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Enlarged prostate or benign prostatic enlargement happens when cells in the prostate abnormally divide and multiply, causing the organ to increase in size.
Benign prostatic enlargement or BPE is also commonly called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.
An enlarged prostate can cause frustrating and uncomfortable symptoms, most commonly urinary and sexual difficulties.
These problems may decrease an individual’s overall quality of life. However, BPH is not associated with cancer and usually not a serious health threat.
There are several treatment options, including a wide range of natural remedies and lifestyle changes, which may help ease symptoms of BPH.
Home remedies for an enlarged prostate include:
1. Pygeum (African plum extract)
Pygeum has also been shown to contain a wide range of fatty acids, alcohols, and sterols such as beta-sitosterol that have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the urogenital tract.
A few studies indicate that consuming between 100 and 200 mg of pygeum extract daily or splitting this into two 50 mg doses twice daily may help reduce BPH symptoms.
2. Saw palmetto
Saw palmetto is one the most studied and popular herbal supplements used to treat BPH.
Several studies have linked saw palmetto to reduced BPH symptoms. This is most likely because it inhibits the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and reduces the size of the inner lining of the prostate.
3. Zi-Shen Pill (ZSP)
The Zi-Shen Pill (ZSP) contains a mixture of three plants, including Chinese cinnamon.
The formula comes from ancient Chinese medicine dating back to the 13th century. Researchers have shown that rats given the Zi-Shen formula have reduced rates of BPH.
More research is needed on humans to determine whether it is effective.
Some people use herbal supplements made from rye-grass pollen to treat BPH symptoms. These troublesome symptoms may include being unable to empty the bladder fully and the need to urination frequently at nighttime.
Under the brand name Cernilton, rye-grass pollen is included in the formula of several registered pharmaceutical supplements targeted at easing symptoms of BPH.
Despite its popularity, Cernilton has never been shown to impact BPH symptoms in any large-scale scientific studies. However, some indicate it may help reduce the overall size of the prostate.
Further research is needed to establish if it works or not.
5. Orbignya speciosa (babassu)
Babassu or Orbignya speciosa is a species of palm tree native to Brazil. Several indigenous Brazilian tribes and communities use the dried or ground kernels from the tree to treat urogenital symptoms and conditions.
Oil from babassu nuts has also been shown to inhibit the production of testosterone, while other parts of the nut contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
6. Stinging nettle
Stinging nettle contains similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds as pygeum and saw palmetto.
Nettle root is sometimes used in combination with saw palmetto. More research is needed, however, to determine whether it is effective.
7. Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin seed)
Pumpkin seeds contain beta-sitosterol, a compound similar to cholesterol and found in some plants. Preliminary studies have shown that beta-sitosterol may improve urine flow and reduce the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination.
Some studies recommend taking 10 g of pumpkin seed extract daily for BPH symptoms.
Lycopene is a naturally occurring pigment found in many fruits and vegetables. One study found that it may help slow the progression of BPH.
Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene available to most people. But a few other fruits and vegetables contain lower levels of this antioxidant.
Usually, the deeper pink or red the fruit or vegetable is in color, the higher its lycopene content.
Other sources of lycopene include:
- pink grapefruit
- red bell peppers
- red cabbage
Chronic zinc deficiencies have been shown to potentially increase the likelihood of developing BPH. Taking zinc supplements, or increasing dietary intake of zinc may help reduce urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
Zinc is found in poultry, seafood, and several types of seeds and nuts, such as sesame and pumpkin.
10. Green tea
It is important to keep in mind that green tea contains caffeine. Caffeine can stimulate the bladder and cause a sudden urge to urinate, potentially worsening BPH symptoms.
Lifestyle tips that may help someone manage the symptoms of an enlarged prostate include the following:
- Attempt to urinate at least once before leaving home to avoid urinary leakage or other incidents in public that can be very stressful and embarrassing.
- Double void by trying to urinate again a few minutes after urinating the first time, to drain the bladder as much as possible during bathroom visits.
- Try not to drink fluids in the 2 hours before bedtime to avoid going to sleep with a full bladder.
- Try to stay hydrated by drinking at least 2 liters of water daily.
- Try maintaining a healthy body weight as much as possible.
- Exercise regularly and as often as possible.
- Try not to drink too much at one time.
- Try to reduce or avoid stress to reduce the urge for urination.
- Avoid or limit products that cause dehydration, such as cold medications and decongestants
- Use absorbent urinary pads or pants to absorb urine leaks and decrease wetness and discomfort.
- Use urinary sheaths, which are condom-shaped and fit over the penis to drain urine into a small bag strapped to the leg.
- Use urethral massage, after urinating, by gently pressing the fingers upwards from the base of the scrotum to try to squeeze out any urine left in the urethra and prevent any leakage later.
In a vast majority of cases, BPH is idiopathic, meaning it has no known cause. Doctors and researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how and why some people’s prostate cells start to divide abnormally.
But most cases of BPH impact men of at least 40 years of age, most commonly those 50 years of age and older. So most studies suggest that BPH is related to hormonal changes, specifically those that occur naturally with age.
A few studies have shown that changes in the balance of these hormones may trigger some prostate cells to abnormally grow and divide.
Potential risk factors of an enlarged prostate include:
Most men have a 50 percent chance of having BPH by the age of 60 years old, and a 90 percent chance by the age of 85 years old.
Several types of foods and nutrients can reduce or trigger BPH and its associated symptoms.
Foods that may be beneficial to BPH include:
- fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes, beans, and dark, leafy greens
- fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, usually dark red, yellow, and orange varieties
- foods rich in zinc, such as eggs, most types of seafood, and nuts
- products that contain phytoestrogens, such as soy foods, chickpeas, alfalfa, and fava beans
- foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including most fish and some nuts and seeds, such as hemp and chia
Foods people with BPH, or those at risk of developing it, should avoid or limit include:
- artificial sweeteners
- carbonated drinks
- starchy, refined foods
- red meat
Making dietary changes may help manage or prevent an enlarged prostate and any resulting symptoms.
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Some of the natural remedies in this article are available in health food stores and online. Further research is needed to establish how effective these natural remedies are for treating BPE.