The walnut-shaped prostate may be a pleasure centre during sex, but most men don't give the small gland the time of day until there's trouble.
To keep yours free of enlargement, inflammation, infection and cancer, you need some good habits. Like lots of water and plenty of veggies.
You give your prostate an even better chance if you concentrate on organic produce and protein so you don't mess up your hormone balance with pesticides and additives. And make sure to get enough essential fatty acids (fish or flax oil ), zinc (found in raw oysters , raw pumpkin seeds , whole grains , fish , meat and brewer's yeast ) and vitamin B6 (in seeds , nuts , beans , bananas and avocados ) . Soy foods help your prostate ward off estrogen that can cause enlargement.
Alcohol, especially beer, will screw up your hormone balance if you consume it in excess over time, increasing your chances of problems with urination and other discomforts later in life.
Exercise , especially anything stretchy like yoga, keeps the blood flowing around your p-gland, but bike seats can put unhealthy pressure on it. A cut-out seat is a good investment. Care with weights is important, too; lifting too much too suddenly stresses your pelvic floor muscles and prostate.
Then there's sex. Always use a condom with casual partners, to evade not only HIV but also all kinds of other viruses and microbes that can cause infections and inflammation. And new evidence shows that orgasms may be protective. According to a study in The New Scientist that followed almost 30,000 men over eight years, those who ejaculated most often had significantly less risk of getting prostate cancer. Those who ejaculated 21 times a month were 33 per cent less likely to develop the disease.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"Flaxseed and fish oil help lower cholesterol. By-products of cholesterol can accumulate in the prostate and contribute to enlargement. Avoid retaining urine for long periods; urinary retention predisposes you to infections in the prostate and urinary tract. It's important not to get a chill in the pelvic area; that can cause a prostate spasm that contributes to urinary retention. Several herbs are useful for enlarged prostate, especially saw palmetto . The liver breaks down estrogen, thereby helping to prevent prostate enlargement. Dandelion root and milk thistle are excellent for the liver."
BRUCE ROBERTSON , medical herbalist, Toronto
"One way to keep the prostate healthy is through the correct amount of ejaculation. If your lower back starts to hurt, it may be a sign of ejaculating too much; if you're full of vim and vigour, you're doing fine. From a qi (energy) flow perspective, ejaculation is a natural flow of energy, an outlet for your creative energy. If that doesn't flow, that's where you get problems. If a man is blocked in expressing his creativity in his life, there might be prostate problems. Often it's fear that keeps our creative flow from us. Frequently, prostate problems occur in older men. That links back to feeling useful. We have a society that doesn't value age."
KALEB MONTGOMERY , traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto
"Don't eat protein and concentrated carbs at the same meal . Roughly, vegetables should be at least 60 per cent of your diet, meat and fish 30 per cent, carbs 10 per cent. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and genital herpes, plus non-specific bacterial infections, can all lead to inflammation of the prostate. Those with low-grade prostate inflammation should try to maintain regular ejaculation. What is regular? That's person-specific. Stress is an important factor in causing prostate inflammation. At stressful times, it's important to maintain fluid intake and physical activity and to relax or meditate ."
ILIA KAPLOUN , clinical nurse specialist, prostate clinic, Mount Sinai Hospital, sexual dysfunction assessment, Canadian Men's Clinic
"Exercise helps the circulation in the prostate area. Minimize alcohol and coffee, as these are definite prostate irritants. Green tea has a somewhat cleansing effect for the prostate, as well as anti-cancer effects. The lycopene in tomatoes seems to have an anti-cancer effect specifically for the prostate. It also works as an antioxidant and assists in keeping the prostate normal size. Other vegetables that appear to have an anti-cancer effect are those belonging to the brassica ( cabbage ) family. Studies of men who eat a lot of red meat seem to show a correlation with prostate enlargement and cancer. Milk thistle and stinging nettle root have a detoxifying effect on the prostate. In my clinical practice, they've reduced PSA levels and prostate enlargement."
JACOB SCHEER , naturopathic doctor, chiropractor, Toronto
"For hypertrophy (enlargement) of the prostate, the constitutional remedy has the best chance of success. The constitutional remedy treats the person with these complaints and also their mental and emotional states. We also advise people to use supplements that will help with the prostate. Vitamin C , zinc , vitamin B complex - all these things are very important."
VIOLETA NASTASE , homeopath, MD (Europe), teacher and clinic supervisor, Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine, Toronto