The source of prostate distress for many men is benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH. As the prostate gland swells, it clamps down on the urethra, interfering with normal urine flow. Although experts are not certain of all of the causes of BPH, one of the main theories is the level of a type of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the prostate. When DHT levels are elevated, cell growth is stimulated and the prostate enlarges.
The symptoms of BPH vary, but the most common ones may be obstructive or due to irritation. These often begin after the age of 55. Obstructive symptoms occur when the flow of urine is blocked by the prostate. As a man's bladder contracts to empty, it has to overcome the obstruction caused by the enlarged prostate. Symptoms associated with irritation are often a combination of the actual obstruction and the effects of the obstruction. Among the symptoms you may experience:
- A weak or hesitant urine stream
- Incontinence (leaking or dribbling)
- Increased frequency of urination, particularly at night
- Trouble beginning a urine stream or only making a dribble
- Sensation that the bladder has not completely emptied
- A strong or sudden urge to urinate
- Stopping and starting again several times
- Pushing or straining to begin
Doctors may recommend surgery for men with an extremely enlarged prostate. One of the down sides of surgery is something called retrograde ejaculation. Instead of the semen coming out of the penis, the semen travels back up into the bladder. More dramatically, you could suffer permanent erectile dysfunction and an increased risk of heart attack.
A swollen prostate may also become infected and inflamed and create more serious health problems, such as prostatitis. You should see your doctor if you notice your urinary output is much less than usual or you experience fever and chills, unusual pain in your back, side or abdomen. Also watch out for painful urination or blood or pus in your urine.
There are a number of steps which have been shown to help prevent or relieve BPH. You should try to:
- Load up on servings of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of inflammation-fighting substances such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Work on following a low-fat diet: Research shows that men who followed a diet low in total fat and red meat had a lower risk of developing BPH.
- Try plant protein rather than animal protein: Plant protein gives you the nutrients needed for better prostate health. Research also suggests that soy isoflavones can help prevent BPH, and that beans and lentils are associated with a reduced risk of BPH, while poultry and eggs are actually associated with an increased risk.
- Enjoy green tea. Green tea contains catechins, which travel through your body and settle in the prostate, where they help the production and effectiveness of hormones and may be useful in the reduction of BPH.
- Keep hydrated. Infections of the urinary tract may irritate the prostate gland, which wraps around the urethra, and intensify already difficult urination. Rinse your urinary tract and bladder with at least eight glasses of water a day to help flush out bacteria.
- Enjoy some cranberry juice. Cranberry juice increases the acidity of urine, making the urinary tract, helping rid the area of the harmful bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
- Up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. They are believed to protect prostate cells and have an anti-inflammatory effect. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week. A typical serving is 3 ½ ounces. Saltwater fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and albacore tuna tend to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than most freshwater fish. Salmon and some varieties of freshwater trout have relatively high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Although modern medicine has many solutions for men with BPH, most are full of potential side effects. Drugs designed to lower DHT levels can also lead to loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction and a decrease in semen volume. In rare instances, it can even cause a man’s breasts to enlarge
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