Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, affects men across the globe and has a major influence on their quality of life.
Symptoms and consequences of enlarged prostate are numerous, especially when the condition is not adequately managed.
In this post, we discuss the potential link between enlarged prostate and bowel movements. Read on to learn more.
What is an enlarged prostate?
The most common BPH symptoms include urinary frequency, difficulty starting urination, urinary urgency, nocturia (frequent urination at night), weak urine stream, urinary incontinence, inability to completely empty the bladder, just to name a few.
Factors that play a role in the development of enlarged prostate include hormonal imbalance, aging, family history, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, and heart disease.
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Can enlarged prostate affect your bowel movements?
The biggest problem with an enlarged prostate is that it causes a chain of reactions beyond urinary symptoms. In some cases, BPH is not the only prostate problem that men have to deal with.
Sometimes enlarged prostate can lead to prostatitis, i.e., inflammation of the prostate gland. In one study, 57.2% out of 5053 men with prostatitis reported a history of enlarged prostate. Additionally, 38.7% of 7465 men with BPH reported a history of prostatitis.
Why is this relevant?
It matters because chronic prostatitis can also cause a set of symptoms and painful defecation (bowel movements) is one of them. Some men with prostatitis also have irritable bowel syndrome.
While prostate size itself is not the common factor for problems with bowel movements, in some cases, it can happen.
Besides chronic or acute prostatitis, other BPH-related complications can also affect bowel movements. One of those complications is chronic urinary retention. Although rare, this complication can lead to large bowel obstruction.
You see, a common symptom of enlarged prostate is the inability to empty the bladder completely. When left untreated, this symptom leads to urinary retention.
In turn, urinary retention may lead to compression of the sigmoid colon (last section of the bowel) against the sacrum (transitory structure between the vertebral column and pelvis). As a result, large bowel obstruction may occur. Considered a medical emergency, large bowel obstruction is a blockage that prevents the passing of food and liquid.
In other words, certain complications of BPH may impair bowel movements and lead to a medical emergency.
Besides the abovementioned complications, it’s also useful to mention that prostate enlargement can contribute to constipation. An enlarged prostate can form too much pressure on the rectum, making it difficult to defecate.
In addition to BPH, other prostate problems can act on the bowels too. A good example is prostate cancer or tumor, which may cause disruptions such as bowel incontinence or fecal incontinence.
Prostate issues, in some cases, can lead to a prolapsed rectum, which is known for various bowel movement problems.
Can constipation harm your prostate?
Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems. We all experience it at one point or another. The influence of constipation goes beyond feeling bloated, and it may extend to your prostate gland.
To describe how constipation harms the prostate, it’s important to mention your bowel is located right next to the prostate gland. Bowels carry waste and toxins, which start building up without regular bowel movements, i.e., in the presence of constipation.
Sometimes, excessive levels of these toxins can migrate to the nearby tissues, including the prostate tissue. When that happens, the prostate can become inflamed, and you experience pain and discomfort due to chronic bacterial prostatitis or acute bacterial prostatitis.
Pelvic muscle dysfunction
A full bowel forms pressure on the bladder and prostate. Men tend to strain to defecate, which may weaken pelvic floor muscles. These particular muscles are vital for bladder control and bowel movement.
As a result, the bladder and bowel don’t fill properly and may contract when they’re not supposed to. Overactive bladder is probably the most common problem men experience; it’s the sudden and urgent need to urinate, and it can be difficult to control.
Additionally, a high amount of feces in the bowel can cause incomplete emptying of the bladder. Remember, this is a common symptom of BPH. In turn, lower urinary tract problem aggravates, and your quality of life suffers too. That happens due to increased urinary frequency and urgency, but the bladder isn’t emptied properly when you go.
When discussing the relationship between constipation and prostate problems, it’s important to remember that consequences are far more serious than most people believe. Combined with prostate enlargement, constipation can increase prostate-specific antigen or PSA levels.
Made by the prostate, PSA is a protein present in sperm. It’s also found in blood, but in tiny amounts. Abnormally high PSA levels in blood imply something’s wrong in the gland. They may indicate you have prostate cancer.
The most common prostate cancer symptoms include urge incontinence, urinary frequency and hesitancy, weak urine flow, feeling like the bladder hasn’t emptied fully, and bowel problems (especially if the advanced prostate cancer spreads to the bowel). Men who have colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer too.
Management of bowel issues caused by BPH
As seen throughout this post, bowel issues and BPH are more connected than people generally believe. Below are some tips to help men with BPH manage bowel problems.
- Eat a fiber-rich diet to ensure regular bowel movements. Foods to include in your diet include prune juice, green vegetables, dried fruits, whole grains and whole-grain rice, beets, flaxseed.
- Exercise regularly and step away from a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity supports peristalsis, i.e., the waves of movement that push food through your digestive tract. Exercise can also help improve your sexual function and manage erectile dysfunction, a common problem in men with prostate conditions.
- Avoid or limit soft drinks and coffee
- Drink water and stay hydrated throughout the day
- Manage stress because it will help you eat more mindfully. When you’re stressed, you don’t chew your food thoroughly, which may contribute to constipation.
An enlarged prostate may contribute to constipation. At the same time, BPH-related complications can cause serious bowel movement problems.
The story doesn’t end there. Constipation can affect the prostate too due to bacterial infection and other mechanisms of action.
This tells us that we need to practice a healthy lifestyle and eat a well-balanced diet. Avoid foods that contribute to digestive problems and focus on foods that will help you have regular bowel movements.