Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
An interesting thing happened to me during my gym workout last week. During my routine, I noticed a middle-aged man watching me. I had not seen him at the gym before, but by his physique, it was apparent that he was a regular patron. His observation continued, and since I didn't recognize him, I began to wonder what his intentions were. As I was leaving, the man conspicuously approached me (despite his best attempts to go unnoticed,) and quietly asked if I was Dr. P? With hesitation, I confirmed. Then after looking around to see if anyone was listening, he then asked if I knew of any alternative treatments for prostate enlargement?
More surprised by his reluctance than his question or the environment where it was asked, it occurred to me that many of my male patients were similarly reserved when it came to their health. I wondered why this was the case. Was it associated with the stigma that men are stereotypically supposed to be strong, that some men underestimate their need for care, or overestimate their health? I had no answer, and decided to consult my friend, a clinical psychologist. She said no formal research had ever been conducted to answer my question, but she believed that men today were becoming more self-aware, and not only looking to improve their health, but also quality of life. I liked the sound of this because optimal health and well being is what I promote for all my patients, whether male or female. This month's column addresses the man's concern, which is estimated to affect most men during their lifetime.
Q. Are there any alternative treatments for prostate enlargement?
A. Yes, but before any treatment is recommended, a proper diagnosis is required to determine if your enlargement is infectious, malignant, or benign. For this, see your naturopathic or conventional doctor. Symptoms can include frequent urination, dysuria (or pain with urination), urgency, reduced force of urine, nocturia (or waking to urinate at night), incomplete emptying of the bladder, discharges, or even bleeding. A digital exam is appropriate, lab and diagnostic studies including a urinalysis, a PSA (prostate specific antigen,) an ultrasound, and biopsy of the prostate gland can also help.
If your diagnosis is prostatitis, or an infection/ inflammation of the prostate gland, natural medicine can help you. Prostatitis is often chronic in nature, and when so is ineffectively treated with antibiotics which are commonly prescribed. Many herbs such as Arctostaphylous uva-ursi, Urtica dioica, Pygeum africanum, Barosma serratifolia, Solidago virgaurea, and Chimaphila umbellata have traditionally been helpful in treating prostatitis. Your natural medicine prescription would account for your specific symptom picture, any medications you take, your dietary habits, and the acuteness or chronicity of your condition. Eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, for at least the short term, is also helpful.
If you have malignant enlargement of the prostate as diagnosed after digital exam/ ultrasound, and biopsy, you must consult an oncologist for treatment. Naturopathic therapies can however help by complementing the effectiveness and reducing the side effects of conventional cancer treatments of the prostate or other areas. In this case you would need an integrated M.D./ N.D. approach, which is my preference for many conditions. Natural therapies for your cancer would be based on your very unique situation. Sorry, no recipe approach with this one!
If you have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), natural medicine may be for you. The botanical medicine Serenoa repens (AKA Saw palmetto) which is widely prescribed in Europe for BPH is particularly effective. Comparison of studies with Serenoa repens and the most commonly prescribed drug Finesteride (or Proscar®) showed Serenoa repens as superior in treatment of BPH. Serenoa was near 90% effective in patients vs. Proscar's less than 50% efficacy. A typical dose for a standardized extract of Serenoa repens is 160mg twice a day-- see your naturopathic doctor for dosing specific to your needs. With BPH it's also important to limit alcohol, caffeine, and assure adequate zinc intake to support your prostate's health. Many naturopaths typically prescribe Serenoa in combination with Pygeum africanum and Urtica dioica, as well as dietary modifications to achieve an even better result than with Serenoa alone. Be well!
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