By Leonard Willix, M.D.
Among the men I see who are over the age of 60, most are suffering from some sort of urinary complaint caused by an enlarging prostate.
Technically known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, this problem affects more than 50 percent of men in their sixties and 90 percent of men in their seventies and eighties. One quarter of these men will develop moderate-to-severe urinary tract symptoms—leaking or dribbling of urine, a hesitant, interrupted or weak stream of urine, the urge to urinate often, and the frequent need to urinate throughout the night—that will greatly impact their quality of life.
Surprisingly, most of the men who walk into my office don’t even know where their prostate is located—or the important role it plays in reproductive health. The prostate gland is about halfway between the testicles and the rectum just below the bladder, and it’s wrapped around the urethra (the urethra is the outlet that discharges urine and semen from the penis). Its sole function is to secrete and store a clear fluid that is part of semen.
To do its job, the prostate requires an extremely high concentration of androgen hormones. It’s one of these male hormones— dihydrotestosterone (DHT)—that is implicated in BPH. In a nutshell, prostate enlargement is triggered by the long-term exposure to DHT, and to a lesser degree the female hormone estrogen.
DHT is a biologically active metabolite of the hormone testosterone. It is formed primarily in the prostate gland, testes, hair follicles and adrenal glands by the enzyme 5a-reductase—and DHT is three times more potent than testosterone. Normal DHT levels contribute to a man’s virility and is a good predictor of a healthy sex life. But when the production of DHT goes into overdrive, it can trigger unwanted prostate growth.
For my patients suffering from BPH, I turn to my first line of defense—beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol that can improve the urinary symptoms of BPH. In one double-blind trial, 200 men suffering from an enlarged prostate received either 20 mg. of beta-sitosterol three times a day or a placebo for six months. Those receiving the beta-sitosterol had a significant improvement in urinary flow and other symptoms, but no change was reported in the men receiving the placebo.
In another study involving 177 BPH patients, those given 130 mg. of beta-sitosterol each day for six months found that their urinary flow values increased by 4.5 ml/second while residual urine volumes decreased by a substantial 33.5 ml. These results are comparable to those seen with the BPH drug finasteride.
Of course, beta-sitosterol isn’t the only botanical I use to treat BPH. Many of my patients have found that combining beta-sitosterol with other prostate-specific herbs like pumpkin seed extract and stinging nettle gives them even better results. Pumpkin seeds are rich in amino acids, vitamins, minerals and phytosterols like beta-sitosterol. Numerous studies suggest that these compounds promote prostate health and may offer relief to men with BPH. The oil content in pumpkin seeds also promotes prostate health and improves the symptoms of BPH. Stinging nettle, on the other hand, is a potent anti-inflammatory herb that positively affects the hormones and proteins that carry sex hormones like testosterone in the human body. This may explain why it helps mild cases of BPH. Clinical studies show that stinging nettle increases urinary volume and the maximum flow rate of urine in men with early-stage BPH.
Zinc is another nutrient I rely on for my patients with BPH. This mineral helps balance testosterone levels, particularly in the prostate, and may help control the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This, in turn, reduces the size of an enlarged prostate and the accompanying urinary symptoms in the majority of cases. For most men, I recommend taking 15 to 25 mg. of zinc daily. Just be aware that if you opt for the higher amount and take this mineral on a long term basis, it is important to also take 2 mg. of copper per day.
While these and other natural supplements can help shrink the prostate and improve many of the urinary symptoms that accompany BPH, most of the men I treat don’t want to take a handful of pills every day. Fortunately, I’ve found an excellent supplement that combines all of these natural compounds. Taking just three caplets of Pros-TEROL each day can help ease the urinary symptoms of BPH, especially the embarrassing dribbling and night-time trips to the bathroom. It’s what I recommend to my patients who suffer from mild to moderate BPH and now you can benefit from it, too. Don’t suffer through another day with BPH. Try it today.
Berges RR. Treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia with beta-sitosterol: an 18-month follow-up. British Journal of Urology International. 2000;85:842-846.
Hirano T, Homma M, Oka K. “Effects of stinging nettle roots and their steroidal components on the Na+, K+ ATPase of the benign prostatic hyperplasia.” Planta Medica. 1994;60:30-33.
Preuss HG. Randomized trial of a combination of natural products (cernitin, saw palmetto, Beta sitosterol, vitamin E) on symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. International Urology and Nephrology. 2001;33 :217-225.