The clever man's guide to prostate health

Monday, February 2, 2009
Image: Getty
At some stage in their lives, all men are going to need to read this article, says naturopath Lucy Cannings.

Ask the average man over 50 about prostate check ups and watch him squirm uncomfortably. This might amuse women in their lives who are used to exposing examinations with doctors, but in all seriousness, prostate health is not a topic to shy away from.

What is the prostate?
The prostate is a glandular organ lying just beneath the bladder. The urethra, the tube that runs from the bladder to the penis for passing urine, runs through the prostate (2) The role of the prostate is to secretes a thin, milky, alkaline fluid which supports semen (2)

Why can it cause grief?
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) is one of the major conditions to affect the prostate. This is an age-related, non-malignant enlargement of the prostate gland (2). As the urethra travels through the prostate gland, when the prostate becomes enlarged, difficulty urinating can occur. (2) Other symptoms include decreased force of the urinary stream, increased frequency of urination particularly at night time, hesitancy and intermittency of the stream. (3) It is important men do not ignore these symptoms and undergo regular check ups.

Prostate health plan

1. Eat more vegetables.
Four daily servings of vegetables is associated with a 32 per cent reduction in risk of BPH, compared with simply having one serve per day (1)

2. Eliminate or reduce the amount of beer and other alcohol consumed
Alcohol lifts the body's levels of prolactin which increases the uptake of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the prostate and contribute to BPH (3)

3. Limit dietary and environmental exposure to pesticides and other environmental contaminants
Many of these compounds can increase the formation of dihydrotestosterone, a potent derivative of testosterone which contributes to BPH (3)

4. Consume foods rich in zinc and selenium
Selenium helps maintain a healthy prostate, while zinc is involved in hormone metabolism — a deficiency in which can be a contributing factor in developing BPH (3).

5. Increase intake of tomato-based food
Evidence suggests that lycopene from tomatoes may have a protective effect on the prostate (1)

6. Avoid processed food and takeaway
These foods have poor nutritional value and usually contain low quality fats. Include foods rich in higher quality fats such as cold pressed olive and flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds and fish (essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 may play a role in prostate health). (3)

7. Turn on the sun
Make sure you catch around 15 minutes of sunlight each day. This helps you obtain natural vitamin D, which contributes to a healthy prostate.

Fact attack (1)

  • 30 per cent of men over 65 are affected by Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)
  • Over 500,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year worldwide
  • Prostate cancer is the direct cause of over 200,000 deaths


1. American Journal of Epidemiology doi:10.1093/aje/kwm389 (article Jen gave me)
2. Porth C.M. Pathophysiology Concepts of Altered Health States, 5th Ed. Lippincott, New York, 1998, p 1151, 1152
3. Pizzorno J. Murray M. Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine, Little, Brown & Co. United Kingdom, 1995, 480, 481

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