Prostate Health
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Laurance Johnston, Ph.D.

Physical disability, especially spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, in men often results in significant sexual dysfunction. Under such circumstances, the last thing one needs is to have these sexual problems further aggravated by prostate disorders.

Affecting not just elderly men, prostate disorders are much more common than would be expected in middle-aged individuals. For example, over half of 40-59 year-old meHealthy Foods for the Prostaten have enlarged prostates, and, although most will not develop clinically significant disease, one fourth of 50-year olds have some cancerous cells in their prostate.

Due to the problem’s magnitude, this article’s purpose is to highlight various prostate-enhancing nutritional, herbal, or alternative medicine approaches that may help one avert more serious pharmaceutical and surgical therapies. Using these preventive approaches should not, however, lull one into foregoing regular prostate-screening exams.

The prostate, located below the bladder, is a walnut-size gland that produces seminal fluid.  Because the gland surrounds the urethra that drains the bladder, prostate disorders often affect urination. The three most common disorders are 1) an inflammatory infection called prostatitis; 2) benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a prevalent non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate; and 3) cancer, the most frequent male malignancy.

Prostate disorders are associated with age-related changes in steroid sex hormones.  After age 40, testosterone declines, and a testosterone variant called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and the female-associated hormone estrogen increase. DHT stimulates cell growth and, in turn, prostate enlargement. By inhibiting DHT elimination, estrogen has the same effect.

Food and Nutrient Supplements:

Prostate dysfunction has been called a nutritional disease. It is much more common in developed Western countries that emphasize animal-derived foods, such as red meat, dairy products, and eggs, all foods that tend to accumulate environmental toxins. In contrast, fruit- and vegetable-rich diets exert a protective effect.

Scientific studies are challenging some entrenched views on what we have traditionally considered nutritionally wholesome foods. For example, growing evidence suggests that milk may be bad for the prostate. Overall, countries that consume the most milk have the highest incidence of prostate cancer. The culprit appears to be milk’s calcium. Excessive calcium intake, regardless of source, apparently suppresses the synthesis of a form of vitamin D that inhibits prostate cancer.

In contrast, men who consume tomatoes, tomato-based foods (e.g., ketchup, pasta, etc.), guavas, watermelon, and pink grapefruit are reportedly less likely to get prostate cancer. These foods contain a powerful antioxidant agent called lycopene (see that gives them their characteristic red color. Available as a nutritional supplement, lycopene not only prevents prostate cancer but also may reduce existing tumor size.

Another prostate-protecting food is fructose, the sugar in fruit that is used to sweeten many foods. Overall, its consumption is associated with a reduced prostate-cancer risk. Unlike calcium, fructose stimulates the production of a vitamin D form that inhibits tumors.

Several trace nutrients that are often deficient in our diet also enhance prostate health. For example, a lack of zinc especially affects the prostate because this gland uses it much more than any other body part. By altering steroid hormone metabolism, zinc supplementation can reduce prostate enlargement. Interestingly, pumpkin seeds, a traditional folk remedy promoting male reproductive and prostate health, are rich in zinc.

Selenium is another often-deficient trace nutrient that is essential for prostate health. Increasing selenium intake, whether through supplements or selenium-rich foods (e.g., Brazil nuts), has been shown to reduce prostate-cancer risk.

Other nutritional factors that may inhibit prostate cancer include vitamin D; vitamin E, an antioxidant that inhibits cancer growth; soy-based foods, which contain the cancer-inhibiting agent genistein; and garlic, which possess cancer-fighting, sulfur-containing compounds.

Herbal Remedies:

In Europe, herbal remedies are widely used to treat prostate disorders. In America, however, a regulatory charade makes these remedies available by pretending that they are merely dietary supplements (insert link). Because of the extensive scientific base that often supports their use, they are much more than folk remedies.

Foremost among these herbs is saw palmetto, isolated from the berries of a small palm tree common to the U.S.’s southeastern coastal region. A traditional Native American remedy, saw palmetto reduces prostate enlargement by inhibiting the synthesis of growth-stimulating DHT and promoting DHT elimination by lowering estrogen levels.

Many clinical studies demonstrate saw palmetto’s effectiveness. In fact, the herb works better in treating prostate enlargement than the frequently prescribed drug Proscar. Specifically, saw palmetto was shown to be effective in nearly 90% of patients after 4-6 weeks, while Proscar works in fewer than a half the patients after a year. And since the drug is less effective, much more expensive, and its major side effect is erectile dysfunction, choosing saw palmetto seems self-evident.

Often administered with saw palmetto, another herbal heavyweight is pygeum. An indigenous African remedy obtained from tree bark, studies indicate that pygeum can treat BPH and prostatitis. The herb also contains chemicals that inhibit DHT-associated prostate enlargement.

A third herbal remedy is Cernilton, a popular European product prepared from the extract of mainly rye pollen. Numerous studies document Cernilton’s ability to treat BPH and prostatitis (see

Finally, stinging nettle is a traditional herbal folk remedy for many ailments, including prostate disorders. Clinical studies indicate that the herb (marketed as Bazoton in Europe) also can relieve BPH symptoms.


Homeopathy is a popular alternative healing tradition that offers several remedies for prostate disorders. Although often confused with herbal and nutritional therapies that bear similar names, homeopathy is based on fundamentally different principles. With homeopathy’s like-cures-like philosophy, substances that cause symptoms of illness in healthy people can be used in exceedingly low doses to cure similar symptoms from illness. According to the “Consumer Guide to Homeopathy” (Dana Ullman, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), homeopathic remedies for prostate disorders include Chimaphilla umbellata, Pulsatilla, Clematis, Apis, Staphysagria, Selenium, Baryta carb, Kali bic, and Causticum.  

Magnetic Fields:

Evidence suggests that cancers can be treated with magnetic fields. As such, it has been suggested that prostate tumor growth can be inhibited by sitting for several hours a day on a magnet (e.g., magnetic pad). Because the north-pole-associated field - the side that attracts the north-pole-seeking end of a compass needle - slows down biological growth while the south-pole field stimulates growth, cancers should be treated with only the magnet’s north-pole field.


One way or another, economic factors pervasively influence our health. For example, the dairy industry relentlessly promotes milk’s benefits to adults in spite of much evidence to the contrary, and ketchup producers now portray the condiment as a health food. It is hard to know who to listen to. Physicians, upon whom we rely on for advice, listen mostly to profit-motivated drug companies when it concerns our medicines and have had little training in nutritional, herbal, or alternative healing approaches.

Even though 1) safer, less expensive, and more effective options are often available, 2) h a blue-ribbon federal health advisory committee concluded that way too many prostate surgeries are being performed, and 3) everyone complains about soaring medical costs, American men still spend billions of dollars annually on surgical and pharmaceutical treatments, often possessing serious side effects. Knowledge is power. If we don’t want economic factors influencing our health, we need to reclaim more responsibility for it and further educate ourselves on healing options.


You can purchase most of the supplements and products referenced throughout this article at nutritional stores, through mail-order catalogs, or on the Internet.

Adapted From article appearing Paraplegia News, May 2001 (For subscriptions, contact

Literature References for Natural Prostate Health


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