The prostate is a walnut-sized gland positioned in the lower abdomen just below the urinary bladder.
The gland surrounds the main tube (called the urethra) that passes through the penis to carry urine to the outside world.
The gland′s primary purpose is to provide seminal fluid for the male ejaculate during sexual intercourse. A properly functioning prostate gland and its surrounding nerve bundles are essential for proper sexual function.
The prostate is one of the few organs that encounters a growth spurt with aging. This growth typically starts around 50 or 60 years of age and may continue for years. It results in an enlarged prostate; a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
It is estimated that about fifty percent of the male population will develop BPH as they age beyond 50, with the percentage increasing with age.
By itself, BPH is not a severe medical problem. Contrary to many myths, it does not lead to prostate cancer, but its symptoms can become burdensome. Mostly these are symptoms of urinary dysfunction, otherwise known as lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), but they can also include erectile dysfunction, inability to reach an orgasm, pain on arousal or orgasm, kidney problems, and various urinary problems.
BPH is typically managed with the help of a urologist. It is a progressive disorder that is best managed without resulting in aggressive techniques. While aggressive techniques may help resolve symptoms, they may also result in undesired side effects. So, does an enlarged prostate cause ed? We will discuss this in today’s article.
What is Prostate Enlargement
Enlargement of the prostate (BPH) occurs when the prostate gland cells begin to multiply and cause the prostate gland to swell. This swelling tends to compress the urethra, limiting urine flow and causing symptoms known as lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). BPH is a condition that many men encounter with aging.
Most of the symptoms of BPH are associated with urinary function. They are:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Urinary retention – inability to empty the bladder
- An intense urge to urinate, even shortly after urinating
- A weak urine stream or an interrupted urine stream
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
While BPH itself is not a directly linked cause of sexual problems, most men that suffer from it do indeed find it affects sexual performance. Some common sexual side effects of BPH are:
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Orgasm problems or inability to have an orgasm
- Loss of sensation
- Inability to maintain an erection
- Decreased libido
Of the many symptoms caused by BPH, one of the most common complaints men have when visiting a urologist is Erectile Dysfunction or ED. This is defined as the inability of a man to attain or maintain an erection sufficient for vaginal penetration and satisfactory sexual performance.
While BPH does not directly cause it, many men with BPH seek medical attention to relieve ED.
What Causes Prostate Enlargement?
Multiple factors cause prostate enlargement. Documented causes include specific medications, some of which are commonly used for prostate problems, as well dietary issues, disease processes, and hormonal imbalances.
Nutritional and dietary issues are known to be common causes of BPH. A diet heavily laden with animal fat is one of the most significant causes. Foods known to have high levels of animal fat include red meat and dairy products.
Aside from BPH, a diet high in animal fats is also known for causing cardiac problems and diabetes. Increasing epidemiological evidence suggests that these foods significantly increase the risk of developing BPH.
Medications for Prostate Enlargement
Typical medications used to treat prostate issues are Finasteride (Proscar), dutasteride (Avodart), and tamsulosin (Flomax). Finasteride and dutasteride are 5-alpha reductase inhibitors that reduce the amount of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme in the blood. This enzyme converts testosterone in the blood into estrogen. High levels of estrogen exacerbate prostate growth and can result in BPH.
Men with high estrogen levels also tend to develop breast enlargement (gynecomastia). Any man who spends a lot of time at the gym has probably noticed older men with enlarged breasts due to a high estrogen level. Enlarged male breasts are an outward indicator, but BPH is most likely also present inwardly.
Tamsulosin is an alpha-blocker that works by relaxing the prostate and bladder muscles so that urine flows easier.
Each of these drugs has a profile of severe sexual side effects. Alpha-blockers can lead to difficulty ejaculating, and 5-alpha reductase inhibitors can destroy libido ( sex drive) as well as alter the sensation of orgasm or interfere with erections. For example, in several studies, Finasteride has been shown to increase the risk for men with BPH to develop erectile dysfunction.
Surgical Treatments for BPH
While many doctors claim to treat prostate enlargement with surgery, such claims are almost always related to improving urinary function. Since the prostate surrounds the urethra, symptoms of BPH almost always involve urinary function. If a man has severe urinary issues or blockage, surgery may help.
Some doctors recommend removing the prostate (radical prostatectomy) to resolve the urinary issues in severe cases. The prostatectomy will likely resolve the urinary issues, but the surgery’s side effects will surely deteriorate the man′s quality of life.
Surgery should never be the first choice to relieve problems associated with BPH. Any urologist recommending surgery as a first-line treatment for BPH is not providing patients with the best advice. Every surgery has side effects. Some can be minor and others life-altering. Many solutions can make BPH more tolerable without destroying a man′s quality of life.
Natural Treatments for BPH Induced Erectile Dysfunction
As mentioned above, many doctors consider that BPH does not directly cause ED. However, most studies also show that men with serious BPH also suffer from ED.
Both maladies are often a result of lifestyle and nutritional deficiencies. For example, many men, when tested, show a deficiency in the mineral Zinc. The prostate is an organ that requires zinc in order to function normally. Thus a zinc deficiency may result in prostate issues that span multiple symptoms, BPH and ED, among them.
Many BPH symptoms can be helped by the use of herbal remedies, particularly saw palmetto and pygeum herbal extracts. Urinary issues can be helped using a flower pollen extract. Other natural prostate supplements include:
- Rye Grass Pollen Extract
- Ellagic Acid
Erectile dysfunction can often be improved by the use of medications called PDE-5 inhibitors. This includes the trade names of Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra at present. However, while these medications may improve or facilitate sexual function, they do nothing to solve the underlying problem.
Unfortunately, the dietary habits of the public do not foster healthy living. Poor eating habits tend to cause hormonal and nutritional disturbances. These imbalances add up. When severe enough, they can cause prostate enlargement, erectile dysfunction, or any one of a host of associated symptoms.
For example, men with erectile dysfunction due to prostate enlargement may indeed have cardiac insufficiency that results in poor blood flow to the groin area and is the root of the sexual dysfunction. As these cardiac issues progress, blood flow is inhibited to both the prostate and the penis, making BPH and ED more severe.
Lifestyle and Diet – Root Causes of BPH and ED
The root cause of erectile dysfunction, whether it comes as a result of BPH or not, is almost always a blood circulation issue.
To achieve a satisfactory erection, a man must have relatively decent blood circulation throughout his body. The penis becomes erect through a series of neurological and physical processes.
The neurological process occurs in the brain when the man becomes sexually aroused. It initiates physical, sexual arousal, which then triggers the process of inflating the penis with blood to achieve a sufficient erection.
However, if arteries are clogged with plaque deposits, they certainly cannot deliver adequate blood flow to the penis for an erection. Thus, the erection is either weak, subsides quickly, or is non-existent. The most common circulatory issues that cause ED include but are not limited to the following conditions:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Lack of Exercise
- Excessive alcohol use
- Cardiac Insufficiency.
Any effort to improve symptoms of either BPH or ED must address the circulation issue if there is to be any degree of improvement. Note that BPH is not included on the list above because it usually occurs in a combination of one or more of the other listed items.
Any of these above issues alone may cause ED, but in most cases, it is a combination of several of them that produce the problem. Of course, this simplifies a very complex problem but knowing that a seemingly unrelated problem may cause ED goes a long way towards motivating a man to at least attempt to resolve the underlying problem.
Contrary to popular belief, erectile dysfunction is not a benign condition. An erection is wholly dependent on good blood circulation. The penis requires unimpeded blood circulation to produce an erection for sexual activity.
Thus, while some cases of erectile dysfunction are related to low testosterone, more often, it is a direct result of poor health and impaired blood circulation. Any health condition, medication, or physical injury that impedes blood circulation in a man can result in erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is often the first symptom of a compromised vascular system and can be an early symptom of cardiovascular problems. Many cases of erectile dysfunction are due to impaired blood circulation resulting from an underlying health condition. Often this underlying health condition is a cardiac condition.
All body organs and tissues depend on circulating blood to provide necessary nutrients and remove waste products. An organ lacking good blood circulation cannot maintain peak health. The overall health of the body’s circulation system is critical for satisfactory sexual performance.
Disruption of hormone levels, mainly when testosterone levels are low, can also result in poor sexual function and libido loss. However, while low testosterone levels can affect erectile performance, the problem is often a side effect of other health conditions. Impotence (erectile dysfunction) is usually caused by seemingly unrelated health conditions or is a side effect of medical treatment.
Erectile dysfunction is often the first symptom of a compromised vascular system and can be an early symptom of cardiovascular problems. Similarly, the blockage of veins and arteries due to arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis can cause or exacerbate impotence by physically diminishing blood flow to the penis. High blood pressure (hypertension) is frequently the result of clogged arteries from either condition. When the body’s circulation system is clogged with deposits, the heart must pump harder to move blood around the body, thus raising blood pressure.
Even though the heart is pumping harder, and blood pressure is higher, blood flow is still diminished from normal. My firm belief is that erectile dysfunction is a precursor to more serious problems and an indicator of pending heart problems. Correcting it can and should be done naturally, with minimum use of drugs.
Most men have few problems with erectile dysfunction in their youth and expect such youthful vigor to continue forever. However, as the years advance, the body’s health and vitality deteriorate, and the level of sexual vigor can drop accordingly.
Unfortunately, many men suffering from erectile dysfunction or loss of libido cannot (or will not) admit to a connection between their overall health and sexual problems. Fortunately, most such problems can be corrected, but patience is key. The problems often resolve slowly.
Prostate enlargement is very common in older men. Men with mild BPH may have few bothersome symptoms. In contrast, men with more severe cases may experience symptoms ranging from an inability to urinate normally to serious disturbances of a man′s sexual ability.
Medications like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra may often resolve erectile dysfunction satisfactorily. However, every man should know these medications have two drawbacks to their use. The first is that they may have significant side effects.
Secondly, they do not resolve the problem. They simply increase blood flow to the penis temporarily to make an erection possible. Continued long-term use of these medications may require escalating the dose, and eventually, they will not produce a viable response.
BPH is also known to run in families. When the cause of the BPH is familial, erectile dysfunction may or may not be associated with it. A myth that is blindly accepted by many men is that genetic tendencies cannot be changed. If one′s father had BPH, then it is likely the son will have it as well. This myth prevents many men from exploring options to mitigate their problems. It also prevents them from changing their diet and lifestyle to be different from that of their fathers.
For example, cultural norms often exist that makes a son follow his father′s path in lifestyle and dietary issues. Analyzing one’s father’s dietary norms can often help a man discover issues where a cultural norm may influence his health. Recognizing detrimental and minimizing areas or eliminating them can go a long way towards mitigating symptoms of erectile dysfunction and BPH.
Dietary and lifestyle changes can often stop the progression of BPH and result in better erectile function. Before seeking aggressive medical help, a man with BPH should evaluate what he can change in his lifestyle or diet to help resolve the problem. Many men have found that the growth of prostate tissue from BPH can be slowed or stopped by simply changing their diet.