June is a big month for guys. Not only is Father’s Day celebrated this time each year, but all 30 days have been designated Men’s Health Month. We all know how important it is for that special man in our lives to stay healthy, whether he’s a dad, brother, husband, or son.
Discussions about men’s health almost always involve problems with the prostate, a part of a man’s reproductive system that’s normally about the size of a walnut. Male hormones like testosterone, produced by the body, stimulate the growth of the prostate. It changes size very little from birth until puberty, at which point it increases in weight and size. Then it remains constant for the next 30 years or more. In some men, the prostate never grows again.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for most men, who will develop some form of non-cancerous prostate enlargement. This is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and occurs in half of all men in their 50s. About 80 percent of men in their 80s have some BPH symptoms.
Herbs for an Enlarged Prostate
There are multiple drugs approved by the FDA to help relieve this condition, including dutasteride (Avodart) and the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). But drugs aren’t the only answer to managing BPH. There are alternative therapies that have been proven to be safe and effective with appropriate use. Here are three.
The extract of the African plum tree (also known as Pygeum africanum) has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It has received a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of A, meaning that there is strong scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating BPH. Historically, traditional African healers turned the bark into powder and used it for tea in men with bladder and urination disorders. Since the 1970s, numerous studies have shown that Pygeum significantly improves BPH symptoms like frequent nighttime urination, urine flow rate and leftover urine volume.
2. Saw Palmetto
In the U.S., saw palmetto is the most popular natural treatment for BPH and has also earned a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of A for effectiveness. Historical use of saw palmetto can be traced back to the Mayans, who used it as a tonic, and to the Seminoles, who took the berries medicinally. Numerous human studies have found that saw palmetto helps reduce nighttime urination and urinary flow and also improves overall quality of life in men with BPH.
A compound made by plants, beta-sitosterol is another natural therapy for BPH. Because there is good scientific evidence supporting its use for this condition, it has received a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of B. Beta-sitosterol has been used to help reduce the size of the prostate and relieve symptoms of BPH, although more evidence is needed before a firm conclusion can be made about its effectiveness.
Preventing Prostate Cancer
No discussion of prostate problems is complete without a mention of prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers in men.
Selenium rates a Natural Standard Evidence Grade of B for helping to prevent prostate cancer. This mineral is found in soil and many foods, including tuna, ground beef, eggs and rice. Selenium is important for maintaining good health and promoting cell growth. Evidence suggests that supplementing with selenium may help lower the risk of prostate cancer, although more research is needed to confirm these results.
Although many studies suggest that these natural treatments can be both safe and effective, it’s always a good idea to check with a doctor and pharmacist before taking any new herbs or supplements.
During Men’s Health Month, remember to spend some quality time with the special guys in your life and remind them to focus on their well-being. Encouraging them to make good lifestyle choices and ask a healthcare professional about natural remedies may help them enjoy many more summer barbecues, sports and games to come.
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