Letter from Dr. Janson
Diet for Prostate Health
Lifestyle and The Prostate
Supplements for The Prostate
St. John's Wort and PMS
In the Health News
Recipe of the Month: Desserts You Can Live
Although alternative medicine is increasingly in the atmosphere
of medical institutions, the use of natural remedies still
seems to disturb physicians when it is seen as a replacement
for drug therapies. This tendency is seen in a recent medical
article critical of using herbs for depression and other illnesses,
followed by yet another article showing the safety and benefits
of St. Johns wort for depression.
It also seems true regarding treatments for the prostate
gland, for inflammation, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or
cancer. Here is a review for men (and the women who love them)
of a comprehensive approach to maintaining prostate health.
You can do a lot with natural remedies to prevent and
treat prostate problems. The prostate gland is a male organ
about the size of a walnut that sits below and behind the
bladder, made up of glandular tissue, ducts, muscle tissue,
and fibrous tissue. It surrounds the urethra, the urine outflow
tract from the bladder, and it produces prostatic fluids that
combine with sperm from the testicles and other secretions
to form semen. These fluids help sperm survive and improve
Some prostate muscle fibers surround the urethra and help
with urination. With orgasm, the muscles push some of the
prostate fluid with some of the sperm from the testicles into
the urethra and out through the penis. Although it is small,
its strategic location leads to far more health problems and
medical care costs than would be predicted from its size alone.
More than 50 percent of men over the age of forty have
prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH),
and after eighty it is 80 to 90 percent, leading to urinary
symptoms. Surgery to remove prostate tissue is a common procedure,
but not always necessary. About 10 percent of men end up having
prostate surgery at some time, but natural treatments may
help men avoid it.
The prostate can become inflamed as a result of infection
with bacteria, or even more frequently other organisms, leading
to local aching, pain, and burning on urination. This prostatitis,
can be acute or chronic. The prostate is also subject to cellular
changes that lead to cancer, the most common cancer in men.
Prostate cancers are often undiagnosed, and only found at
autopsy when a man dies from other causes. As with many other
cancers, diet and lifestyle may play a significant role in
the development of prostate cancer.
Natural remedies are usually the best way to prevent and
treat all prostate problems, including BPH, prostatitis, and
cancer, although conventional treatments are sometimes necessary
to relieve symptoms, pain, and obstruction of the urine flow.
Diets low in saturated fat and high in carotenoids,
flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are beneficial
for prostate health. These are primarily vegetables and fruits.
Studies have linked increased consumption of animal fats to
the development of advanced prostate cancer.
Protective foods also include whole grains, nuts, seeds,
fish, and soy foods. For men with prostate cancer, the risk
of dying from it was tripled among those with the highest
animal fat consumption compared to those with the lowest.
Diets that are rich in plant-based nutrients also help BPH.
Avoid hydrogenated oils that interfere with normal fatty acid
Contamination of foods with pesticides and hormones is a
further problem related to food choices. Both of these affect
hormone balance, and as a result can interfere with prostate
tissue. Choosing organic foods is best, especially if you
choose to consume meat, chicken, and dairy products.
Regular exercise is also helpful for prevention of
BPH. Men who walked two to three hours a week had a much lower
risk of developing prostate enlargement and a lower risk of
ever needing prostate surgery. Physical activity also reduced
symptoms in men with BPH. In general, moderate exercise also
lowers cancer risks.
Smoking increases symptoms of BPH for reasons that are not
clear. Perhaps it interferes with nutritional factors or hormones.
It is clearly associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.
Small amounts of alcohol, on the other hand, were associated
with decreased symptoms. However, with larger intakes of alcohol,
the apparent benefits were lost. Coffee drinking appears to
increase the risk of prostate cancer but tea does not.
Many supplements help relieve the urinary tract symptoms
of BPH, as well as prevent and treat prostate cancer. They
also help reduce the symptoms of inflammation,or prostatitis.
Specific supplements for treatment include zinc and vitamin
E, essential fatty acids such as GLA (240 mg from borage oil),
and omega-3 oils such as flaxseed oil (1 to 2 tablespoons
a day) or fish oil (600 to 1200 mg of omega-3 oils per day).
If you have symptoms, you should also consider taking botanical
products such as saw palmetto (300 to 500 mg daily of standardized
extract), pygeum (50 to 75 mg), and nettle (500 to 750 mg).
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the extract of a berry from
a small palm tree that grows on the southeastern coast of
the United States. In many studies it has been shown to help
prostate symptoms. In fact, in comparing it with the approved
drug Proscar, it does a better job of reducing frequency,
urgency, nighttime urinations, difficulty starting and stopping
urine flow, and the amount of residual urine left in the bladder.
It has been common to recommend large doses of zinc for BPH,
in the range of 100 to 150 mg daily. However, I now recommend
only 30 to 80 mg. Very large doses can interfere with normal
copper absorption and they may lower the good HDL cholesterol
levels. When you take a variety of nutrients for prostate
treatment, larger doses of zinc are unnecessary.
For prostate cancer, and other cancers, I suggest high doses
of vitamin C (in the range of 10 grams a day), plus extra
selenium, an anti-free radical mineral, and large doses of
coenzyme Q10 (400 mg a day or more in a chewable form for
better absorption). I would also add some Chinese herbs (one
of the brands, called PC-SPES, has been shown to reverse prostate
cancer, but it may also have some estrogenic side effects).
Other supplements for cancer may also help, including calcium
D-glucarate, beta 1-3 glucan, and transfer factor, all to
support immune function or detoxification. This comprehensive
program prevents and treats prostate problems.
A new article shows that St. Johns wort helps with premenstrual
syndrome to relieve the anxiety and depression that often
accompanies it. Although it was only a pilot study, it is
an important indicator. This is only part of a complete treatment
program for PMS. Women with PMS also benefit from better diets
(no sugar or hydro genated oils), regular exercise, and meditation.
In addition, I usually recommend supplements of GLA(240 mg),
magnesium (500 to 1000 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), and vitamin
B6 (250 mg) as part of a comprehensive program for PMS.
Although I covered St. Johns wort and depression in
August, a new report in the September issue Psychiatric Services
requires comment. An article cautioned against using herbs,
such as St. Johns wort, for psychiatric symptoms, kava
kava and valerian for anxiety, and ginkgo for memory, suggesting
that the supportive information is not yet certain.
These authors are operating under the misconception that
psychiatric drugs in common use are certain in their benefits
and in their risk-benefit ratio. This is not true. Controversy
abounds in this field, and the drugs have many side effects,
and sometimes serious consequences.
Even though there may be faults with some of the herb studies,
they consistently show benefits with minimal risk of a few
mild side effects. Even these authors pointed out that in
all of the controlled studies, St. Johns wort was better
than placebo and as effective as the drugs, but far safer.
It seems to me that their caution is misplaced because in
the same month yet another study appeared showing that St.
Johns wort was better than antidepressant drugs for
mild to moderate psychiatric depression. Just how much proof
do they need?
Regarding ginkgo, 39 of 40 controlled studies showed benefits
for memory loss, concentration, fatigue, anxiety, and depression,
but still the authors were not convinced! If it were me or
my family members, I would certainly want to try ginkgo, considering
the side benefits of improved circulation that ginkgo provides.
(I combine ginkgo with phosphatidyl serine for greater benefits
to brain function.)
The review showed similar support for kava kava and valerian
for anxiety and sleep disturbances.
Ginkgo and Ginseng Together
It appears from some recent reports that ginkgo and ginseng
work together to improve memory and cognitive function in
adults. At a meeting of the World Psychiatry Congress in Brussels,
a Dr. Wesnes updated his study from 1997, reporting improved
attention, concentration, and hand-eye coordination. These
results confirm that natural products help the brain.
It is thought that ginkgo works on the small blood vessels
in the brain to improve circulation. It is also beneficial
in other circulatory disorders, such as claudication, visual
disturbances, migraines, and Raynauds phenomenon (spasms
of the blood vessels in the hands in response to cold).
A number of studies have shown that American ginseng (Panax
quinquefolium) and Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) can help
memory and performance in animals when challenged with certain
It has also been shown that ginkgo and vitamin E can significantly
delay the progression of Alzheimers disease. In learning-disabled
children, supplements of magnesium, B-vitamins, zinc, and
vitamin C can boost performance.
A diet that is mainly vegetarian lowers both
blood pressure and homocysteine levels, but it is better to
include some fish, nuts, and seeds in the diet. In the hypertension
study, the diet was reduced in fats, red meats, sweets, and
sugar-containing beverages (Conlin PR, et al., Am J Hypertens
2000 Sep;13(9):949-55), but adding whole grains, nuts, and
the animal products (not red meat) improved results, probably
because the omega-3 oils in fish and nuts have an antihypertensive
effect. In the homocysteine study (Appel LJ, Circulation 2000
Aug 22;102:852-857) the combination diet also was better at
lowering homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease. These
authors conclude that it is clear that heart disease is the
result of adverse lifestyle habits, and that it is preventable.
I used to say that if someone needed high dose B12
they would have to take injections, but in recent studies
(Delpre G, et al., Lancet 1999 Aug 28;354(9180):740-1) it
turns out that sublingual B12 in high doses is adequate for
most purposes. Daily doses of 1000 to 2000 mcg provide significant
increases in blood levels in only a few days (although it
is possible that some people might benefit even more from
Another study refutes the position of antagonists
to whole grains in the diet (Liu S, et al., Am J Public Health
2000 Sep;90(9):1409-15). This report shows that whole grains
(whole wheat, brown rice,oatmeal, etc.) reduce the risk of
type 2 diabetes, while refined grains increased the risk.
The results were not explained by dietary fiber, magnesium,
or vitamin E intake. The authors speculate that the benefit
might be due to phytochemicals or antioxidants other than
the usual vitamins.
We all like some treats, and here is a healthy one. Buy some
silken tofu (custardy consistency) and put it in a food processor
(I use a VitaMix) with frozen bananas, carob powder, natural
vanilla, and a small amount of honey or maple syrupit
makes a great pudding, served with some shredded almonds and
coconut on top.
Another simple dessert idea: bake a banana in its peel (with
a small slit in it) until its soft and the peel is black,
squeeze it open from the ends, add a few drops of vanilla,
a sprinkle of cinnamon, and serve it in the skin with a spoon.
It is a real treat, takes little effort, and it will wow your
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