Natural Ways to Improve Prostate Health
HealthCentral Editorial Team Sep 28, 2012 (updated Oct 9, 2013)
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Medications aren't the only answer
If you're one of the millions of men who've been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH), you may have been prescribed medications to treat this issue. But did you know there are natural ways to ease BPH and boost prostate health as well? In this slideshow, we look at some foods, herbs, and supplements that studies suggest may help improve prostate health.
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Red clover is rich in isoflavones, a type of protein found in soybeans that has been used as an alternative treatment for a wide range of conditions. It's thought that isoflavones can inhibit prostate and other types of cancerous tumors, and some studies suggest this protein may also treat BPH.
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Japanese men have a very low incidence of prostate cancer, and some believe their diet - which is high in soy - may be behind this statistic. Soy contains the same isoflavones found in red clover that are known to block tumor growth and ease BPH. Isoflavones are a good overall health booster, too.
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African tree bark
Some studies have found that African tree bark (pygeum africanum) helps reduce prostate swelling, decrease inflammation, and block the growth factors responsible for enlarged prostate and prostate tumors. So many people in Asia and Europe swear by this remedy that the tree has been overharvested and is on the Endangered Species list.
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Lycopene is an antioxidant found in such foods as grapefruit, tomatoes, and watermelon. Several studies have found that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables that contain lycopene may help reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.
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A diet full of dairy products and meat is linked to an increased risk of prostate problems. But other studies suggest that diets high in fish, fish oil, and vegetables reduces men's prostate cancer and BPH risk. This may explain why the incidence of prostate issues is so much lower in Asia, where fish is a staple of many people's diets.
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Saw palmetto, a shrub that grows in such southern U.S. states as Georgia and Florida, has long been used as way to reduce inflammation and enlargement of the prostate. Many urologists actually endorse its use for early symptoms. Some believe it works by inhibiting the hormones that trigger prostate enlargement.
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Scientists found that zinc deficiency can result in prostate enlargement. In fact, one study found men with prostatitis (infection of the prostate) had zinc levels that were 1/10 of what they are in men without this condition. Experts say a supplement of 50 mg to 100 mg of zinc per day can help men with enlarged prostate.