What is the prostate gland?
You have likely heard of this gland, but may not know where it is or what it does. All men have a prostate gland. It is located near your bladder in front of your rectum. The prostate gland surrounds the urethra. The urethra is the opening that carries urine and semen through the penis and out of the body.
The purpose of your prostate is to secrete fluid during ejaculation, and protect the sperm. This is what constitutes a man’s semen.
Why is it important to pay attention to your prostate gland’s health?
- Prostate cancer –
This is the number one cancer in men! In fact, it affects one out of every eight men. If caught early, prognosis is good. Your risk of prostate cancer increases at age 50 and above. However, it is suggested that you see your physician when you are younger or if you have a family history of this disease, so that he/she can determine your baseline health status.
- Enlarged prostate –
The medical term for this is “benign prostatic hypertrophy” or “BPH,” for short. As you get older, your prostate gland grows gradually. Almost all men over age 50 have some degree of enlargement of their prostate gland.
Because the prostate surrounds your urethra, it can make it more difficult to urinate.
This condition affects half of all men by the time they reach age 60, although not all men experience symptoms.
An enlarged prostate is not cancerous, however it displays some of the same symptoms as prostate cancer. It can result in bladder infections or kidney damage, if you do not see a doctor. It can also result in erectile dysfunction.
What are the signs and symptoms that there may be problems with your prostate gland?
- Frequent need to urinate, including at nighttime
- Urgent need to urinate
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Ejaculation hurts
- Weak urine stream
- Blood in urine or ejaculate
- Dribbling urine
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to see your physician so that he/she can determine what is causing them.
What are some of the things that men can do to maintain a healthy prostate?
- Healthy eating –
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains is recommended, as it increases your fiber and antioxidant consumption. This equates to a diet low in fat. Choose almond or coconut milk instead of regular milk. If you do have dairy, choose only skim or low-fat products.
Also be sure to include more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. You can get this from fatty, cold water fish such as salmon or in supplement form.
- Healthy cooking –
Instead of cooking with saturated fats such as butter, choose olive oil or coconut oil. Grill instead of fry.
- Stay a healthy weight –
Exercise and choice of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods works best for losing weight, and maintaining a healthy one too. If you do not currently exercise, always be sure to discuss this with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Use of supplements –
In addition to omega 3’s already mentioned above, supplementation with zinc and saw palmetto get mixed reviews. However, it is known that the prostate gland contains the highest levels of zinc than most other body tissues, but that men with enlarged prostates or prostate cancer have decreased zinc levels. Saw palmetto has also long been used for treatment of enlarged prostate. It is best to get the advice of a natural health practitioner before starting any new supplements to ensure that you do not have any adverse reactions.
- See your doctor regularly –
Your doctor can catch problems early so do not wait until it is too late. Your doctor can do screening tests to check your prostate health, as well as check your cholesterol levels, which may also play a role in prostate health.