Prostatitis is a condition that is defined by pain and inflammation in the male prostate gland.
A bacterial or fungal infection frequently causes it, but it’s not usually considered a contagious condition that can be passed to a sexual partner. In rare cases, it can be caused by a sexually transmitted disease.
While prostatitis can be uncomfortable, it is not usually a severe disease. Unpredictable episodes of pain and discomfort often characterize it.
Sometimes an infection elsewhere in the body can migrate to the prostate and cause pain.
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is common and can cause an inflammatory reaction within the prostate and additional symptoms. Conversely, a bacterial infection in the prostate can initiate or exacerbate a UTI.
Types of Prostatitis
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has classified prostatitis into four categories as follows:
2. Chronic bacterial prostatitis
3. Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome. (CPPS)
4. Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis
This characterization by the NIH is, in my opinion, outdated and inconclusive. It fails to address the very real situation where chronic prostatitis results from a fungal infiltration by either of the fungal entities C. albicans or C. glabrata.
A prostatitis diagnosis should not be ruled out simply because there is no defined classification from the NIH. The category of CPPS allows clinicians a “catch-all” diagnosis when testing does not explicitly identify a bacterial source.
This lack of understanding of the prevalence of fungal prostate infections in the urology community leads to an inability to treat prostatitis associated with candida ( C. albicans) infections because there is little in the current literature that supports it.
CPPS is diagnosed by a history of chronic pelvic pain without a documented infection for at least 3 months within the previous 6 months. All instances of prostatitis involve pain to some degree. Thus, the diagnosis is often subjective and not defined by a specific medical test.
Simply diagnosing a man with CPPS may absolve the urologist from further investigation of the problem’s source. This is, in my opinion, a serious consequence of ignoring the obvious.
Prostatitis symptoms may occur anywhere in the pelvic area but are generally more intense in the rectal and genital areas.
The following symptoms may accompany prostatitis infections:
- Burning or pain during urination.
- Nausea, vomiting, and body aches.
- Inability to completely empty the bladder.
- Fever or chills.
- Groin or lower back pain.
- Repeated urinary tract infections
- Sexual dysfunction and/or loss of libido
In most cases, patients with a prostate infection experience urinary urgency, frequency, and pain, all of which significantly impact life quality. A recent study of over 500 primary care physicians found that more than half were not familiar with prostatitis’s various manifestations and had little knowledge of how to approach treatment.
Accordingly, patients are often misdiagnosed and receive ineffective treatment. Typically, the condition is poorly treated, usually with antibiotics that have little efficacy against it, especially if the infection source is fungal.
For some practitioners, an indication of any kind of prostatitis is a signal to prescribe a strong antibiotic, which may or may not help. A fungal infection in the prostate can be exacerbated by an antibiotic that disrupts beneficial bacteria making the condition more severe.
Conventional Treatment of Prostatitis
Many physicians are not familiar with prostatitis. Patients who present with prostate pain or other prostate symptoms are often treated with strong antibiotics such as Cipro without actually testing and isolating a bacterial infection.
Considering some of Cipro’s severe side effects, my belief is that its use should be limited to cases with positive evidence of a prostatic bacterial infection sensitive to this drug class. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the ease of writing a script often wins.
Urologists rarely use a time-honored technique to “milk the prostate” with prostate massage. Such massage (generally not considered in the mainstream urology view) is done through the rectal passage. It stimulates the release of prostatic fluid, and the expressed fluid can be tested subsequently for bacterial and/or fungal presence.
As an added benefit, prostate massage can help open clogged channels in the prostate and thus reduce inflammation.
Most men with chronic nonbacterial prostatitis may either have pelvic floor muscle disorders or a fungal prostate infiltration contributing to their pain. Prostate massage can help treat pelvic floor disorders by improving muscle tone. This is especially true for men who do not respond to medical treatment with antibiotic therapy.
In addition, prostate massage helps to express fluid retained in the prostate, which can then be analyzed. Several urologists report seeing yeast organisms in the prostatic fluid expressed from patients diagnosed with prostatitis. To provide adequate treatment, fungal agents should be considered if yeast organisms are present in a man complaining of prostate pain.
In addition, urologists must be open to the fact that vaginal yeast infections, common in many women, can migrate into a man′s prostate if conditions are right. Thus, the astute urologist will include the man’s female partner in the diagnostic and treatment process.
Natural Treatments for Prostatitis
Below are two natural techniques that can help allivate prostatitis:
- Prostate massage – A drug-free alternative treatment for chronic prostatitis. It can be used for prostatitis or general prostate health and to improve sexual health. Like massage of any organ, it can be helpful to enhance blood flow and maintain tissue integrity. Prostate massage can be performed by the patient or by any other person. It is sometimes included as an item of sexual foreplay between partners.
- Orgasm – A normal result of sexual activity, orgasms are an integral part of prostate health. The prostate is an organ whose primary purpose is to provide fluid for lubrication and nourishment of the sperm cells released through sexual intercourse. Orgasm and ejaculation (typically occurring simultaneously) serve to release the prostatic fluid, which is termed semen when combined with sperm cells. When the internal secretions are not released regularly, the prostate can become congested, swollen, and painful. Thus, a lack of regular orgasms can actually result in prostatitis.
- Exercise and Diet -The vast majority of men that visit urologists for prostate problems are overweight, have poor diets and get a little exercise. Prostatitis is a condition whereby inflammation has affected an organ. While several disease conditions can cause this, improvements in diet and exercise may have a significant positive effect on many of these men. 1
Both prostate massage and regular orgasms enhance blood flow, improve urinary flow, and help maintain prostate tissue integrity. A patient can perform prostate massage on himself, have a partner help, or have it done by a physician. It can be done both internally and externally. 2
Herbs and Nutrients for Prostatitis
Many herbs and nutrients can help with prostatitis. Phytotherapy is the name given to any plant-based therapy. It can include one or more plant or nutrient agents to support organ′s health.
A plant-based diet is very beneficial for prostate and sexual health in general. The following specific plant/nutrient items are known to benefit prostate health.
- Quercetin – Quercetin is a potent antioxidant found in many plants and foods, especially red grapes and wine, apples, berries, and many other vegetables and fruits. Several supplement manufacturers have included it in products designed to support prostate health. It inhibits several histamines and other inflammatory chemicals that contribute to prostatitis. Quercetin has many successful clinical studies and research that support its effectiveness as a treatment for prostatitis. Research has shown it is effective for both bacterial and nonbacterial forms of chronic prostatitis.
- Saw palmetto – This low-growing palm-like tree produces a multitude of small blueish-black berries that have a combination of nutrients that are specifically beneficial for the prostate. It grows freely in warm climates and is native to the US in Florida. The Calusa Indians used it in Florida for prostate and female menopausal problems. It appears to work by helping to balance hormone levels.
- Pollen extract – In the recent past, extracts of certain grass-type plants (ryegrass and others) have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage and treat prostatitis and other prostate conditions such as an enlarged prostate (BPH). Studies have shown pollen extracts can act similarly to muscle relaxants on the bladder muscles allowing for improvement of urinary symptoms, a typical concern of men with either BPH or prostatitis. Many supplement manufacturers have begun to include flower pollen in prostate-specific products.
- L-Arginine – This naturally occurring amino acid is essential and critical for human health. It is found in abundance in various nuts and seeds and enhances the production of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the body. High nitric oxide levels allow the blood to carry more oxygen, thus nourishing all organs.
- Turmeric -Centuries of successful use has made this a prevalent supplement. It has many benefits that help it support prostate health. As a powerful antioxidant, it reduces inflammation throughout the body and can be very useful for prostatitis. Many studies have confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. Since prostatitis is, by its very nature, an inflammatory condition, turmeric is a valuable herb to use against it.
- Zinc – is an essential trace element that plays an essential role in many body processes. Studies have found that men with prostate disease have lower zinc levels in their bodies than healthy men. According to Michael Murray, N.D., the author of Male Sexual Vitality, chronic prostate infections are often linked to a lack of dietary zinc. There are many processes in the body involved in the repair of DNA that require zinc to function properly. Since the prostate has the highest concentration of zinc of any organ in the body, it is reasonable to assume that a zinc deficiency would affect it significantly. A unique metabolic capability gives the prostate the ability to accumulate zinc.
- Pygeum – While saw palmetto is effective by itself, it is even more effective when used along with other herbs, like pygeum and nettle root (described below). Pygeum grows primarily in Africa and is commonly called the African prune tree. Its bark has traditionally been used for the treatment of urinary and prostate problems. It is incorporated in many prostate supplements and combined with saw palmetto and other nutrients for a synergistic effect. Pygeum does not seem to affect the prostate with quite the same action mechanism as saw palmetto, although it is similar. Thus, while it is sometimes used alone, it is often used in combination with saw palmetto and other herbs for the synergistic effect.
- Nettle (aka – Stinging Nettle) – is a weed-like plant that grows wild throughout the United States. It has a long history of therapeutic use for many different health issues. Both the root and the plant leaves are used medicinally and have anti-inflammatory properties that make them effective for reducing the inflammation that occurs with chronic prostatitis. It appears that nettle inhibits both the 5-alpha-reductase and aromatase enzymes, both of which can contribute to prostatitis.
Many supplement manufacturers provide products combining extracted ingredients of saw palmetto, pygeum, pumpkin seed oil, and nettle. This is done to take advantage of the synergistic relationship of various nutrients in the plants.
Synergy is one of nature’s most powerful effects, but it is not always easy to study, though it has gained more attention recently. It is based on the fact that many plants contain nutrients that complement each other and work together to maximize an effect.
The synergy between herbs is extremely important and is typically what makes herbal combinations much more powerful. A
ll herbalists know this. Using the synergy of herbal combinations is a much better way of achieving a successful outcome than extracting individual herbs’ specific components. While herbal properties are often listed separately, keep in mind that many herbs listed have broad beneficial effects that overlap.
Prostatitis, regardless of its type, is an indication that the male prostate gland is not healthy. Men presenting with prostatitis often do not get enough exercise and/or have poor diets. In essence, they are in poor or compromised health.
Like any other organ in the body, the prostate is subject to poor health due to nutrient deficiencies. In addition, any condition that causes poor blood circulation, such as obesity, diabetes, or coronary issues, can negatively impact prostate function.
Many men in westernized countries have multiple issues that effect their quality of life. Many of these impact the prostate and could be resolved with some changes in lifestyle and/or diet.
In addition, aging adds more fuel to the fire in the way of fluctuating hormone levels that can frequently affect performance. In our fast-paced, results-oriented society, poor performance in any area is put on the schedule for fixing.
However, patients often place their problems in the hands of a medical doctor and, thus, absolve themselves of responsibility for the problem.
When a doctor is faced with a problem that is not easily solved, this is rarely conveyed to the patient. And, by recommending surgery or prescription medication, the clinician inadvertently assumes a position of authority on the issue, and patients are inclined to listen to the recommendations, even if their common sense balks. 3
Genuinely treating prostatitis is not a simple matter. Considering the large range of issues that can cause prostatitis, many practitioners are unwilling or unable to spend the time needed to make an accurate diagnosis. In addition, successful treatment involves more than simply getting rid of the pelvic discomfort, but includes determining its source and treating it so that the condition does not recur.
In some cases, routine surgery such as; transurethral resection of the prostate is recommended to resolve the issue. Unless there are severe mitigating factors, it is my opinion that surgery to resolve prostatitis is unwarranted and borders on malpractice!
Considering the risk for patient complications, no surgical procedure should be considered “routine.” Yet, thousands of times each year, patients are wheeled into operating rooms for surgery that isn’t necessary. 4
If your doctor is recommending surgery for your prostatitis, it is wise to consider seeking another opinion.