Benign prostatic hyperplasia / hypertrophy (BPH)
What is BPH?
Enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia, benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH) is a common problem in middle-aged and older men. The urethra is choked by an enlarged prostate gland.
BPH almost always involves hyperplasia (an increase in the number of cells) rather than hypertrophy (a growth in the size of the individual cells).
BPH rarely occurs in men under the age of 40. There is evidence of BPH in 40% of men in their 50's, nearly 70% in their 60's, and up to 90% in their seventies and eighties. In nearly half these cases, the symptoms are severe enough to need treatment. The degree of severity ranges from being a nuisance to requiring major accommodations to a person's lifestyle. The most serious situation is an inability to urinate, which may need hospitalisation and bladder catheterization. BPH is not normally painful.
Interestingly, in most men oestradiol levels start climbing from the age of fifty and peak in their late 60's. During the same period progesterone levels decline, just the opposite to oestradiol.
Symptoms of BPH
- Sleep disturbance - the need to wake to urinate frequently through the night (nocturia)
- Frequent need to urinate
- Urgency (compelling need to urinate that cannot be deferred)
- Incontinence (both while awake or sleeping)
- Weak urinary stream
- Painful urination (dysuria)
- Hesitancy (needing to wait for the stream to begin)
- Intermittency (when the stream starts and stops intermittently)
- Straining to void
- Incomplete voiding may cause the proliferation of bacteria in the bladder residue and a urinary tract infection
- Urinary bladder stones can form from the crystallisation of salts in the residual urine
BPH and cancer
Elevated and rising levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) have a high correlation with prostate cancer. However, there is disagreement on whether BPH can lead to prostate cancer, which is one of the most common forms of cancer in men.
High levels of the female estrogen hormones and chemicals that mimic estrogen exist in our environment today. Studies show that when prostate cells are exposed to excessive estrogen, they proliferate and eventually become cancerous. Having sufficient progesterone protects against this effect, and to a lesser extent testosterone also protects. Unfortunately, as men age their levels of both progesterone and testosterone fall. This is why BPH is so common in older men, and almost unheard of in young men. As you would expect, when the low level of progesterone (and testosterone) is corrected, the BPH cellular growth (the enlargement or swelling) and even cancers are reversed.
BPH risk factors
Men that lead a sedentary western lifestyle have a much higher incidence of symptomatic BPH than men that lead a traditional or rural lifestyle. Research in China has shown a big increase in BPH among men who migrated from rural areas to cities. (3)
Diet. A diet high in sugar, starch and refined carbohydrates promotes high insulin levels, which stimulate the growth of prostate cells because these cells have insulin receptors. This type of diet also leads to weight gain, another risk factor for prostate problems.
The consumption of milk and dairy products is also associated with prostate cancer.
Dietary deficiencies. A deficiency in iodine, zinc, vitamins C and D, omega-3 fats and other nutrients may be responsible for the development of BPH. In Grow Youthful I recommend iodine supplementation for a wide variety of degenerative diseases.
Lycopene, a carotenoid available in cooked red vegetables and fruits may be helpful in the prevention of BPH. To make it bio-available, it needs to be cooked with oil - think of a delicious marinara sauce prepared with ripe tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil.
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a rich source of zinc, and a traditional prevention for BPH.
Research has shown that supplementation with bee pollen can help (1).
Insufficiently frequent ejaculation. Research by Professor Graham Giles (2) found that men who ejaculated the most in their 20's, 30's and 40's later had 30% less prostate cancer than those who ejaculated the least. He suggested that "semen is a very potent and strong brew of lots of chemicals which, because of their biological reactivity, could be carcinogenic if left to lie around" and "that frequent ejaculation prevented semen from building up in the ducts, where it could potentially become carcinogenic." This argument has merit, particularly in a modern Western man who has a more toxic body. Men who cleanse their bodies using the principles in Grow Youthful (living food, regular exercise and constant movement, good breathing, sufficient water, etc) substantially reduce their risk of getting any type of cancer. Note that Professor Giles did not examine the benefits of non-ejaculatory sex, which is also likely to prevent build-up and stagnation. Nevertheless it is a reminder that men, especially healthy young men should regularly ejaculate. This is especially important for men who live a more toxic Western lifestyle.
A lack of muscular flexibility and movement around the perineum and scrotum, and possibly the use of tight underpants or clothing in this area. This may lead to a restriction of the lymphatic system, and a lack of drainage in this area. Constriction of the lymphatic system is a similar risk factor for breast cancer.
BPH is almost unheard of among Indian men who spend their lives sitting and working cross legged. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for BPH and other prostate problems is yoga. For example, the yoga pose of mula bandha or root lock works on the pelvic floor region by gently contracting and releasing the perineum (the muscle between the genitals and the anus). Other poses that open the hip area will also be suggested by a yoga therapist.
Prevention / remedies / cures / treatment for BPH
- Diet. Adopt a low glycemic load diet gets the hormones back under control. A healthy diet should be delicious and sustaining, able to sustain you all day without hunger pangs. With such a diet it is also easy to lose weight and stay that way for the rest of your life. This is the kind of diet I detail in Grow Youthful. It eliminates sugar and sweet foods, avoids or reduces starches, avoids wheat and everything made from it, and is low in all other grains.
- Avoid omega-6 oils. Research (3) shows that the use of vegetable oils extracted from grains, seeds and legumes raises the risk of prostate cancer (and all other cancers). Grow Youthful high saturated fat diet prevents cancers.
- Avoid dairy products.
- Exercise. Regular (daily), enjoyable exercise. Avoid sustained periods of inactivity. More intense aerobic cardiovascular exercise a couple of times per week, even for short periods.
- Reduce stress. Try to avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. Take time out, start meditating, review how you are living your life (again, Grow Youthful can help here).
- Get sufficient vitamin D.
- Saw palmetto.
- See details of remedies recommended by Grow Youthful visitors, and their experience with them.
1. Buck A.C., et al.
Treatment Of Outflow Tract Obstruction Due To Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia With The Pollen Extract Cernilton, A Double-Blind,
British Journal of Urology 66:398-404. 1990.
2. Professor Graham Giles. Cancer Council, Victoria, Australia. British Journal of Urology, July 2003.
3. T. Colin Campbell. The China Study. Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health. BenBella Books, 2006.
4. Lloyd JC et al. Effect of isocaloric low fat diet on prostate cancer xenograft progression in a hormone deprivation model. Journal of Urology 2010 Apr;183(4):1619–24, http://pmid.us/20172549.