The Prostate is a bulb-shaped gland that goes round the urethra just where it leaves the bladder, so when it swells up urination becomes a problem.

The first symptoms that are typically experienced include finding it hard to urinate, wanting to urinate often, a burning sensation when you do, or blood in the urine. However, many cases often aren’t spotted until quite late because the basic method of diagnosing an enlarged prostate is my rectal examination and many men prefer to avoid that. For cancers there is now a prostate-specific antigen test.

The prostate’s job is to add acids, trace elements, and enzymes to seminal fluid at the moment of ejaculation; these activate the sperm and give semen its distinctive smell. With age and changing hormone levels, prostate tends to enlarge and stiffen. About a third of cases clear up of their own accord, but an enlarged prostate can cause related infection in the bladder and the kidneys.

In cancer cases doctors are increasingly recognizing a connection with high-fat diets. Cancer of the prostate is rare in Japan and China, for instance, where low-fat diets containing lots of vegetables and fish are the norm.

How can we help

Changes in the level of several hormones are involved with prostate enlargement, but the key one is a version of the testosterone, known as dihydrotestosterone (D.H.T.). Reducing levels of D.H.T. reduces the size of the prostate. D.H.T. levels go up with alcohol (especially beer) consumption and with stress, and come down with zinc and Vitamin B6. Zinc also cuts down the rate at which testosterone is converted to D.H.T.

Conditions favouring an increase in D.H.T. include exposure to pesticides and other drugs found in the environment such as dioxin and biphenyls. Therefore a diet of natural whole foods is advised. Also recommended are various supplements – calcium, magnesium, bioflavonoid, and carotenes-which can help the body deal with the presence of toxic chemicals. The herbs saw palmetto and ginseng both inhibit the production of D.H.T.

Supplements of essential fatty acids (linseed or oil of evening primrose) should also produce improvement, as may adding amino acids to the diet.