown to be great support for the prostate.
Known as Indian frankincense, Boswellia serrata has been used for thousands of years to support a natural and healthy response to irritation and congestion in the gut, joints and prostate. Boswellia is a powerful inhibitor of an enzyme called 5-lipoxygenase which is involved in the proliferation of irritating cytokines in the body. Supportive but not conclusive research has found Boswellia to be an effective tool for establishing a normal cytokine activity response in the gut, joints and prostate. (3)
Used by over 2 million men in the United States, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) remains the number one defense for prostate health.
The active constituents in saw palmetto support the prostate in several ways. The main constituent, beta sitosterol, inhibits enzymes that convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is a hormone that supports unhealthy prostate function and size. (4)
These active constituents of the saw palmetto bind to DHT receptors on prostate cells, reducing DHT’s potential negative impact. (4)
In some 18 clinical trials, saw palmetto supported optimal urinary tract health involving 2,939 men. (5) This included healthy nighttime urination. The same analysis indicated further prostate support when other phytonutrients like Pygeum africanum were added.
Saw palmetto has also been shown to:
- Support healthy estrogen and testosterone balance (6)
- Inhibits alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to its more toxic form dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (7)
- Reduces prolactin-induced prostate growth (8)
- Generally reduces congestion (9)
- Reduces IGF-1-induced prostate growth (10)
Pygeum africanum, or red stinkwood, has been used for approximately 300 years for support of the urinary tract system. It has been shown to block androgen precursors, reduces prolactin levels, and has a decongesting effect, all of which play a supportive role in prostate health. (11)
In animal studies, Pygeum supported both bladder and prostate health. The bark extract increases prostatic secretions and improves seminal fluid composition. (11)
Pumpkin Seeds (Cucurbita pepo) are naturally rich in phytosterols, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids (55% linoleic acid). A randomized, controlled, double-blind, three-month study reported healthy urinary flow, urination time, residual urine, and urinary frequency without any adverse effects. (12)
Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), derived from the Uva-Ursi leaf, contains 10% of the glycoside arbutin, which is beneficial for its immune support against foreign microbes and healthy lymph draining and circulation properties. (13)
Zinc inhibits 5a reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to its more potent form, dihydro testosterone, believed to be most responsible for proliferative changes to the prostate. (14)
While there are numerous herbs that support optimal prostate health as described above, it is always important to evaluate the individual who has the prostate issues. Check their body type, digestive weaknesses, circulation issues, lifestyle, diet, exercise and stress levels. Addressing these issues, along with good prostate support, just may be your ticket to lifelong prostate health.