01.04.2021 Natural Health

Protecting the prostate

Olivier Lejus explores the function and foibles of the prostate gland.

When we consider the amount of maltreatment the male body casually absorbs on a regular basis, it is an incredibly resilient piece of machinery. Unfortunately, by the time it reaches its midlife, the accumulated years of neglect and abuse begin to take their toll, and the negative effects often occur in the most unlikely places.

The prostate gland is a male reproductive organ, roughly the size of a walnut located in the lower abdomen at the base of the bladder.

Its gland produces a fluid, which protects and feeds the sperm. A thin little tube called the urethra allows the semen and urine to flow from the prostate gland, or the bladder, out of the penis during the process of ejaculation or urination.

The prostate undergoes a first growth spurt from the rise of sex hormones in the testicles when a boy reaches puberty. Later, for still unknown reasons, a second growth spurt occurs when a man is in his thirties, and it slowly continues for the next four decades.

The prostate gland is a quiet achiever, doing its job unnoticed until a man reaches middle age. By then, the gradual expansion of the prostate gland tissue against the urethra often begins to affect the excretion of urine from the penis.

Many men now discover that, as they’ve become older, urination doesn’t flow as easily as it used to.

They find it more difficult to fully empty their bladder, so they need to go to the toilet more often. The construction of the urethra can sometimes cause urinary infection and, in some cases, a very serious medical condition called acute urinary retention, when urination becomes impossible.

A urinary flow test, which measures the difference between the amount of water ingested and urinated, will often be prescribed to assess the level of restriction, and a surgical procedure conducted to remove the excess tissue if required.

The good news is than an enlarged prostate doesn’t always cause urinary problems, and urinary symptoms don’t in most cases cause prostate cancer.

It is a slow developing form of cancer, which leaves men totally unaware of being affected for many years. Unfortunately, the early symptoms of prostate cancer (increasing difficulties starting urination in men over 50, inability to fully empty the bladder) are very similar to prostate enlargement disorder. However, as a general rule, experiencing bone and back pain, loss of appetite, pain in the testicles, blood in the urine or semen and unexplained weight loss should be warning signs that a visit to your GP is urgently required.

Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer in men in the UK. It is more frequent in men from African ethnic backgrounds, and rarely seen in the Asian male population.

We still don’t know what causes it, except that obesity increases the potential risks of contracting it.

Diagnosing prostate cancer has long been a very difficult process, and it still remains a controversial topic in the medical community.This is mainly due to the fact that Prostate Specific Antigen level (PSA) testing can be quite unreliable. This test often gives false positive results, which suggest the presence of a cancer, when there is none. Also, in 15% of cases, men with prostate cancer don’t show any elevated PSA levels.

In addition, while the testing can reveal aggressive forms of cancer that need to be taken care of urgently, it can also detect slow growing cancer pathology that will never cause any problems, or have any effects on the lifespan of the patient. This is a huge issue since prostate surgery is a very delicate procedure with potential risks of long-term incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

While treating prostate cancer in the early stages can have some benefits, due to the risks of side effects many men often decide to delay treatment until it is absolutely necessary.

Now men are offered an MRI scan to avoid unnecessary biopsy, but according to the British National Health Service website “more research is needed to determine whether the possible benefits of a screening programme would outweigh the harms of overdiagnosis”.

Can diet reduce the risk of contacting prostate cancer?

Definitely! The Cancer Prevention Study has demonstrated that men with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 32.5 kg/m2 are 35% more likely to die of prostate cancer than men whose BMI is less than 25. It has also been recorded that since the recent introduction of a more “Western” diet in Japan, there has been a significant increase in the rate of prostate cancer in the local population.

Once again, it seems that excess consumption of saturated fats in our diet is one of the main causative factors.

Several studies have shown that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants, and eating less meat, can help prevent cancer.

Considering that most overweight men with prostate cancer die from cardiovascular disease first, making dietary changes to reduce obesity, heart disease and diabetes would be a very good first step.

In addition, a gradual increase in aerobic exercise should definitely be a priority.

Olivier Lejus

Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practising in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specialises in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com