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The Prostate Puzzle: Deciphering the Symptoms of BPH and Prostate Cancer

I am extremely passionate about all thing’s health and well-being. This includes but is not limited male health. As a nutritionist I firmly believe that taking care of our bodies extends beyond just what we eat. It involves understanding and nurturing every aspect of our health, including our prostate. As men, we do not generally talk about our feelings, let alone health matters especially if it pertains to sexual health. This is probably out of fear of judgment maybe.

Regardless of this we must change the narrative, especially when we consider male suicide rates. In this article, we will unravel the prostate puzzle and discuss the symptoms of three common prostate related conditions: prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. So, let's delve into this vital topic and learn how to look after our prostate.

Know Your Prostate:

The prostate gland, despite its relatively small size compared to that of a walnut, plays a critical role in male health. Positioned just below the bladder and anterior to the rectum, it encircles the upper portion of the urethra, which serves as the conduit for the passage of urine out of the body. Consequently, any disruptions or abnormalities affecting the prostate can have a significant impact on urinary function and sexual health.

The Big 3:

The prostate is prone to three main conditions:

Prostatitis: infection or inflammation (swelling) of the prostate. It usually affects men aged between 30 and 50. It can be acute or chronic. Acute prostatitis is caused by an infection, usually by bacteria, and results in the sudden onset of painful urination, a small stream and often fever and chills. Other symptoms of acute prostatitis include pain, which may be severe, in or around your penis, testicles, anus, lower abdomen or lower back not to mention pooing can be painful. Chronic prostatitis, also known as chronic pelvic pain syndrome, is a less well-defined condition. Its symptoms include persistent or recurrent pelvic discomfort, pain or burning with urination, an increased urge to urinate, difficulty emptying the bladder, and/or painful ejaculation. The underlying cause can be a chronic inflammation with or without an infection, and often the exact reason for symptoms can’t be found. Treatment for treating prostatitis depends on the type. Acute prostatitis is usually treated with painkillers and a short course of antibiotics. Treating chronic prostatitis, is all about managing those pesky symptoms. Your doc might recommend a few things depending on how long you've been dealing with them. This may include paracetamol, antibiotics and laxatives if going for a number two is painful. They might give you an alpha-blocker to help with peeing problems. These little guys relax the muscles in your prostate gland and bladder base.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): ageing-related enlargement of the prostate gland usually occurring after the age of 50. As men get older, hormonal imbalances, particularly involving the male hormone testosterone and its conversion to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), can lead to the enlargement of the prostate. In some cases, the prostate can triple in mass which can affect how you pee. It’s important to note that an enlarged prostate does not mean you are at greater risk of prostate cancer than a man without an enlarged prostate. The exact cause of BPH is not fully understood, but it is believed to be influenced by a combination of factors, including genetics and hormonal changes. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include difficulty starting to pee, a frequent need to pee and difficulty fully emptying your bladder. BPH can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections, chronic urinary retention, and acute urinary retention (AUR). Symptoms of chronic urinary retention include weak flow when you pee and leaking pee at night. Acute urinary retention can manifest as suddenly not being able to pee at all, severe lower tummy pain and swelling of the bladder.

Prostate cancer is defined as the growth of cancerous cells inside the prostate. It occurs when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably, forming a malignant tumour. If left untreated, like other types of cancers, it may break out of the gland and affect other parts of the body such as the bones, lymph nodes, or other organs, which is known as metastasis. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, particularly those over the age of 50. However, not all prostate cancer cases are aggressive, and many progress slowly. Some men may live with prostate cancer without experiencing significant symptoms or adverse effects on their health. However, in some cases, prostate cancer can be aggressive and require immediate medical intervention.

Let’s take a moment to debunk a few Prostate cancer myths:

​Myth no. 1 - Lack of symptoms means there’s no prostate cancer.

Manifesting as asymptomatic, meaning that not all men experience symptoms at all, to a point whereby symptoms can be mistaken for something else. Quite often by the time symptoms are noticeable the cancer can be quite advanced.

Myth no. 2 – Prostate cancer needs treating immediately.

Men and their families stress about prostate cancer, and it's totally understandable. But here's the deal: sometimes, treatment doesn't have to happen right away. Like, if it's in the early stages or if the available treatments could bring more health issues. In most cases your doc will want to keep a close eye on the cancer through regular check-ups.

Myth no. 3 – A raised PSA level means you have prostate cancer.

Higher PSA levels can sometimes mean prostate cancer, but hold on, it's not always the case. It could be other factors like a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate can also make the PSA go up.

Myth no. 4 – My dad had prostate cancer, that means I will too.

Alright, listen up! If you've got prostate cancer running in the family, your chances of getting it might be a bit higher. But hey, don't freak out just yet! Having a family history doesn't guarantee you'll get it. It's like playing the genetic lottery, you know?

Myth no.5 – All prostate cancer treatment will ruin my sex life.

Some treatments, like hormone therapy, can mess with your mojo and lower your sex drive. And watch out for certain surgeries too because they might mess with your sensory nerves. But here's a glimmer of hope: there are other treatments out there that can be a game-changer. Take cryotherapy and HIFU, for example. They're gentler on your sex life 'cause they aim to preserve your prostate tissue, nerves, and seminal vesicles. These fancy focal treatments are all about being minimally invasive.

Supporting Prostate Health with Nutrition:

As a nutritionist, I firmly believe that a well-balanced diet plays a vital role in overall health, including prostate health. While diet alone cannot prevent or cure prostate problems, it can certainly support optimal prostate function. Here are a few dietary tips to keep in mind:

a) Include Plant-Based Foods: Aim for a colourful plate filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre that promote overall health.

b) Healthy Fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, fatty fish like salmon, and nuts. These fats provide essential nutrients and support inflammation reduction in the body.

c) Tomatoes and Lycopene: Tomatoes are known to be rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Studies suggest that lycopene may have a protective effect against prostate cancer. Include cooked tomatoes in your diet, as heat enhances lycopene absorption.

d) Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water is essential for optimal prostate health. It helps maintain urinary function and flush out toxins from your body.

e) Choose lean protein sources: opt for lean protein options like poultry, fish, beans, and legumes. Limit red meat consumption, as high intake has been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

f) Moderate dairy and calcium intake: Some studies suggest that excessive consumption of dairy products and calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Enjoy dairy in moderation and consider alternative calcium sources like fortified plant-based milk or leafy greens.

g) Moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine in moderation, may have some potential health benefits due to its antioxidant content. However, excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on overall health and potentially increase the risk of prostate-related issues, including prostate cancer

Regular Exercise and Healthy Lifestyle:

In addition to a nourishing diet, maintaining an active lifestyle is key to supporting prostate health. Engaging in regular exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, can help improve circulation, manage weight, and reduce the risk of various health conditions, including prostate problems.

In conclusion, deciphering the symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer is crucial for early detection and timely medical intervention. As a nutritionist, I urge you to be proactive in caring for your prostate. Combine a wholesome diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle to support optimal prostate function. Remember, prevention and awareness are the first steps towards maintaining a healthy prostate and overall wellbeing.


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