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10 Natural Treatments for Enlarged Prostate
Natural treatments for enlarged prostates are preferred by many for a number of reasons: they are safer, better tolerated and cause fewer side effects than standard prostate medications. However, not all natural supplements for treating prostate problems work. This article discusses the 10 most effective natural remedies for treating prostate enlargement and it should serve as a guide to help you when when choosing a natural product for your prostate problems.
Saw palmetto or Serenoa repens is one of the most effective anti-androgen herbal remedies used in traditional medicine. The parts of the plant used are the fruits or the berries.
The bioactive phytochemicals in saw palmetto are the liposterolic fractions containing fatty acids and phytosterols such as beta sitosterol.
In addition, saw palmetto can also relieve specific symptoms of BPH such as difficulty urinating. It does this by contracting the smooth muscles of the urethra sphincter passing through the prostate.
The efficacy of saw palmetto in the treatment of prostate problems has been extensively demonstrated.
It is also well tolerated and most of its side effects are mild gastrointestinal discomforts. Because saw palmetto interferes with the levels and activities of hormones, it can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
Besides oral contraceptives, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin and blood thinners like warfarin are not to be combined with saw palmetto.
Stinging nettle or Urtica dioica belongs to the large family of nettles. The root extract of stinging nettle is used in the treatment of BPH.
This herb also contains fatty acids and phytosterols. Other bioactive phytochemicals in stinging nettle are flavonoids, lignans and lectins. Therefore, stinging nettle can shrink the size of an enlarged prostate by all the mechanisms discussed above for saw palmetto.
A number of studies have shown that the bioactive lignans in stinging nettle block the binding of androgens to a glycoprotein known as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).
SHBG binds to sex hormones in the plasma and is primarily responsible for transporting them to the various organs where they are needed. By making SHBG unavailable for testosterone, stinging nettle can reduce the level of testosterone, and then DHT, in the prostate.
Stinging nettle can also help treat BPH by inhibiting the synthesis of estrogen.
The primary female sex hormone has also been implicated in the progression of BPH because it blocks the breakdown of DHT. To reduce estrogen levels, stinging nettle inhibits the monoxygenase enzyme known as aromatase.
Stinging nettle is also well tolerated and its side effects are mild. These include nausea, sweating and gastrointestinal discomfort. It can also cause dehydration through diuresis. Therefore, users of this herb are advised to drink lots of water.
Drugs that should not be used along with stinging nettle include lithium, diuretics, NSAIDs, blood thinners, antihypertensive drugs and diabetes medications.
Pygeum or Pygeum africanum is an African evergreen tree. The herbal extract of this tree is taken from the bark.
Pygeum also contains phytosterols such as beta sitosterol. Other bioactive phytochemicals in pygeum are tannins, triterpenes and ferulic acid.
The phytosterols in pygeum block the production of androgens especially DHT. Beta sitosterol competes with the precursors of these androgens to achieve this.
In addition, beta sitosterol inhibits the production of prostaglandins, a family of pro-inflammatory compounds released in the body. By blocking prostaglandins, beta sitosterol can reduce the inflammation of the prostate.
The triterpenes also act by reducing inflammation in the prostate but instead of inhibiting prostaglandin, they inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes.
The ester salts of the ferulic acids in pygeum are anti-androgens. However, they inhibit the production of these hormones very early in their synthetic pathways by lowering the amount of cholesterol available for making androgens.
Because the active ingredients of pygeum work by different but complementary mechanisms, the herb represents an important natural remedy for BPH.
It works best when combined with stinging nettle and saw palmetto.
However, pygeum can reduce the effectiveness of soy, another natural remedy for treating enlarged prostates. Due to the multiple ways in which pygeum reduces the levels and actions of sex hormones, it can reduce the efficacy of the phytoestrogens in soy too.
This effect on hormones is also the reason why pygeum should not be taken concurrently with birth control pills.
Lycopene is a carotenoid, and the compound responsible for the red coloration of plants such as tomatoes and red peppers. It is a super antioxidant, a non-toxic food coloring and an anti-carcinogenic agent.
As an antioxidant, lycopene can prevent the kind of oxidative damage that may lead to inflammation and enlargement of the prostate. However, this vitamin A precursor also provides more specific benefits in the treatment of prostate problems.
Lycopene can increase the production of the proteins that regulate the growth of prostate cells. Prostate enlargement occurs as men age because the production of these proteins is reduced and because prostate cells become less responsive to them.
By increasing the levels of these regulatory proteins, lycopene can stimulate better regulation of cell growth in the prostate, and therefore, prevent prostate enlargement.
In addition, lycopene can inhibit the accelerated growth of prostate cells by inhibiting insulin-like growth factors.
Lycopene is not only effective for treating BPH but also for reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
Isoflavones are phytoestrogens found in large amounts in soy but also in other plants such as red clover.
Because the diet of Asian men include a high proportion of isoflavone-rich foods such as soy, many believe that isoflavones are responsible for the lower incidence of prostate cancer among these men compared to Westerners.
Once absorbed, isoflavones preferentially accumulate in the prostate rather than the blood. Therefore, they can immediately improve prostate health rather than be metabolized in the body.
The most important isoflavones are genistein and daidzein.
One of the proteins inhibited by isoflavones is PSA or prostate-specific antigens. This protein has been shown to directly contribute to the enlargement of the prostate. In fact, measuring its level is one way of diagnosing BPH.
Soy isoflavones are contraindicated in people who have had or have certain cancers such as those affecting the uterus and breast.
In the presence of cancerous cells, studies have shown that soy actually increases the risk of cancers.
Soy isoflavones can cause hypothyroidism. They should also not be taken along with NSAIDs, blood thinners and MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) antidepressants.
These groups of natural treatment options for prostate cancer are meant to supplement the primary treatment options for the condition.
Vitamins and minerals can contribute to the therapeutic benefits of the natural remedies discussed above and are not meant to serve as the only treatment for prostate problems.
In addition, unlike the natural remedies discussed above, studies into the effectiveness of vitamins and minerals in the treatment of BPH mostly have mixed results. However, the ones discussed below are those with the most positive results.
Selenium is a trace but essential mineral in humans. Its chief role is as an antioxidant and it is incorporated into a family of antioxidant selenoproteins in the body.
Therefore, selenium can reduce prostate enlargement by providing antioxidant protection against oxidative free radicals. In addition, selenium can reduce the production of PSA in the body.
Lastly, this mineral can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with BPH by inhibiting prostaglandins.
Beta carotene is a yellow-orange phytochemical found in colorful plants. Like lycopene, it is also a carotenoid and a precursor of vitamin A. Therefore, it is most likely that beta carotene shares the same mechanisms of action as lycopene in the treatment of BPH.
While beta carotene supplementation can increase the risk of lung cancer among cigarette smokers, it reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
Although, humans make vitamin D in their skin, vitamin D receptors are found all over the body including in the prostate.
Different studies have identified vitamin D deficiency to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Vitamin D prevents the excessive increase in the population of prostate cells. It inhibits the differentiation and proliferation of prostate cancer cells.
Studies have also shown that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties of vitamin D are all useful for reducing the size of enlarged prostates. These studies also identified 1, 25-dihydrovitamin D or calcitriol as the form of vitamin D that benefits the prostate.
Vitamin E refers to a family of 8 vitamers. It is a fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin proven to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Although one large study concluded that vitamin E can increase the risk of prostate cancer, its design has been faulted and other studies have found quite the opposite conclusion to be true.
One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America in 2002 found that vitamin E can reduce the enlargement of the prostate by inhibiting androgen receptors and by lowering the level of PSA (prostate-specific antigen).
Vitamin K is another family of related vitamers. The natural forms of this vitamin are vitamins K1 and K2.
Of these two vitamers, vitamin K2 is the only one that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Studies have also shown that combining vitamin C and K provides better results in the treatment of prostate problems.
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