You may be familiar with the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Here’s another truism – the key to a man’s health and his enjoyment of life, particularly as he ages, is his prostate. In this two part series we’ll explore the prostate gland. In Part 1, we’ll learn what the prostate is, what it does, and the three common disorders that men experience. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at what steps we can take to reduce our likelihood of prostate problems.
The prostate is a small gland and is part of the male reproductive system. The growth and functioning of the prostate are controlled by testosterone. The prostate is located under the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The urethra transports urine from the bladder and ejaculates semen. In this way the prostate acts as a valve that permits both sperm and urine to flow in the proper direction – out of the body. It receives sperm from the testicles and produces nutrients to nourish the sperm. When the prostate is normal sized this occurs without incident.
The prostate also functions as a filter. It ensures that the seminal fluid is a healthy environment for sperm cells by filtering out impurities from the blood stream. Healthy sperm increase the likelihood of a healthy baby! In young men the prostate is about the size of a walnut. However, it commonly enlarges with age.
There are three main prostate disorders – prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and prostate cancer. By the age of fifty, 75% of men have enlarged prostates and 33% have cancer cells in their prostate. By the age of seventy five, 75% have cancer cells in their prostates.
Prostatitis is pain from the swelling of the prostate gland. The Merck Manual says that, “Prostatitis usually develops for unknown reasons.” It can result from a bacterial infection, yet most times it is non-bacterial.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that makes urination difficult. Again, the Merck Manual does not offer much help, “Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) becomes increasingly common as men age, especially after age 50. The precise cause is not known but probably involves changes induced by hormones, especially testosterone.” By age fifty 30% of men begin to experience BPH. By age sixty it is 50%, beyond age 70 it is 80%, and by age 80 it is practically 100%. In addition, 20% of men with BPH will develop prostate cancer.
Testosterone controls the growth and functioning of the prostate. As men age, they produce or have available less testosterone. This lower amount of testosterone may negatively impact the prostate. Another problem that can occur is an increase in the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is made from testosterone and makes the prostate grow. Its production is stimulated by estradiol (a form of estrogen). Men with BPH have been found to have excessive estradiol in their prostate. Where does this excess come from? Several places. The first is from fat cells. Estrogen is naturally produced in these cells. If the man is overweight, he may have excess estrogen. In addition, estrogen can come from food, water, and other environmental sources.
Also, as testosterone levels decrease and other hormones become out of balance males suffer from their version of menopause – andropause. Symptoms may include depression, irritability, loss of energy, withdrawal from activities and relationships, memory and concentration problems, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, muscle soreness, decreased lean muscle mass, sleep problems, blood sugar instability, weight gain, and prostate or urinary problems. In addition risk for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis increases.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. Often, it grows very slowly and may take decades to produce symptoms. However, sometimes it grows rapidly and spreads outside the prostate. According to the Merck Manual, “The cause of prostate cancer is not known.”
So, what do we know? Modern medicine does not know what causes any of these three disorders that affect the majority of males in their lifetime. Yet, they have some common symptoms, indicating they are likely on the same disease pathway. These include pain in the penis, pain in the testicles, pain in the perineum, frequent urination, burning urination, night-time urination, incomplete emptying of the bladder, painful ejaculation, painful urination, sensation of having to urinate immediately often accompanied by bladder pain or spasm, and recurring urinary tract infections. There are also some seemingly unrelated symptoms – lower back pain (very common), chronic pelvic pain syndrome, fever, chills, joint pain, muscle pain, and infection in the blood stream.
In Part 2 we’ll look at natural ways to reduce the likelihood of prostate problems.
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at email@example.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.