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Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy 26 July 2009

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a benign enlargement of the prostate gland in men. The prostate gland is found at the base of the bladder and the urethra (the tube running from the bladder to the end of the penis) passes through it. As the prostate gets bigger it can compress the urethra. Common symptoms of BPH include: frequency, difficulty starting urine flow and dribbling after urination ends.

Once prostate cancer has been ruled out, the usual medical treatment is with a drug called finasteride (Proscar) which inhibits the enzyme 5a reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. Unfortunately it now appears that excessive dihydrotestosterone is not the cause of BPH and finasteride has also been associated with impotence problems.

Natural ways to reduce the size of the prostate gland include:

  • Understanding the critical importance of the acid:alkaline balance to health and adopting an alkaline lifestyle. Excessive acidity increases the size of the prostate.
  • Zinc supplementation. This can be done by increasing zinc rich foods such as unroasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds. However adding a zinc supplement such as zinc picolinate 30 mg 3 times a day is usually necessary. This dose can be reduced as symptoms settle. Zinc reduces copper levels so should always be taken with a small amount of copper (1mg for every 30mg of zinc).
  • A supplement containing vitamin E, vitamin D, lycopene (from tomatoes) and selenium.
  • Increasing essential fatty acids. These can include flax seed oil, borage oil and pharmaceutical grade fish oil.
  • If zinc and the essential fatty acids don’t completely resolve the symptoms then the herb saw palmetto can be used. The exact way saw palmetto works is not known but research has shown it to be effective and very safe. Saw palmetto has also been shown to reduce the bleeding after prostate surgery. Make sure the saw palmetto you use has 85-95% fatty acids and sterol. The effective dose appears to be 160mg twice a day.
  • Stinging nettle (urtica dioica) binds to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG increases with age and acts like a sponge for hormones- sucking them up and preventing them from being active. Stinging nettle binds to SHBG, freeing up bound testosterone. The resulting increase in free testosterone can improve the testosterone to oestrogen ratio and therefore reduce the size of the prostate gland. The dose is usually 300 mg per day and there have been no serious side-effects at this dose. It is safe to use both saw palmetto and nettle at the same time.
  • Know your 2/16 oestrogen ratio. This is as important for men as it is for women. An imbalance in oestrogen metabolites with high levels of the 16OH oestrone metabolite increases the growth of the prostate gland and increases the risk of prostate cancer. If the 2/16 ratio is less than 2 and doesn’t then a diindolylmethane supplement should be taken.

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