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10 Natural Treatments for Enlarged Prostate

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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 choosing a natural product for your prostate problems.


1. Saw Palmetto

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.

How Saw Palmetto Shrinks an Enlarged Prostate
  • Inhibiting the enzyme, 5-alpha reductase and, therefore, blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT
  • Binding to the androgen receptors on prostate cells, therefore, preventing DHT from binding to these same receptors

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.

How Does Saw Palmetto Work?

Many clinical studies have investigated the efficacy of saw palmetto extract in improving prostate health but these studies have produced mixed results. However, saw palmetto remains the most popular herb used for the treatment of prostate enlargement, and its use for this indication is growing.

In addition, anecdotal evidence and clinical treatment data indicate that the herb is effective with respect to treating prostate problems.

Although the mechanisms by which the active components of saw palmetto fruit extract work are not completely understood, many theories have been proposed as to how they function.

The most popular of these proposed theories is the inhibition of testosterone action on the prostate.

Testosterone is an androgenic steroid hormone secreted by the testicles and ovaries in men and women respectively. One of the functions of this steroid hormone is the development of the prostate.

In men, a small amount of this hormone is reduced to the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This conversion can occur in the prostate as well as other parts of the body. DHT, in turn, is responsible for the growth and enlargement of the prostate and it is a major causative factor for BPH.

This reduction process which produces DHT from testosterone, however, requires the action of either one of the two enzymes, 5-alpha reductase type 1 and type 2. By blocking the actions of these enzymes, the phytochemicals in saw palmetto can halt the production of DHT and, by extension, relieve and even treat BPH.

Furthermore, it has been proposed that saw palmetto hinders the binding of DHT to the androgenic receptor but a detailed explanation of this mechanism is lacking. However, the result of this antagonism is the reduced activity of DHT on the prostate.

Since DHT can only act by binding to androgenic receptors, blocking this binding will dramatically reduce its effect. It is very possible that some of the bioactive phytochemicals in saw palmetto bind to these receptors without activating them. By occupying these receptors, saw palmetto prevents DHT from binding to them.

Yet another possible mechanism of action suggested involves the contraction of smooth muscles.

In a way similar to the actions of alpha antagonist drugs, the active ingredients in saw palmetto contract the smooth muscles of the urethral sphincter in the prostate. This action consequently reduces the pressure in the urethral and thus, relieves the symptoms of BPH.

The dual inhibition of DHT by saw palmetto is also responsible for the use of the herb in the treatment of hair loss. By preventing the conversion of testosterone to DHT, saw palmetto stops the progression of androgenetic alopecia, the most common type of hair loss.

In addition, androgenic receptors are also present in hair follicles, and the phytochemicals in saw palmetto can also block DHT from binding to them.

Directions for Use

Saw palmetto extracts are obtained from its fruits and they are usually sold as supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures, and herbal tea.

During the preparation of the herbal tea, the bioactive volatile oils are lost. In addition, the fatty acid contents of saw palmetto extract do not dissolve in water. As a result, saw palmetto herbal tea may not be effective in treating BPH.

Saw palmetto is also sold as crushed berries but this form is not often properly standardized. Hence, crushed berries may not deliver a sufficient amount of active liposterolic contents to effectively treat BPH.

The recommended daily dose of standardized saw palmetto fruit extract is 320 mg. The daily intake can be broken down into two servings of 160 mg each or it can be taken once. A six-month study showed that a daily dose of 480 mg was no more effective than the suggested 320 mg even though the herb was still well tolerated at this higher dose.

As with most herbs, the bioactive contents of saw palmetto extracts may vary from one brand to another. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the amount of the liposterolic contents fall within the standard range in the saw palmetto extract you intend to buy.

Side Effects and Contraindications

Most of the studies done on saw palmetto extracts showed that the herb was well tolerated though moderate side effects were reported in some cases.

Gastrointestinal problems were the most common complaints while mild cases of dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting have also been documented but less frequently. By taking saw palmetto extract with food, it is possible to reduce the occurrence of gastrointestinal side effects.

Due to the chemical similarity between the beta-sitosterol found in saw palmetto and cholesterol, the extract may worsen or increase the risk of heart disease in men who have formerly suffered heart attacks.

Furthermore, saw palmetto extract is believed to be unsafe for children, pregnant and lactating women because it acts as a hormone. In fact, one of its hormone-like actions is to reduce the population of estrogen and androgen receptors and this action may interfere with oral contraceptives by making them less effective.

Lastly, there are concerns that saw palmetto can cause or worsen internal bleeding by reducing the activities of blood platelets. Users should, therefore, avoid taking the extract along with other blood thinners such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

2. Stinging Nettle

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 monooxygenase enzyme known as aromatase.

The root contains the essential bioactive phytochemicals that are responsible for alleviating the symptoms of BPH. The root of the stinging nettle has a different set of pharmacological properties from the other parts of the plant.

Major Phytochemicals in Stinging Nettle Root
  • Flavonoids
  • Sterol: beta-sitosterol and sitosterol-3-D-glucoside
  • Lignans
  • Fatty acids
  • Polysaccharides Lectins

A few studies have shown that each group of these phytochemicals plays a role in the process that relieves the symptoms of BPH. This means that they work collectively, by different but complementary mechanisms, to improve prostate health.

How Stinging Nettle Extract Helps the Prostate

Many clinical studies have established the efficacy of stinging nettle extract in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Unlike most herbs used for treating this condition, bioactive phytochemicals in stinging nettle exert a series of complex effects on the prostate.

Inhibition of Testosterone Transport to the Prostate

The active ingredients of stinging nettle can inhibit the binding of this androgenic steroid hormone to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

SHBG is a glycoprotein that preferably binds to testosterone and estrogen although it also binds to other sex hormones. It is involved in the transportation of these sex hormones through the plasma and their delivery to receptors in various target organs including the prostate.

When testosterone is unable to bind to this glycoprotein, the prostate receives far lower amounts of the hormone. In addition, testosterone metabolites such as DHT (dihydrotestosterone, also implicated in the enlargement of the prostate) cannot get to the prostate. As a result, excessive androgen stimulation of the prostate is prevented and the symptoms of BPH are relieved.

The bioactive lignans present in stinging nettle root extract are believed to be responsible for this effect.

Anti-Estrogenic Effect

While most of the other herbs used in the treatment of BPH only inhibit the androgen stimulation of the prostate, the active compounds of stinging nettle root extract also target the effects of estrogen hormones on the prostate.

Although estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, it is known to be one of the causative factors of benign prostatic hyperplasia in aging men. Estrogen also worsens the symptoms of BPH by blocking the breakdown of DHT which results in an increased level of DHT in the prostate.

The bioactive compounds of stinging nettle extract target the synthesis of this hormone in the fat tissues by blocking the action of the enzyme, aromatase. This enzyme is a monooxygenase enzyme and it is essential to the biosynthesis of estrogens.

Inhibition of DHT Synthesis

In addition, some experts suggest that the phytochemicals in stinging nettle prevent the rapid growth and development of prostatic cells by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT. DHT has been shown to contribute to the stimulation and enlargement of the prostate by inducing the proliferation of prostatic cells.

The proliferation of prostatic cells is also known as prostatic hyperplasia. When the cellular proliferation it benign, it is called BPH. However, when those cells turn malignant, prostate cancer results.

Although stinging nettle acts as an inhibitor of the enzyme, 5 alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT, this is not its main mechanism of action. More potent herbs used in the treatment of BPH that work by blocking this enzyme include saw palmetto.

Antagonism at Androgen Receptors

Another way by which the active ingredients of stinging nettle root extract affect DHT is by interfering with the binding of this potent hormone to receptors in the prostate.

Before DHT can be activated in the prostate, it has to bind to androgen receptors. Therefore, disrupting this binding reduces the effect of DHT on prostatic cells thus limiting the development of BPH.

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.

3. Pygeum

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.

How Pygeum Helps BPH

All of the four main groups of phytochemicals found in pygeum are beneficial to prostate health.

Different studies suggest that these phytochemicals appear to work synergistically to improve the symptoms of BPH. However, the most bioactive phytochemicals in pygeum are phytosterols. Therefore, these components of pygeum extract are believed to exert the most important therapeutic effect in the treatment of BPH.

The Phytosterols

One of the mechanisms by which the phytosterols in pygeum work is by inhibiting the production of androgenic steroid hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

The phytosterols, especially beta-sitosterol, compete with the precursors of these androgens and, therefore, interfere with their syntheses. Since these androgenic hormones stimulate the growth and development of the prostate through hyperplasia (proliferation of prostatic cells), they are regarded as one of the main causes of BPH.

Therefore, by inhibiting the production of these androgens, pygeum reduces the effects of testosterone, and the more potent dihydrotestosterone, on the prostate. In this way, pygeum bark extract is able to relieve the symptoms of BPH.

In addition, the bioactive beta-sitosterol present in the pygeum also reduces inflammation in the prostate by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins.

Since the actions of prostaglandins are usually restricted to the specific area where they were secreted, low production of prostaglandins in the prostate will prevent the inflammation, and the enlargement, of the prostate.

The Esters of Ferulic Acid

Ester salts of the ferulic acid found in pygeum can also limit the production of androgen hormones in the prostate but through a mechanism different from the one employed by the phytosterols.

One way these esters work is by reducing the activity of prolactin which is involved in the uptake of testosterone in the prostate.

However, these esters can also inhibit androgen syntheses in the prostate just like the phytosterols do.

The ferulic acid esters are known to lower cholesterol levels in the prostate. Cholesterol, in turn, is required in the biosynthesis of androgens. By inhibiting androgen production through cholesterol, these esters reduce the activities of testosterone and DHT on the prostate.

The combination of the two mechanisms by which ferulic acid esters act prevents the enlargement of the prostate and relieves the symptoms of BPH.

The Triterpenes

Lastly, the triterpenes also have anti-inflammatory effects in the prostate though the mechanism by which they work is not properly understood.

However, it is believed that they block the action of a specific enzyme involved in the inflammatory process in the prostate.

Directions for Use, Contraindications, and Side Effects

The usual dosage of pygeum bark extract administered in various clinical studies is 50 mg taken twice per day. Although 100 mg of the extract was also used in a few cases and no adverse effects were recorded in those cases.

Pygeum bark extracts are usually standardized to contain 14% triterpenes and 0.5% n-docosanol. Therefore, it is important to choose a brand of pygeum supplement standardized according to this ratio of active ingredients. The extract is commonly sold in the form of capsules and tinctures.

Many clinical trials have confirmed the safety of pygeum bark extract. Although some cases reported side effects, they were all shown to be mild and were mostly gastrointestinal complaints.

Due to insufficient studies demonstrating the safety of pygeum extract in pregnant and lactating women, the extract should be avoided by these groups of women. The extract should also not be given to children.

Pygeum extract can interfere with hormonal drugs including those containing estrogen and testosterone. Therefore, it should not be combined with birth control pills or it may cause contraceptive failure.

In addition, pygeum should not be combined with drugs or supplements with estrogenic abilities. Therefore, pygeum can reduce the effectiveness of herbs containing phytoestrogens such as soy. Since soy products are also used in the treatment of BPH, the combination of the two herbal products may be less effective than either one.

On the other hand, pygeum increases the efficacies of herbs such as saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Since these herbs are also used to treat BPH, combining them with pygeum may provide better results.

While no drug interactions have been noted with pygeum, the herb has been shown to alter the activities of cytochrome P450 enzymes. These enzymes are primarily responsible for the breakdown of drugs in the body.

More specifically, pygeum strongly inhibits the cytochrome enzymes, CYP3A4, and CYP2C9. Therefore, it can affect the effectiveness of certain drugs and supplements.

Other Plant-Derived Remedies

4. Lycopene

According to a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research, lycopene, a food coloring agent that makes tomatoes red, is a powerful cancer-fighter and may help reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer specifically. The report found substantial evidence that lycopene is highly protective against prostate cancer risk. Numerous animal studies have shown that consuming tomato compounds have substantially decreased prostate cancer risk.

Although no one food offers a miracle cure against the development of prostate cancer, this coloring agent could offer large benefits to men who want to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer and possibly even reverse cancer already in development.

What Is Lycopene?

Lycopene is from the carotenoid family and is a pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their color. Lycopene is known for its antioxidant abilities, which fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are damaging molecules that disrupt the growth of cells, which can lead to the development of cancer and other diseases. Lycopene can destroy free radicals and improve overall immunity.

Studies have shown that lycopene is effective at fighting off specific kinds of cancer. The three types of cancer that lycopene is most effective against occur in the prostate, stomach, and lungs. According to a 1999 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, lycopene could also help prevent breast, cervix, oral cavity, colon, rectum, esophagus, and pancreas cancer.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 found that lycopene is also effective at reducing LDL cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.

Where to Find Lycopene
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomato juice
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomato soup
  • Watermelon
  • Guava
  • Ketchup

Researchers have found that the best absorption of lycopene occurs when tomatoes are cooked and eaten with fat. The study from 2000 on lycopene found that when tomato juice was heated and mixed with oil, lycopene levels in the blood increased more than when cold tomato juice was consumed.

Researchers have also found that other ingredients in tomatoes, including phytochemicals, maximize the benefits of lycopene. That is why most researchers do not recommend patients eat lycopene only in supplement form. Consuming a variety of tomato products in addition to supplementation with lycopene and other prostate-cancer fighting ingredients may provide the biggest protection against prostate cancer.

Studies on Lycopene and Prostate Cancer

Numerous studies have been conducted both in vitro, animal, and human studies. Some studies have revealed conflicting reports, and some have found a greater benefit of lycopene than others, but most of the studies have come to the conclusion that lycopene is effective in preventing or delaying the onset of prostate cancer.

A study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2003 looked at 32 men scheduled for prostatectomy. For 3 weeks before the surgery, half of the men were given tomato sauce meals containing 30 mg of lycopene to consume daily. Compared with the control group, the men eating the tomato meals had significantly decreased serum PSA levels as well as increased apoptotic cell death in carcinomas and BPH tissue.

In 2007, a study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that populations with higher consumption of lycopene in the diet were less likely to have prostate cancer. The study did not find any other associated benefits of lycopene, however.

In 2010, French researchers examined the possibility of supplementing with tomato paste as a treatment for prostate cancer. The researchers divided the study participants into two groups. One group ate lycopene-rich tomato paste and one group ate lycopene-free tomatoes. In a second stage, the men were either given a lycopene supplement or a placebo pill. The researchers found that lycopene levels increased after eating the lycopene tomatoes and the lycopene supplement. The men who ate the tomatoes had a significant p-regulation of IGFBP-3 and Bax: Bcl-2 ratio and down-regulation of cyclin-D1, p53, and Nrf-2, which indicates that lycopene is able to inhibit the cell cycle progression or proliferation of cancer cells in the prostate.

A study published in 2014 in the “International Journal of Molecular Sciences” found that low prostatic lycopene levels are associated with prostate cancer. The study, conducted in Rome, examined 32 patients with a precancerous lesion known as prostatic high-grade intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN). The study participants consumed between 20 and 25 mg of lycopene daily for 6 months. 6 months later, the patients underwent a prostate biopsy and were further divided into 3 groups (prostatitis, HGPIN, or PCa). Of the participants with prostate cancer, 77 percent had a prostatic lycopene level below 1 mg. Only 16 percent of the HGPIN had low lycopene levels, and none of the participants in the prostatitis group had low lycopene levels.

However, this study did not find any reduction in prostate cancer development after supplementation with lycopene. This suggests that lycopene consumption should be ingested over time as part of a normal diet rather than used as a supplement to reverse prostate cancer.

Get More Lycopene

Adding lycopene to your diet is about as simple as adding more tomatoes to your daily meals. Aim for one tomato-related product at least every one to two days. Remember, cooked tomatoes provide more lycopene, possibly because cooking a tomato makes them more concentrated so you actually eat more.

Add lycopene to your diet in the following ways:

Add tomatoes to a sandwich (try dried tomatoes as well as fresh)

Regularly eat dishes with a tomato sauce base.

Eat grapefruit, watermelon, or guava on a regular basis instead of oranges or apples.

Eat salsa with eggs, Mexican dishes, and as a snack.

Drink tomato juice instead of fruit juice.

Use ketchup or other tomato-based condiments

Eat more bruschetta for appetizers. Bruschetta is a great way to mix tomato with lycopene-activating fat.

Can Lycopene Prevent Prostate Cancer?

Although some evidence is conflicting, most studies show that there is some benefit to eating a lycopene-rich diet. How much a person should eat is unknown, but the studies that seemed to find the most benefit of eating lycopene had study participants that consumed at least 20 mg of lycopene daily.

Most studies showed that consuming supplements of lycopene was not quite as effective as eating cooked tomato products. Lycopene alone cannot cure prostate cancer, but it can help prevent the development of prostate cancer and may help prevent the spread of prostate cancer once it appears. However, since most studies do not show a huge improvement in the reduction in prostate cancer after taking lycopene alone, it is best consumed with other prostate cancer-fighting supplements in addition to a healthy diet and exercise plan.

5. Isoflavones

Isoflavones are phytoestrogens found in large amounts in soy but also in other plants such as red clover.

Because the diet of Asian men includes 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.

How Isoflavones Reduce Prostate Enlargement
  • by counteracting the effects of androgens; and
  • by inhibiting the production of proteins, growth factors, and blood vessels needed to spur and sustain accelerating cellular growth.

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.

Vitamins and Minerals

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.

6. Selenium

Selenium is a trace but an 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.

Selenium for Prostate Health

With age, selenium is poorly absorbed into the body and rapidly depleted. Therefore, older adults usually have a selenium deficiency, and this deficiency has now been shown to be associated with failing prostate health in men.

Many researchers believe that selenium benefits the prostate with its antioxidant protection. However, other theories have also been proposed as to how selenium works to improve prostate health.

Because it is used by the body to make selenoproteins that are essential for neutralizing free radicals in the body, selenium can help prevent the oxidative destruction of prostate epithelial cells. This antioxidant protection has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and also fight the growth of cancerous cells.

With regard to prostate cancer, selenium provides other benefits besides simple antioxidant protection. It reduces the activities and production of prostate-specific antigens. These antigens are also known as gamma-selenoproteins. They are produced by cells of the prostate gland and rarely found in the serum.

In a small amount, PSA is needed to enhance the motility of sperm cells as they swim up the uterus. However, high levels of prostate-specific antigens may indicate benign prostate hyperplasia or other prostate problems.

Therefore, by inhibiting PSA in men, selenium may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer and the progression of benign prostate hyperplasia.

Furthermore, selenium is believed to have a selective effect on prostaglandins. This means that selenium can increase the levels of beneficial prostaglandins while inhibiting harmful prostaglandins at the same time.

For example, some studies suggest that selenium can lower the levels of prostaglandins known to cause prostate pain and inflammation.

Clinical Studies on Selenium and Prostate Health

A 2009 study published in the journal, Acta Oncological, examined and compared the levels of whole blood selenium and prostatic tissue selenium in patients with prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and in healthy men.

Researchers in this study evaluated whole blood selenium levels in the following group of participants:

  • 24 patients with prostate cancer (PC)
  • 21 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • 21 healthy men (HM)

Prostatic tissue selenium level was also measured in the following group of participants:

  • 17 patients with PC
  • 22 patients with BPH

The results of the study showed significantly reduced levels of whole blood selenium in patients with prostate cancer compared to the group of healthy participants. There was no significant difference between prostatic selenium levels in both the BPH and PC groups.

This study highlights the importance of selenium to prostate health and the link between selenium deficiency and BPH as well as prostate cancer.

Researchers from Ohio State University investigated the effects of selenium on PSA and glutathione peroxidase levels in the body. This 2011 study was published in the journal, Nutrition Research.

Sixty healthy men were recruited for the study and they were divided into 2 groups of 30 participants each. One group was given 200 mcg of selenium while the other group received the same dose of placebo for the six weeks duration of the study.

The levels of glutathione peroxidase and PSA were measured in all the patients at the start and during the period of the study.

After the six-week duration of the study, the results showed a significant increase in the activities and levels of erythrocyte and plasma glutathione peroxidase in participants given selenium compared to those who were given a placebo.

On the other hand, PSA levels were found to be reduced in participants who were given selenium but no such changes were recorded in the placebo group.

This result suggests that selenium is involved in regulating the levels of both PSA and glutathione peroxidase in the body and, by extension, essential to prostate health.

By increasing the level of glutathione peroxidase, selenium improves the antioxidant protection available to the prostate gland. On the other hand, it prevents prostate hyperplasia by reducing PSA levels.

To determine whether selenium is truly beneficial to the prostate, a journal of American Society for Nutrition, published the results of a complete meta-analysis of studies done to investigate the relationship between selenium and the risk of prostate cancer.

The authors of this review selected a total of 12 studies which included randomized controlled trials, case-control studies, and prospective cohort studies. With a combined participant population of 13,254 and 5,007 cases of prostate cancer, the studies measured the selenium intake and incidence of prostate cancer in the studies.

The result of the meta-analysis showed that the risk of prostate cancer was reduced when the blood/serum level of selenium increased.

A similar meta-analysis published in the journal, Cancer Causes and Control, reviewed studies found in popular databases of scientific researches such as Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library.

16 studies examining the risk of prostate cancer and selenium intake between 1996 and 2005 were reviewed in this meta-analysis.

The result of this systematic review showed that the risk of prostate cancer can be reduced with adequate intake of selenium.

7. Beta Carotene

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.

8. Vitamin D

Vitamin D has some amazing health benefits. It offers positive effects in nearly every bodily system from the immune system to the digestive system. Vitamin D is absolutely essential for preventing bone and tooth deterioration.

However, new studies also show that vitamin D may even be able to slow the progression of prostate cancer. Read more about the connection below.

Prostate Cancer Basics

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer affects about 240,000 men in the United States and kills about 34,000 each year. While the rate of death is lower than many forms of cancer, it is still a dangerous and potentially deadly disease that is responsible for killing thousands of men each year.

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is associated with a few important risk factors, such as:

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
  • A diet high in animal products
  • A diet high in calcium
  • High cholesterol
  • Genetics (men with dark skin are more likely to develop prostate cancer)
  • Low vitamin D levels may also be a risk factor for developing prostate cancer, but it has not been confirmed

According to the National Cancer Institute, consuming a large number of animal products early in life contribute to the spread of a growth hormone in the body. This hormone is associated with a greater risk for developing cancers of all types, but particularly prostate cancer in men. A diet high in calcium may also contribute to an increased risk for developing prostate cancer- but studies have not shown whether high calcium intake is related to the growth hormone from animal products or a lack of regulation by vitamin D.

According to the NCI, high cholesterol levels are only linked with an increased risk for developing prostate cancer and not with the development of other forms of cancer. New studies have indicated that a higher intake of vitamin D may decrease a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer or slow the rate of progression once a man has already developed prostate cancer. Read more about studies on vitamin D and cancer below.

Studies on Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer

Researchers have been investigating the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer for at least 20 years, but have run into some difficulties proving the link between the vitamin and a reduction in prostate cancer risk.

Studies on the geographic patterns of deaths in American men between 1950 and 1994 conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that more men died from prostate cancer in areas with the lowest levels of UV radiation.

One population study conducted by the National Cancer Institute over a 5-year period found that individuals with prostate cancer were more likely to have low vitamin D levels. A similar population study found that high and medium levels of vitamin D may be a contributing factor to better cancer outcomes.

Studies published in 1995 and 1996 in the journals Endocrinology and Cancer Research showed similar results. These studies found that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D were less likely to have prostate cancer- or had less aggressive forms of the disease. The Endocrinology study found that cancer cells were inhibited by the application of vitamin D3 in vitro.

In 2006, a study examined the link between sunlight exposure and prostate cancer. This study found that PSA levels rose at a slower rate during the spring and summer when sun exposure is more common.

One 2011 study found that when mice were injected with prostate cancer cells, mice who had the highest level of vitamin D developed fewer bone tumors. The rate of tumor growth in soft tissue remained the same.

In May of 2014, another study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research found a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and aggressive cases of prostate cancer. This study found that men with dark skin were more likely to have prostate cancer if their vitamin D levels were low.

According to the study authors, vitamin D “seems to regulate the normal differentiation of cells as they change from stem cells to adult cells. And it regulates the growth rate of normal cells and cancer cells." In this study, researchers checked the vitamin D levels of 667 men between the ages of 40 and 79 who had had a prostate biopsy after an abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. All men tested had vitamin D levels around or under 20 nanograms per milliliter ng/ml, which is lower than normal levels between 30 to 80 nanograms per milliliter. 44 percent of the men tested had low vitamin D levels, while 38 percent of men who tested positive for cancer had low vitamin D levels.

The men with the lowest level of vitamin D, around 12 ng/ml, had the most advanced and aggressive form of cancer. Men with dark skin who had vitamin D levels around 12 ng/ml were more likely to have cancer and more aggressive forms of it.

The most recent study on the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer was published in the journal Prostate in October 2014. This study, conducted by the University of Colorado Cancer Center, found that inflammation could be the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer. The researchers found that a gene upregulated by vitamin D, gene GDF-15, is absent in samples of prostate cancer driven by inflammation. According to the researchers, placing vitamin D on prostate cancer cells inhibits their growth, but is not listed as an anti-cancer agent.

Instead, vitamin D turns on the gene which is able to slow prostate cancer growth. However, the team found that vitamin D was only helpful in cancers driven by inflammation. "Inflammation is thought to drive many cancers including prostate, gastric, and colon. Therefore, GDF-15 may be a good thing in keeping prostate tissue healthy – it suppresses inflammation, which is a bad actor potentially driving prostate cancer," the study researchers noted. GDF-15 was also shown to suppress inflammation by inhibiting the inflammation-causing gene, NFkB.

However, multi-study reviews on the link between vitamin D and cancer did not find a strong link between vitamin D levels and cancer risk or growth. Most researchers conclude that further research is necessary.

How Vitamin D May Prevent Prostate Cancer

According to the study published in the journal Prostate, vitamin D is most effective on cancer-related to inflammation. According to the National Cancer Institute, vitamin D has many roles in the body, one of which is reducing inflammation. It could be that this simple function of vitamin D is strong enough to inhibit the spread of cancer cells which spread due to inflammation.

Since prostate cancer is one of the least dangerous forms of cancer, introducing the inflammation-fighting properties of vitamin D may be all it takes to prevent the disease from spreading rapidly or to other areas of the body. Vitamin D treatments have not been proven to heal or prevent cancer, and no studies have been conducted on how effective vitamin D may be at slowing the growth of prostate cancer, but enough evidence points to causation between these two incidences to take note.

According to the National Cancer Institute, one study found that vitamin D may prevent cancer cells from sticking to the endothelium, which is a layer of cells that lines the inside of body cavities, lymph vessels, and blood vessels. As the above studies showed, the best form of vitamin D for controlling inflammation and preventing the spread of prostate cancer is vitamin D3, which is the form of vitamin D formed on the skin after exposure to sunlight. You can also find this form of vitamin D in supplement form and in many animal products including fatty fish, eggs, dairy products, and fish liver oil.

Other Benefits of Vitamin D
  • Helps maximize the use of calcium
  • Improves muscle strength
  • Improves the immune system
  • Reduces overall inflammation
  • Helps maintain electrolyte balance in the blood
  • Builds strong bones and teeth

Are There Any Clinical Trials Testing Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, one past trial treated prostate cancer patients with vitamin D whose cancer had returned. In the trial, these patients were treated with a mixture of vitamin D3 and naproxen for a year. This combination was able to slow the rate of their rising PSA levels.

In 2009, men with locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer were given vitamin D treatments. One out of five men who took vitamin D showed improved PSA levels.

In 2010, story participants with prostate cancer that had not responded to hormone therapy were treated with vitamin D3 and dexamethasone. In this case, the treatment did not slow the rise in PSA levels. Currently, vitamin D is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a cancer treatment.

How to Use Vitamin D against Prostate Cancer

According to the NCI, individuals with vitamin D levels below normal levels of 30 to 80 nanograms per milliliter were at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer and having it spread. Vitamin D was mainly shown to help in prostate cancer triggered by inflammation.

To maintain optimal vitamin D levels, the website Vitamin D3 recommends a simple calculation. This calculation is your body weight times 27. This is how many IUs of vitamin D you should consume (or get from the sun) daily. For a 200 pound man, this would equal 5400 IU daily.

To ensure you don’t supplement with too much vitamin D, adjust for potential sunlight exposure. Estimate how much of your skin is exposed to the sun daily (as a percentage) and double it. Then, subtract that number from your recommended daily intake.

For example, if you expose 30 percent of your body to direct sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day, you could subtract the 60 percent (3240) from your 5400 dose, meaning you would need to consume about 2160 IU daily.

In general, exposing about 50 percent of your body to direct sunlight daily for 30 minutes gives you enough natural vitamin D so you don’t have to supplement. Of course, few people get enough sun exposure, particularly in the cold months, so vitamin D supplements are beneficial for everyone, not just men trying to prevent prostate cancer.

Take note that most vitamin D doses in supplement form contain low doses per pill- sometimes varying between 500 IU and 2,000 IU. Adjust how much you consume based on how large of a dose eat pill contains.

Other Beneficial Steps to Prevent Prostate Cancer

According to the NCI, a few other supplements have been linked with a possible benefit with the treatment or prevention of prostate cancer. These supplements include:

Other Supplements for Prostate Cancer
  • Soy extract
  • Lycopene
  • Selenium
  • Saw palmetto
  • Pygeum extract (sometimes called African cherry)

It may be possible that taking these supplements in combination with vitamin D can slow the progression of prostate cancer or reduce your chances of developing prostate cancer. Additional data from the NCI also suggests that cutting back on animal product consumption, keeping cholesterol levels low, and reducing overall inflammation in the body will also lower your risk for developing prostate cancer.

Vitamin D and Prostate Health

Prostate cancer is a disease that strikes between one in five and one in seven men living in the United States. This makes it a widespread problem that can have serious consequences. While prostate cancer is not as deadly or aggressive as some other forms of cancer, it can still cause discomfort and even death in some men. New studies show that vitamin D could be helpful in preventing the spread of prostate cancer by preventing the growth of cancer cells. Men who take vitamin D and receive plenty of sun exposure may be able to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by a significant percentage.

According to the NCI, supplementing with vitamin D and other prostate cancer-fighting supplements and lifestyle changes can significantly lower your chances of getting prostate cancer.

9. Vitamin E

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).

10. Vitamin K

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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