Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) becomes a common ailment as we age. It is an enlargement of the prostate gland and causes various urinary symptoms.
BPH is not cancer, but sometimes the prostate gland grows too much, and doctors decide to practice surgery. But if you have a slightly increased gland, you may need non-invasive treatment instead.
The normal prostate is made up of a given number of cells. In a prostate with BPH, the number of cells increases.
The exact cause is unknown, but aging and hormones are both critical factors. It is the primary cause of urinary symptoms in men, especially urinary retention and frequent urination.
Urination becomes frequent and sometimes difficult and wakes them up at night. Some patients may also have erectile dysfunction, but this symptom is usually due to other health conditions.
The majority of these problems can be solved by reducing the size of the prostate gland. But is it possible?
How can diet affect BPH?
Similar to prostate cancer, BPH is a multifactorial disease. Many hormones and growth factors act in the prostate tissue to cause enlargement. But some epidemiologic studies have also identified dietary factors associated with BPH.
For example, a study in China showed that overeating animal proteins could increase the risk.
Another study from Japan showed that regular milk consumption has the same effect. That’s why a plant-based diet is recommended if you want to prevent BPH and reduce the number of prostate cancer cells (1, 2)
According to other research, Asian men have a lower incidence of BPH. Such a lower incidence responds to a high-fiber diet compared to Western men (3). But why is diet so important?
The amount and proportion of nutrients we take influences the function of the body. Among many other things, they modulate hormone concentrations. They also modulate the role of the sympathetic nervous system, which acts directly in the urethra. That’s why changing your diet can improve your urinary tract symptoms if you have them (4).
In this article we will discuss 3 foods that shrink prostate gland. The following nutrients and diets are recommended to reduce the size of the prostate. You can always look for food sources or prostate supplements that include them in the list of ingredients.
There is sufficient evidence to point out Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for BPH. When active vitamin D binds to its receptor, it stimulates a variety of effects. In the prostate, the main effects are anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic. In other words, it favors natural cell death and controls overgrowth.
Many studies indicate that lower levels of vitamin D are associated with a larger prostate. Moreover, many patients with prostate enlargement also have a vitamin D deficiency.
A recent study has also evaluated a possible connection. The authors explored the link between prostate enlargement and vitamin D. They did it through the hormone testosterone. Their results show that higher vitamin D levels in the blood reduce the PSA levels. They also hypothesize that testosterone levels and function depend on vitamin D status. If that’s the case, low vitamin D levels would also have a hormonal consequence that explains BPH and BPH symptoms (5).
Other studies explored a more direct association between the prostate tissue and vitamin D. Interestingly; the prostate epithelial cells can activate vitamin D. Moreover, these cells have a vitamin D receptor, even prostate cancer cells. Upon binding, vitamin D sends signals to control the proliferation of cells.
Additionally, vitamin D deficiency can increase cardiovascular risk factors. Some of them (obesity, hypertension, diabetes) increases the risk of BPH. These parameters are inversely related to prostate volume. In other words, as obesity or hypertension becomes worse, the prostate gland tends to increase.
Another vitamin D deficiency risk that causes prostate enlargement is oxidative stress. In an environment with excess free radicals, the structures of the molecules start to change. The prostate tissue undergoes changes as well and starts to grow in response.
That’s why a recent study evaluated all of these associations, and the authors gave their opinion. They suggest that vitamin D deficiency counts as an independent risk factor for BPH. In other words, you can have normal health, but vitamin D deficiency alone will cause BPH. The authors of this study published in the journal Urology recommend vitamin D as a therapeutic target and a potential marker of BPH (6).
Similarly, other studies have evaluated the effect of vitamin D levels in the incidence of prostate cancer. The authors report that vitamin D levels are lower in patients with BPH. However, they are still lower in patients with prostate cancer. As vitamin D levels were reduced, the Gleason score and the aggressiveness of cancer increased (7).
Foods high in Vitamin D
So, what vitamin D foods that shrink the prostate gland do we recommend?
Here’s a list you can consider for your next visit to the grocery store:
- Salmon: 3 ounces provide your body with 647 IU of vitamin D, which is a lot. It also has omega 3 fatty acids that aid in the absorption of vitamin D. Other types of fish are excellent, too, including cod, tuna, and halibut.
- Soymilk: Regular milk has vitamin D when fortified, and soymilk is an alternative for vegetarians. It has up to 119 IU of vitamin D for each cup.
- Eggs: If you do not take out the yolk, you get a total of 118 IU of vitamin D for each cup of boiled eggs.
- Foods fortified with vitamin D: Other foods such as breakfast cereals and dairy are fortified with vitamin D. You can find fortified foods by looking at the labels.
We would generally associate zinc with the thyroid gland, and it is the right assumption.
Low levels of think cause significant thyroid problems. It is an essential nutrient to create thyroid hormone. However, nobody would expect the organ with the highest concentration of zinc in the prostate gland.
This was discovered back in 1920 when different investigators detected and confirmed more than 500 mcg/g of zinc in the prostate gland. This is the highest zinc value, around 10 times higher than the majority of tissues.
That’s why it is curious that prostatic tumors usually have a lower concentration of zinc. This realization prompted several investigations about zinc and the prostate gland. Patients with prostatitis, BPH, and prostate cancer were evaluated.
In patients with BPH and chronic prostatitis, the results appear to be contradictory. You can find high, normal, or very low levels of zinc. But in patients with prostate cancer, zinc concentration is almost invariably low (8).
Even the most recent studies cannot point out the exact reason for this trend. It is hypothesized there are molecular and genetic mechanisms involved we still don’t know. Another study was made in 2011 about the association of zinc with BPH and the risk of prostate cancer.
The authors reported that both carcinoma and BPH have lower levels of zinc concentration. They also evaluated the zinc/creatinine ratio in basal urine. The researchers show that this marker can help doctors detect an increased excretion of zinc in men with prostate cancer.
According to some research, patients with prostate cancer eliminate 3 times more zinc than the average person. Thus, detecting zinc excretion can be very helpful in screening prostate cancer.
More research is still needed to evaluate the zinc/creatinine ratio to screen prostate cancer. However, even if there are many unanswered questions, this only highlights the importance of zinc for prostate health (9).
Other authors have also considered zinc as an alternative preventive factor for prostate cancer. According to their studies, zinc has a protective effect that prevents the progression of cancer. However, the results are not homogeneous.
We should also note that zinc levels in the blood do not reflect prostate tissue concentration.
We can have normal levels of zinc in the blood and low levels in the prostate. In this regard, zinc behaves similarly to testosterone and other hormones. Thus, the chemoprevention mechanism of zinc is still elusive for modern science. But there it is, and it is a dietary factor we can use for prostate health, thyroid health, and much more (10).
Foods high in Zinc
We can recommend many zinc-rich foods that shrink the prostate gland. For example:
- Wheat germ: It’s found in whole-wheat grains and foods. Therefore, avoid processed foods and white bread. They take out the wheat germ and have lower zinc levels.
- Oysters: It is true, they do have a lot of zinc. They are also an excellent pick if you’re looking for an aphrodisiac.
- Many types of seeds: We count in watermelon, pumpkin, squash, hemp seed, and many others.
- Beef loin: You may also find it as beef tenderloin because it is a very tender cut. It is also very expensive compared to others but has an overload of zinc.
Curcumin is a polyphenolic compound from Curcuma longa. It has been useful for many inflammatory conditions, and even Parkinson’s disease. But another interesting function of curcumin has to do with androgen receptors. It facilitates the degradation of such receptors in prostate cancer.
Since androgens are very important and used in the therapy of prostate cancer, curcumin has also become a potential therapeutic measure to study. It can induce apoptosis in prostate cancer and downregulate androgen signals.
But the effects of curcumin are not only associated with prostate cancer. This substance is shown to suppress a gene known as HIF1a. This gene codes for a key molecule in the transition from prostatitis into BPH. It also blocks free radicals and inflammation.
This theoretical approach was demonstrated recently in a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The authors found that curcumin has a positive effect on conserving the shape of the prostate. It also protects the internal structure of the gland. Moreover, curcumin inhibits growth factors and inhibit the effects of androgens in the prostate (11).
In a series of articles published in the journal Nature and others, Dr. Dorai evaluated the topic thoroughly. The articles mentioned 4 different reasons why curcumin is a potential agent to reduce prostate problems:
- It induces apoptosis: This is cellular death, which is a natural body response. It is lost in prostate cancer and BPH. But curcumin is capable of increasing the rate of apoptosis in prostate tissue (12).
- It reduces tyrosine kinase activity: In this regard, it acts similar to a prostate cancer drug called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. This reduces the cell signals that favor prostate overgrowth (13).
- It inhibits proliferation and angiogenesis: This function of curcumin is particularly important in patients with prostate cancer. Curcumin slows down cell proliferation but also contributes in another aspect. It won’t allow cancer to build new blood vessels to keep on growing. It inhibits angiogenesis and prevents more advances in phases in prostate cancer (14).
- It reduces the rate of bone metastasis: This effect does not have to do with shrinking the prostate, but it is very important, too. Prostate cancer cells mimic bone cells and cause bone metastasis. But curcumin interferes with this property and may reduce the rate of bone metastasis (15).
That’s why a 2016 review on the topic revisited each one of these mechanisms and recommended curcumin as a side therapy in patients with prostate cancer and other prostate health issues (16).
Foods high in Curcumin
In this case, we are talking about a spice instead of a nutrient. Thus, we do not have a long list of foods that contain curcumin. The primary source is turmeric, but you can also find curcumin as a powder in the market. Its what gives mustard its yellow color, too.
However, since the daily dose is rather high compared to what we usually have, we recommend using a supplement instead. Other ways you can increase your intake of curcumin is through one of these daily hacks:
- Turmeric smoothie: They taste great if you add whey powder, almond milk, peanut butter, and 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder.
- Turmeric salad dressing: Mix one tablespoon of turmeric powder with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and any other spices that go along with the taste.
- Curry sauce recipes: It’s an Indian sauce you can find already made in the market or do it yourself with turmeric, margarine, peanut oil, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cilantro, chili peppers, and yogurt.
What other BPH treatments available?
Treatments for BPH usually include one or more medications. For example, tamsulosin, finasteride, and others.
But most urologists are open to using phytotherapy, Ayurveda, and other side therapies. Moreover, they also recommend a few lifestyle changes to recover your prostate health.
Here’s a list with some of them (17):
- Rye-grass pollen: Rye-grass pollen used by millions worldwide, and improves the most concerning urinary symptoms. Most patients report they are not urinating so frequently at night and sleeping better.
- Ganoderma lucidum: Extracts prepared with this fungus inhibit prostate growth. It inhibits 5 alpha-reductase, an important hormone in the progression of BPH and prostate cancer.
- Lycopene: Foods with carotenes, including lycopene, can inhibit the progression of BPH. It is found abundantly in tomatoes and other red-colored fruits.
Other recommendations include performing pelvic floor exercises, known as kegel exercises. They are meant to increase control of your pelvic muscle and help you control urination.
It is vital to eat a healthy and balanced diet based on fruits and vegetables. Do not forget to include cruciferous vegetables in your grocery list, and listen to the recommendations by your doctor.
Men do not have as many urinary tract infections as women, but they do have prostate issues. They are more common as we age, but there are many ways to prevent them.
As a summary, lead a plant-based diet, eat more fish, and listen to your doctor. Perform your follow-up studies and report if your urine flow problems are still the same.
If you can’t find the foods or ingredients above, consider using a prostate supplement. They usually include vitamin D, zinc, curcumin, and other ingredients with clinical evidence.