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Men’s Health Awareness Month - Focus on Prostate Cancer

November is Men’s Health Awareness month. Globally, men die on average 5 years earlier than women. Often this is for reasons that are largely preventable. For many men just making...

November is Men’s Health Awareness month. Globally, men die on average 5 years earlier than women. Often this is for reasons that are largely preventable. For many men just making a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes could improve physical and mental health and lead to a healthier, happier and longer life. Here we will focus on nutritional and lifestyle factors that may support prostate health and reduce the risk of prostate cancer – the second most common cancer in men worldwide (1).

 The Prostate Gland

 Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate gland is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube men urinate and ejaculate through. Its main job is to help make semen.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), also called prostate enlargement, is a non-cancerous increase in size of the prostate gland. Symptoms may be similar to those of prostate cancer (see below).

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate reproduce more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumour. Prostate cancer often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. However, sometimes prostate cancer spreads to other parts of the body producing secondary tumours in a process known as metastasis.

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease that only affects old men. If you’re 50 it’s important to talk to your doctor about PSA testing. If you’re black or have a brother or father who’ve had prostate cancer you need to start that conversation at 45 as you may be at increased risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer and BPH

Changes in urinary or sexual function may indicate the presence of prostate problems. Symptoms may include:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Not everyone with prostate problems experiences symptoms so it’s important to have regular check ups. BPH is diagnosed through symptoms and examination.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed through a blood test which measures the concentration of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in the blood. As with most diseases, the earlier it is detected the better treatment outcomes are likely to be.

Treating prostate cancer

Many prostate cancers are slow growing and may not need radical treatment.

Treatment options include:

  • Active Surveillance – observing signs and symptoms and looking out for any changes
  • Prostatectomy – removal of the prostate
  • Radiotherapy or chemotherapy
  • Hormone Therapy

Nutrition and Prostate Health

Regional differences in the incidence of prostate cancer is likely to be at least partly due to dietary habits. It’s recommended to maintain a healthy body weight and to follow a healthy dietary pattern including plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables. Certain foods and dietary patterns have been shown to reduce the risk and progression of prostate cancer or to be protective against benign prostatic hyperplasia (2,3,4). These include:

  • Soy protein such as tofu
  • Omega 3 fats – found in oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Green tea
  • Tomatoes and tomato products. These are rich in lycopene (2,5)
  • Fruit and vegetables (2,5)
  • Low red meat and saturated fat intake (2,5)
  • Mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants (5)
  • Exercise (2)

 Nutrients for Prostate Health

Vitamins A, C, D, and E as well as polyphenols potentially affect prostate cancer pathogenesis and progression through various mechanisms including inflammation, antioxidant effects, and the action of sex hormones (4). However, it is not a case of more is better;  too much vitamin C and D, folate and calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer (4).

 The Gut and Prostate Health

 Recent studies report that the gut microbiota contributes to the development of tumours in some organs. Human studies show an increase in the abundance of certain gut bacteria in prostate cancer patients. Diet and lifestyle have a direct effect on the gut bacteria. (3). Probiotics can also be used to influence the balance of organisms in the gut.

The prostate gland normally contains extremely high levels of zinc (). Zinc loss is a hallmark of the development of prostate cancer. It’s known that excess zinc prevents the growth of prostate cancers and it may be that zinc could be an effective approach for cancer prevention and treatment (5,7). More research is needed into the mechanisms involved.

Plant Medicine

Medicinal plants or extracts and nutrients that are commonly used for the treatment of prostate diseases such as benign hypertrophy and prostatitis include Saw Palmetto, Pygeum africanum, nettles, lycopene, astaxanthin, selenium and zinc. These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. For benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) quercetin, equol, curcumin and pollen extract may be effective (5).

Tom Oliver Nutrition Products

The following may have a beneficial effect on many aspects of health including prostate health:

Tom Oliver’s Men’s Multivitamin – contains nettle, lycopene, selenium and zinc

Tom Oliver’s vitamin C

Tom Oliver’s vitamin D + K2

Tom Oliver’s zinc

Tom Oliver’s Omega 3

Tom Oliver’s Probiotics

Tom Oliver’s Curcumin

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