There’s a saying you might have heard about the prostate gland that sums up the situation very nicely: The prostate is a young man’s best friend and a mature man’s worst enemy. That’s because typically the prostate is trouble-free until a man hits mid-life. The Prostate Grows
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that wraps around the urethra (the tube that outflows urine). It’s part of a man’s reproductive system. One of its main jobs is to add fluid (called semen) to sperm. Although the gland starts out small, it tends to enlarge as a man ages. An excessively enlarged prostate results in a disease known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Eventually, an enlarged prostate can clamp down on the urethra, restricting the flow of urine from the bladder. This leads to problems such as frequent urination, difficulty in voiding, urinary leakage, and urinary tract infections.
Enlarged Prostate Treatments
There are several treatment options for an enlarged prostate. Men can take alpha blocker drugs such as terazosin (Hytrin) to help relax the prostate muscles, or antibiotics for chronic prostatitis (which may occur alongside BPH). They can also take dutasteride (Avodart) or finasteride (Proscar) for reducing BPH symptoms. They might also undergo surgery to remove the extra prostate tissue. One common surgical procedure for BPH is known as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP).
In addition, there are also natural remedies that work to combat prostate growth. However, the evidence is debatable on whether these treatments work. The American Urological Association currently does not recommend any herbal therapy for managing BPH. If you do want to try any of these natural remedies, talk to your doctor first.
Saw palmetto is an herbal remedy that comes from a type of palm tree. It’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries to relieve urinary symptoms, including those caused by an enlarged prostate. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a few small-scale studies have suggested that saw palmetto might be effective for relieving BPH symptoms.
However, the NIH reports that when larger studies were conducted, they didn’t find saw palmetto any more effective than an inactive pill (placebo). Saw palmetto is safe, though, and it doesn’t cause any serious side effects.
This prostate remedy is a mixture taken from different plants that contain cholesterol-like substances called sitosterols. Several studies have found that beta-sitosterol can relieve urinary symptoms of BPH, including the strength of urine flow.
There haven’t been any major side effects reported with the use of beta-sitosterol, although doctors still don’t know all the long-term effects of this natural remedy.
Pygeum comes from the bark of the African plum tree and has been used in traditional medicine to treat urinary problems since ancient times. It’s often used to treat BPH symptoms, especially in Europe. Because studies on pygeum haven’t been well designed, it’s hard to know for sure whether it’s effective. The American Academy of Family Physicians does not recommend its use.
Still, a small study reported in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that when prepared with other herbal remedies, it helps reduce the number of trips to the bathroom — both during the day and at night. Pygeum is safe, but it can cause stomach upset in some people who take it.
Rye Grass Pollen Extract
Rye grass pollen extracts are made from three types of grass pollen — rye, timothy, and corn. A review of studies published in BJU International found that men who were taking rye grass pollen extracts reported an improvement in their symptoms compared to those who were taking a placebo.
This supplement seems to be especially helpful for preventing the need to get up during the night and use the bathroom. It can also help men urinate more completely, so there is less urine left in the bladder afterwards.
You’ll know if you’ve accidently touched the common European stinging nettle, as hairs on its leaves can cause a sharp jolt of intense pain. But stinging nettle can have some benefits when used as a medicine. Nettle root is thought to moderate BPH symptoms, and is commonly used in Europe. However, a 2007 review concluded that more studies were needed.
Sometimes nettle is used in combination with other natural BPH remedies, such as pygeum or saw palmetto. Side effects from nettle are usually mild, including upset stomach and skin rash.
Foods to Treat BPH
Eating one type of food or another probably won’t prevent BPH or relieve its symptoms, but a healthy diet can help. According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming vegetables that are high in vitamin C and zinc are best for preventing BPH and relieving its symptoms. Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may help too.
It’s important to remember that just because a supplement is labeled “natural” doesn’t always mean it’s safe or healthy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate herbal remedies like it does drugs. That means you can’t be totally sure that what’s listed on the label is inside the bottle. Herbal remedies can cause side effects. They can also interact with other medicines you take. Check with your doctor before trying any natural supplement.