For something so small and hidden inside a male’s body, about the size of a walnut and tucked below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate gland sure packs a big wallop. It is part of the male reproductive system and surrounds a portion of the urethra, which is the tube inside the penis that transports urine away form the bladder, per webmd.com.
So, what exactly is the purpose of the prostate – what does it do? It acts as a valve directing the flow of urine and sperm, per newsmax.com. Also, the prostate contributes to the production of fluid within the semen that carries sperm produced by the testicles at the time of ejaculation. As men grow older, the size of the prostate increases, typically approximating the size of an apricot by age 40 and a lemon by age 60.
Because of its location relative to the urethra, the enlarged prostate can press against the tube carrying urine, thus inhibiting a man’s ability to produce a strong stream when urinating. Such problems when it comes to peeing doesn’t usually show up, if at all, until a man is in his 50s, but it can occur earlier. Health professionals often call this condition BPH, which stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Signs of an Enlarged Prostate
The most obvious sign of an enlarged prostate are problems relative to urination. Such signs include the following, per webmd.com:
- Your bladder won’t completely empty while you pee
- You suddenly feel a strong urge to go without any sensation of build-up
- You stop and start again several times while peeing
- You must strain hard at first just to get a stream going
The good news is that BPH itself isn’t cancerous, but such signs and symptoms could be a forewarning of kidney or bladder damage. Every man and his circumstances are unique to him, and an enlarged prostate might not cause any problems, but it’s still worth a discussion with your doctor if you are having issues.
At a minimum, an annual physical/checkup is wise – you should be getting one regardless, anyway. The two most common tests for checking the condition of your prostate are usually administered by your physician – the ever-popular (but brief, thankfully) digital rectal exam and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test administered via a blood test. Lifestyle changes might be in order, such as limiting how much you drink at night and before bedtime, as well as watching your intake of alcohol and/or caffeine.
Vitamins and Supplements for Prostate Health
There are prescription drugs available to help in the treatment of BPH, but possible side effects of such drugs raise a red flag with physicians as well as patients. Vitamins and supplements are available as a Great Plan B. Here are some worth considering:
- Beta-sitosterol. A substance found in plants that might not shrink the prostate, but it has been shown to help empty the bladder and provide a stronger urine flow.
- Vitamin C. It eases urination and prevents swelling. Vitamin B6 is another option that can help in similar fashion.
- Cranberry. Treatment of men with elevated PSAs and signs of BPH, and given dried cranberry fruit daily for six months, produced a fourfold reduction in urinary symptoms, per deliciousliving.com.
- Lycopene. An antioxidant carotenoid found in tomatoes and watermelon, among other foods, that has shown through studies to stop prostate growth.
- Pumpkin seeds. May help ease BPH symptoms and shrink the enlarged prostate, per webmd.com.
- Pygeum. In a study of more than 200 men, pygeum extract showed a significant decrease in BPH symptoms after two months, per deliciousliving.com.
- Quercetin. An anti-inflammatory antioxidant effective for counteracting prostatitis, which causes pain when urinating as well as elsewhere in the groin area.
- Red clover. An antioxidant that contains an antioxidant and inhibits the formation of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
- Rye pollen extract. Could improve a variety of BPH symptoms, such as weak urine stream and the sudden, urgent need to pee.
- Saw palmetto. Evidence has shown that its use can reduce urinary symptoms within 90 days.
- Soy. The incidence of BPH is lower in Asian men, and researchers believe it’s because of their ingestion of whole soy foods, per drweil.com.
- Stinging nettle. Don’t worry, guys, it isn’t going to hurt. In fact, it can help alleviate the symptoms of BPH.
- Zinc. An essential mineral affiliated with prostate health.