How To Make Your Prostate Function Better As You Age
The good news is, there's quite a bit you can do to help that little gland, from supplements to simple dietary additions to sticking to an exercise routine.
Whether you're a prostate owner or you have a loved one with one (pretty sure that covers all of us!), this article will include everything you need to know to ensure the best prostate function as the years go by.
Supplements to Support Prostate Function
The majority of supplements that are marketed to support the prostate will work by either improving urinary symptoms, reducing the size of the prostate lining, or halting further growth of the prostate gland.
When the prostate gland is enlarged, the increase in size leads to extra pressure on the urethra and an inability to fully empty the bladder. (Quick anatomy lesson: the bladder is right above the prostate). While a normal prostate gland starts out being the size of a walnut, it can grow to become lemon-sized throughout the aging process.
This is why men with enlarged prostates have the annoying symptom of frequently feeling like they need to run to the bathroom, but are unable to fully empty the bladder when they get there. Other symptoms include poor urine flow, post-urination dripping, and a lot of nighttime bathroom runs.
Although an enlarged prostate isn't a risk factor for more serious prostate disorders, it sure can lead to a reduction in quality of life with those uncomfortable urinary symptoms. Let's take a look into which supplements are worthwhile for supporting prostate function.
Saw PalmettoThis plant-based compound is extracted from the berries of the saw palmetto tree, also known as the American dwarf palm, and can help overall prostate function by acting as a diuretic. This increases urine flow, which would then help men to fully empty the bladder when they urinate.
Saw palmetto can act as a natural 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor (5-ARI), which prevents testosterone from being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and is a common mechanism of prescription medications for enlarged prostate. The androgen hormone DHT is a weaker version of testosterone and plays a role in the enlargement of the prostate gland, thus a reduction in DHT could result in a prostate not growing larger .
Saw palmetto works to support healthy inflammatory pathways, which may also help overall prostate function. While the mechanisms seem plausible, results from clinical trials see mixed results with saw palmetto extract versus a placebo [2,3]. However, one randomized controlled trial did find that saw palmetto worked the same as a prescription medication for enlarged prostate, including reducing urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate .
ZincThe normal prostate gland has extra-high levels of zinc accumulation, which is used to create the citrates found in prostatic fluid. A major role of zinc is to regulate the balance between testosterone and DHT. However, too much zinc is also not good for the prostate; we want a Goldilocks-like situation with zinc, especially if it's coming from supplements rather than food sources.
Although zinc shows cytotoxic capabilities in mouse models and in vitro studies, some researchers believe that the ability of the individual to utilize supplemental zinc properly depends on their zinc transporter and uptake functioning . If you want to get the benefits of zinc, it may be beneficial to get your daily dose from food sources, like shellfish, legumes, red meat, and nuts.
Vitamin D supplements have been found to decrease prostate volume [7,8]. One 23-year-long study found that people with higher serum vitamin D levels were less likely to die from a prostate-related disorder .
However, another study found that both very low and very high levels of vitamin D contributed to prostate abnormalities. The lowest risk came with vitamin D levels in the 45-70 nmol/L range . Once again, we see that more is not always better, especially when it comes to nutrient supplementation.
The juices and extracts of the pomegranate fruit have been extensively studied for various health conditions. One clinical trial in men with rising PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels found that pomegranate extract at doses of both 1 and 3 grams daily led to a significant lengthening of PSA doubling time, which can be used as a predictor of prostate health .
A double-blind, randomized controlled trial in 2014 found that men who took a food supplement capsule for six months containing pomegranate, turmeric, broccoli and green tea saw a median increase in PSA level of 14.7%, which was significantly lower than the 78.5% PSA increase in the placebo group. However, this study did not single out pomegranate, so it's difficult to know which compound in the multi-compound supplement was most responsible for these promising results .
Lycopene, a red-pigmented carotenoid and antioxidant, has been often linked to men's prostate health. While tomatoes are the most well-known high-lycopene food, it is also found in guava, watermelon, grapefruit, red bell peppers, and papaya. A meta-analysis of 26 studies found mixed results between lycopene and prostate function .
A randomized controlled trial of older men with enlarged prostates found that 15 mg of lycopene supplementation daily for six months led to a significant reduction in PSA levels as well as no further prostate enlargement, whereas the control group did see the progression of enlarging prostates .
Fish oil, or fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids, are linked to improved inflammatory pathways, which may be beneficial for improving overall prostate health. A traditional Western diet tends to be comprised of a higher ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats compared to our ancestors, which may be a cause of our society's increasingly poor health in recent decades.
In the lab, omega-3 fatty acids work well to reduce disease by blocking pro-inflammatory signaling pathways . In the real world, certain populations who eat high amounts of omega-3's via fatty fish, including the Japanese and the Alaskan and Greenland Inuits, consistently see better prostate health [16,17]. However, studies and trials using fish oil supplements have seen mixed results, perhaps meaning that eating the fish itself is more beneficial than taking the supplemental oil .
While you may not want to come in physical contact with the stinging nettle plant, whose painful spines live up to its name, the extracted and powdered form of it may help benefit the prostate.
Some research has shown that stinging nettle can help to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms associated with enlarged prostate, including incomplete bladder emptying and reduced urinary flow.
A randomized controlled trial of people in the early stages of enlarged prostate found that a supplement combining stinging nettle with saw palmetto led to similar results as treating with a common enlarged prostate medication . Another trial found that stinging nettle supplementation was linked to improved urinary flow and a small decrease in prostate size compared to those taking a placebo .
Too much of a good thing?Some supplements are good, but taking too much of certain vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants can backfire and result in worse health. In addition to the ones already discussed, studies have shown that excessive supplementation of vitamin E, calcium, and selenium have all been linked to an increased risk of developing poor or abnormal prostate health [21-23].
Foods to Support Prostate Function
While tomatoes are probably the most well-known food to support prostate health due to their lycopene content, there are other foods that should get attention for their prostate-helping benefits. Recently studied foods that support prostate function include mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), oily fish (like salmon and sardines), coffee, and green tea [24-26].
There are some foods and drinks you may want to limit to best support your prostate function, including excessive red meat, dairy, and alcohol [25, 27].
In addition to the foods we eat and the supplements we take, our lifestyle factors also play a role in prostate health. Having a BMI of 30 or more is a major risk factor for poor prostate function, while physical activity has been linked to improved health [25, 28]. Time to lace up those running shoes and get your heart pumping!
- If you're a man over the age of 40, it's likely that your prostate is enlarging each year you grow older; luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent this from developing further.
- An enlarged prostate is an uncomfortable combination of urinary-related symptoms.
- Supplements that may support prostate health include saw palmetto, moderate amounts of vitamin D, pomegranate extract, lycopene, and stinging nettle.
- A healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, combined with a physical activity routine have been linked to improved prostate function.