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Hormones and Prostate Health

The Prostate & Your Hormones

According to noted physician and author, Dr. John Lee, we probably all know a lot of men over 50 who have prostate problems and may not even be aware of them. They may not be sleeping well and need to visit the bathroom a number of times each night.

"It’s estimated that benign prostate disease affects over 40 percent of American men by age 50 and over 70 percent by age 60. The most common symptom is trouble with urination. These men may have urinary frequency (hence getting up at night), their urine flow may be decreased in force or rate, they may have urinary urgency, and they may feel that they haven't emptied the bladder (a sign of urinary retention), especially after drinking coffee. Urinary retention also makes them more susceptible to urinary tract infections," Dr. Lee states.

Consultation with his doctor about the problem will usually lead to an examination of the prostate through the rectum. Diagnosis of benign prostate hypertrophy (called BPH) is enlarged cells in the prostate gland or hyperplasia, enlarged by greater numbers of cells in the prostate.

Traditional Medicines Prescribed for the Prostate

Typically, doctors may prescribe the drug terazosin (Hytrin) to relax urinary sphincter muscles, or the drug finasteride (Proscar) which inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT, a compound believed to stimulate prostate cell growth, or hyperplasia). Or, transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), the surgical coring-out of the urine passageway through the prostate, is suggested. Unfortunately, this surgical procedure often results in dribbling problems. The success rate of the drugs used in traditional treatment is not found to be consistent. A 1996 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that finasteride (the hyperplasia inhibitor) had some benefit for men with considerable prostate gland enlargement, but not those with more normal-sized prostate glands.

Natural alternatives such as saw palmetto berry and nettle root similarly inhibit 5-alpha reductase, and are just as effective as finasteride. Even though they offered benefits when dealing with BPH, neither saw palmetto berry nor finasteride prevent prostate cancer.

Sex Hormones Play A Vital Part in Prostate Disease and Health

According to Dr. John Lee, a man’s body fat will convert male hormones into estrogen, as many women experience as they get older. "Some physicians advocate using aromatase-inhibiting drugs (such as Arimidex) that inhibit the conversion of adrenal-generated androstenedione (a male hormone) into estrone (an estrogen) in body fat. Estrone is then available to be converted to estradiol. The rationale for this treatment is the understanding that estrogen is a growth-stimulating hormone in prostate tissue."

"This leads us to the hypothesis that the balance of estradiol to progesterone and/or to testosterone is an important factor in prostate disease," said Dr. Lee. Prostate levels of estradiol begin to rise as men get older - at the same time, levels of progesterone and testosterone decline. The decline in testosterone and progesterone levels is greater than the rise of estradiol. Men over 60 have a far lower ratio of testosterone to estradiol (T/E2) than those at 40.

Studies in the U.S., Germany and Japan have determined that not only is the T/E2 ratio lower in men after age 40, those men with the lowest T/E2 ratio are the ones most likely to develop BPH.

The Progesterone Protector

Progesterone is very important in the protection against prostate disease. Progesterone, like finasteride and saw palmetto berry, inhibits 5-alpha reductase, and in turn, inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Progesterone helps raise testosterone levels, and helps lower the level of the more growth-stimulating DHT. Progesterone, like testosterone, helps burn fat for energy and as a result, can help keep men from becoming obese. Men who have less body fat, produce less estrone. Since progesterone and testosterone stimulate the gene, p53, protection is created from the oncogene (cancer-causing) Bcl-2, and healthy apoptosis (normal cell death) is stimulated.

On the other side of the coin, Estradiol stimulates Bcl-2 production, which increases the risk of cancer. It is a viable conclusion that men have good reason to restore the same progesterone and testosterone levels that they had as younger men.

You Can Restore Your Hormone Balance

Hormone balance is not difficult to accomplish. A hormone level test is a good place to start so that you have clinical evidence that you do indeed have hormonal imbalance.

Dr. Lee recommends just 6 to 8 mg per day of progesterone in a cream or gel to raise low saliva progesterone levels to normal healthy levels.

Defense Against Prostate Cancer- Some Non-Drug Treatments for BPH

Many products for the prostate contain various combinations of these ingredients. (See our Turbo ProRenew cream for men.)

  • Saw Palmetto berry extract, according to Jonathan Wright, M.D., not only inhibits 5-alpha-reductase but also blocks DHT binding to prostatic androgen receptors, reduces prostatic edema (swelling), inhibits estradiol and antagonizes alpha-adrenergic receptors.
  • Nettle root (may inhibit aromatase, reducing conversion of androgens to estrogen).
  • Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, lycopene (found in cooked tomatoes), and vitamin C.
  • Polyphenols (e.g., catechins, found in green tea.)
  • Ellagic acid (found in nuts and raspberries) may trigger beneficial apoptosis.
  • Zinc (low zinc levels correlate with increased prostate disease). Be sure to get extra copper if you're taking zinc for longer than a few weeks.

©Alternative Medicine Network 2009

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