By David Blyweiss, M.D.
You have to get up several times in the night to trek to the bathroom. During the day you continually feel the call of nature and always keep an eye open for the nearest men’s room. Sound familiar? Welcome to benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. While BPH isn’t linked to prostate cancer and doesn’t raise your chances of getting cancer, the symptoms for both can be similar.
Although prostate miseries rarely show up before a man hits age 40, more than half of men in their 60s and as many as 90 percent in their 70s and 80s show some signs of BPH. The question is: What can you do to help prevent and treat this vexing situation?
The prostate is located just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. The gland’s primary job is producing fluid for semen. Normally the prostate is quite small, about the size of a walnut, but with time and age it can enlarge. Like a clamp on a garden hose, an enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra and interferes with the normal flow of urine.
What causes this growth and the subsequent urinary problems? Researchers believe that, over time, the prostate becomes more vulnerable to the effects of male hormones. Throughout their lives, men produce both testosterone and small amounts of estrogen (a female hormone). With advancing age, however, testosterone levels decline and estrogen levels increase. What’s more, amounts of a type of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) also rise. DHT stimulates cell growth and, in turn, prostate enlargement.
Diet strongly influences sex hormone production. So it isn’t surprising that researchers have found that cutting down on meat and dairy products, and pumping up fruits and vegetables, can turn down hormonal stimulation of the prostate and help stave off problems. In fact, daily meat consumption triples the risk of prostate enlargement, regular milk consumption doubles the risk and failing to consume vegetables regularly nearly quadruples the risk.
Scientists and health care providers also think that excess calorie consumption—something all too common in America—may directly stimulate prostate enlargement through excess body fat. This is because fat tissue produces estrogen, which contributes to prostate enlargement. Obesity also contributes to diabetes, in which the body cannot control blood sugar properly. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Medicine found a link between high glucose levels and BPH.
But along with maintaining a healthy weight and loading up on healthy, hormone-balancing foods, I tell my patients at risk of BPH to consider supplements proven to relieve urinary symptoms. One of the very best is rye grass pollen, also known as Cernitin.
The overall success rate of rye grass pollen in patients with BPH is about seventy percent – comparable to the pharmaceutical drugs commonly used to treat the condition. The reason rye grass pollen extract works so well is because it contains beta-sitosterols that relax the muscles in your urethra while boosting the tone of the bladder muscles. There is also clinical evidence that rye pollen decreases inflammation and prevents the growth of prostate cells. Because of this, rye grass pollen can improve the urinary symptoms of BPH, including frequency, night-time urination, urgency, decreased urine flow, dribbling, and painful urination in men with mild to moderate BPH. It may also decrease prostate size, improve urinary flow rate and decrease residual urine volume.
In one placebo-controlled study comparing rye pollen with the prostate drug Tadenan, 78 percent of those taking rye pollen experienced significant improvement in urinary flow rate as well as a decrease in residual urine and in prostate volume compared to only 55 percent of those taking the drug. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study concluded that rye grass pollen improved night-time urination in 68.8 percent of the men participating in the study. And residual urine improved by 54.7 percent compared with only 12.5 percent of the men taking the dummy pills.
Many of my patients have found that combining rye pollen extract 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. Stinging nettle is a potent anti-inflammatory herb that positively affects the proteins that carry sex hormones like testosterone in the human body.
Another herbal heavyweight is pygeum, an indigenous African remedy obtained from tree bark. Studies indicate that pygeum is effective in treating BPH, as this herb also contains chemicals that inhibit DHT-associated prostate enlargement. If you suffer from mild to moderate BPH, I suggest taking 150 mg. of pygeum twice daily along with a daily dose of 200 to 300 mg. of rye pollen extract. For moderate BPH, you may also want to add either 120 mg. of stinging nettle twice a day or 160 mg. of pumpkin seed extract three times daily.
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Quiles MT. Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of the herbal agent Pygeum africanum on cultured prostate stromal cells from patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Prostate. 2010;70:1044-1053.
XU J. A comparative study on different doses of cernilton for preventing the clinical progression of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2008;14:533-537