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Most men over fifty have an enlarged prostate. But here is an interesting thing... enlarged prostates seem to be unique to the industrialized world. Keep reading to discover some action you can take to both prevent your prostate from enlarging, and shrink it a bit if it is swollen.

Just What Is the Prostate?

Imagine a skin bag (maybe something like a wine skin) sitting inside your abdomen, with a tube running out the bottom. The bag is your bladder. Now picture the tube running through a little walnut-sized ring just below the bag. That's your prostate. The tube, called the urethra, runs from the bladder through the prostate and out the penis.

Urine collects in your bladder until it gets full, and you get the urge to pee. As your prostate swells when you get older, the urge to pee comes more often, and feels more urgent. There are two reasons for this.

  • Your prostate is enlarged, and it squeezes the tube (urethra), so the pee cannot drain as easily, and the bladder does not empty as completely as it used to
  • The muscles that squeeze your bladder when you pee are not as strong as they used to be, so don't empty the bladder as completely as when you were younger.

With the swollen prostate squeezing down on the urinary tube you have to strain a bit to start the stream, and even then the stream is weak. You may find you start and stop a lot while you are peeing, and you might dribble before and after, especially first thing in the morning. You have to pee more often too, again because your bladder is not totally emptying, so you have to get up several times during the night. You could experience some incontinence (wetting yourself) as well.

The prostate has nothing to do with urinating, but it is the 'muscle' that causes your ejaculation when you have an orgasm. The ejaculate that squirts out your penis comes through another tube called a vas deferens running from your testicles to your prostate, where it joins the urethra. (See the diagram below)

When the prostate swells, it makes it harder to pee, and you have less powerful orgasms. The swelling of the prostate is called Benign Prostatic Hyperplaisia, or BPH. It is estimated that half of all men in the western world have BPH by the age of 60, and 90% have it by age 85. This is not a prostate disease, but it is uncomfortable.

When you get a medical, which you should do at least every year after age 45 or so, you should ask your doctor for a 'digital rectal exam'. You have probably already had one.

There seems to be some controversy about whether you should even worry about prostate cancer. (my M.D. son-in-law tells me that 100% of men over 100 years old have prostate cancer.) The doctor I had a few years ago said he didn't do the old 'finger up the arse' thing any more, unless a man asked for it. I always ask for it.

I had a neighbor named George about 15 years ago whose wife kept nagging him to go for a medical. He finally did, and the medical included a digital rectal exam. The doctor discovered that George's prostate was quite swollen, and subsequent tests revealed prostate cancer. George had surgery immediately, and as far as I know he is still fine (I moved away a year or so after this occurred). Regardless, it's a good idea to find affordable insurance BEFORE problems arise. If you live in the US, you might try affordable life insurance.

One test that apparently does give useful information for sure is a 'PSA test', which measures the level of certain cells in your blood stream. I had one a couple of years ago to establish a 'baseline' measure. The idea is if I have one at some later date, and the level is higher, I might want to get checked a bit more thoroughly.

Some guys have even mixed a little humour in with messages about PSA tests. If you have a phone handy, try dialling 1-800-PSA-Test and listen to the first of a series of messages from well-known humorists and comics about prostate health. Gregg Stebben, a men's health author and commentator, worked with humorist Tim Nyberg, one of Workman Publishing's Duct Tape Guys, to launch the service. The goal with this service: To get listeners to tell their buddies to call the number.

So what causes an enlarged prostate (BPH)?

According to Dr. Elson Haas, a medical doctor in California who promotes preventive health care: "The modern lifestyle of stress; long hours of sitting, driving or TV watching; stuffing food and emotions; eating fast food, flesh and milk products; regular intake of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol; and environmental toxicity all set the stage for chronic, debilitating and degenerative diseases, including prostate enlargement (BPH Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy) and prostate cancer."

Keep Your Prostate in Better Shape

Dr Haas says it you can keep your prostate in better shape by maintaining sexual activity (who could argue with that?), getting regular exercise, managing stress levels, taking stretch and activity (and breathing) breaks from long periods of sitting and computer work, having a wholesome diet, and avoiding refined sugars and alcohol as much as possible.

You should also make sure you get enough essential fatty acids every day, and he recommends a couple of teaspoons of flaxseed oil. Some research shows that although flax is good, you shouldn't get too carried away with it. Too much can cause problems with your prostate, including prostatitis and prostate cancer.

He also says zinc, Vitamins C and E and the B vitamins, particularly B6 are important for a healthy prostate.

Selenium a Key

Low blood levels of the mineral selenium may increase the risk of prostate cancer as well. Selenium is a trace mineral found in foods such as Brazil nuts and walnuts. It acts as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize byproducts of normal metabolism called free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to cancer.

In a recent study, reported in The Journal of Urology December 2001;166:2034-2038, the researchers measured selenium levels in blood samples from 52 men with prostate cancer. These men gave blood samples before they were diagnosed with prostate cancer and again after their diagnosis. This group was compared with 96 otherwise healthy men who had periodically had their blood selenium levels measured.

The researchers found that prostate cancer risk was four-to-five time higher in the men with the lowest selenium blood levels.

Helpful Herbs For Prostate Health

There are two herbs that are useful in preventing and treating prostate diseases:

Saw Palmetto berry (Serenoa repens and serrulata)has been used for centuries and is also thought to have a mild aphrodisiac effect, as well as increasing sperm production and sexual vitality.

Pygeum africanum (Pygeum Africanum),an herb from an African evergreen tree, which has been shown in research to reduce prostatic enlargement and inflammation. It may also help stimulate libido.

These herbs are said to work very well, and are cheaper and by all accounts safer than Proscar, a new drug for treating BPH.

Prostate Cancer

"Each year 40,000 American men have their prostates surgically removed or burned with radiation, often within 48 hours of cancer diagnosis. While doing so may eliminate an immediate problem, it will also result in reduced quality of life, often including impotence and incontinence. And, unfortunately, surgery and radiation don't work as well as claimed. Often the cancer recurs -- 35% require retreatment within 5 years and 75% within 10 years."  - Larry Clapp, Ph.D., J.D.

Larry Clapp was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1990. Given the limited options of surgery and radiation, he began intensive research into self-healing alternatives and developed a treatment for prostate cancer which he successfully used to cure himself. Today, cancer-free, he continues his research while helping others to heal through his website, audiotape series and international presentations, such as the Today Show, Fox News and Australia National Radio

His best-selling book Prostate Health in 90 Days tells how he healed his prostate cancer and prostatitis, and reduced his prostate from 220cc to 30 cc. He describes the process he believes anyone can use to do the same thing.

What About Proscar?

Here is some advice from Andrew Weil, M.D.

* "A large clinical trial has found that Proscar, a prescription drug that's used to treat prostate enlargement, can also reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but there are drawbacks. The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 17, 2003), looked at nearly 19,000 men age 55 and older who received daily doses of Proscar or a placebo for seven years. Those who took the drug were 25 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. But men who developed prostate cancer while taking Proscar were more likely to have high-grade (aggressive) tumors. And men taking the drug were also more likely to have sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction and loss of libido."

"My advice: Based on this study, I would not recommend taking Proscar in hopes of warding off prostate cancer. It's unclear whether the drug's possible benefits outweigh its risks, but we do know that dietary and other lifestyle measures to prevent prostate cancer pose no such risks. By the way, research shows that the herb saw palmetto is just as effective as Proscar in treating prostate enlargement, with far fewer side effects, but I've seen no evidence that saw palmetto can reduce the risk of prostate cancer."

Now here is an interesting tidbit:


Remember all those stories we heard when we were kids about going blind, or growing hair on the palms of our hands? We know now they are not true. But wouldn't we have felt better if we knew what we were doing might be reducing our risk of prostate cancer thirty or forty years down the road?

Australian scientists recently studied the sexual habits of more than 2300 men, roughly half of whom had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. They found that the men who had frequent ejaculations between the ages of 20 and 50 had a lower rate of prostate cancer. This was especially true for men who had ejaculated at least five times a week during their 20s. Those men were one-third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer later in life.

So there you have it, frequent masturbation, especially in young adulthood, may lower a man's risk of prostate cancer.

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., "Masturbation is a normal expression of sexuality, and it's harmless unless you masturbate compulsively or cause yourself physical irritation. If this study's findings are confirmed, they should become part of the advice that doctors give men for protecting their reproductive systems."

What is Prostate Massage, and Can It Help?

Prostate massage was used routinely to treat prostatis and BPH for many years, but largely discontinued about 30 years ago, when antibiotics seemed to do a better job. These days, it is used by some doctors in conjunction with antibiotics to treat difficult prostatis cases.

There have not been many scientific studies of the efficacy of prostate massage, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it is beneficial.

A leading prostatitis researcher states, "prostate massage" may help by releasing the tension around nerve endings near the prostate in a manner similar to Theile's massage which helps women with IC (Interstitial Cystitis). This represents a form of "myofascial release".

Again, there is a caveat: the prostate massage must be gentle, or a variety of severe problems might result - everything from a torn cells in the prostate, to infections throughout the urinary system.

That being said, the evidence seems to point to prostate massage as being beneficial in everything from reducing the size of the prostate, to improve sexual performance. And you don't have to go to a doctor every time you want a prostate massage. You can do it yourself at home.

High Island Health sells a prostate massager. You can read all about it at their website. 

Prostate cancer information 

Men and their families must be aware that not all prostate cancer treatments are suitable for everyone. You may learn visiting this site that for men diagnosed with this disease it is very important to know the potential benefits and side effects of each treatment option.

By now you have no doubt heard of Movember. Here is an article by reader Derrick Cruise:


Movember: Raising Prostate Cancer Awareness

Raising awareness for health issues requires a lot of effort to really penetrate the public consciousness. Muscular Dystrophy has Jerry Lewis; breast cancer has the pink ribbon and a multitude of 5-kilometer runs. Raising awareness doesn't happen by happy accident. It takes a lot of hard work and ingenious strategy to push health concerns to the forefront and prostate cancer hasn't gotten the same attention as other health issues. But that's beginning to change in a really big way.

Bringing The Mustache Back If you've noticed a plethora of newly sprouted mustaches around the office don't worry, there's a logical explanation. You didn't miss an interoffice mustache memo or anything like that. Movember is a campaign to increase awareness of prostate cancer and it's essentially all about growing a mustache to bring attention about prostate cancer early detection issues to a larger audience as well as raising money. And by any definition, Movember is experiencing runaway success on both counts.

The Growth of Movember

Movember started in Melbourne, Australia back in 1999 but it wasn't until more recently that it began to catch on in a big way. Men sign up to grow mustaches during November and the rules are fairly simple. You have to sign up before "Shadowe'en"—the 31st of October—and shave any existing facial hair. No goatees are permitted and you can't let the mustache creep into the sideburn area at any time. Nothing is allowed to take away from the sheer glory, the awesome magnificence of the mustache. As the mustache movement spreads, the cash that it's raising for prostate cancer is becoming truly impressive.

The Social Media Connection

It's likely that a large part of the Movember success story is directly related to social media exposure. As Facebook "likes" and Twitter followers have increased, so has the fundraising—and we're not talking chump change either. The first year with any reported fundraising was in 2004 with $43,000. But after the addition of 14,571 Facebook "likes" and almost 20,000 Twitter followers, that number has mushroomed. The total fundraising so far is $174 million. But the most phenomenal fact is that 2010 alone saw contributions of $80.7 million. That says a lot about the value of social media and its power to bring attention to an often over-looked health issue.

Why It Matters

Making early detection of prostate cancer a priority for men is a key component of treatment efficacy. Like any cancer, the ability to intervene in early stages is a big indicator of what kind of treatment outcomes can be expected. And if men—especially in their 40s and 50s—aren't taking personal responsibility for their health by being proactive about prostate health, the implications of late-stage detection is far worse than a quick and mildly uncomfortable prostate exam. If a month of mustaches once a year results in more men taking ownership of their health, Movember is one of the best things to happen in men's health issues in a while. And just because you missed the mustache-growing start deadline doesn't mean it's too late to sprout one for a good cause and do your part to raise awareness for an issue that may affect you at some time in your life. Think about it this way. What would Sam Elliot do?