Tyler Shippel, ND CISSN
We may think that prostate issues are inevitable as there are physiological changes that occur naturally during aging. Almost 50% of men over 50 have enlargement of the prostate; 70% of men over 60; and 80% of men over 70 years of age. This can lead to acute and chronic inflammation of the area that can lead to urinary issues, infections, and other symptoms that are frustrating to live with.
In order to treat symptoms and prevent progression, these issues are best treated as soon as possible using an integrative approach. Medicines are often necessary to help slow progression and provide initial symptom relief. Foods to support prostate health, lifestyle changes, herbal medicines, acupuncture, and stress reduction techniques can significantly help relieve prostate concerns and may help reduce need for medications. Waiting for things to improve may be detrimental.
For cancer of the prostate, 5% of men over 60, and close to 10% over the age of 70 will be diagnosed. If you live to a very late age, there will be some amount of detectable cancer in the prostate due to the changes that occur during aging. Someone may be considered high risk if there is a significant family history of prostate cancer. In this case, it is important to start getting screened by age 45. If there is no family history of prostate cancers, then early screening measures in your 40s could lead to more unnecessary invasive procedures. It is important to have a discussion with your health care team to ensure that the best options can explained fully.
Educational campaigns have increased the awareness for getting checked and reducing risk factors, but much more can be done from a primary care perspective in regard to prevention. For patients being treated for prostate cancers, there are significant adverse effects that can occur with treatment and surgery (hot flushes, muscle loss, fatigue, pain etc.) that can be supported by an ND.
An important modifiable risk factor I’d like to mention is the cooking of meat products. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals (cancer causing potential) formed from cooking meats such as beef, pork, poultry and fish. HCAs form when amino acids and creatine react at high cooking temperatures and are formed in greater quantities when meats are overcooked or blackened. Baking, or heating a pan at a medium constant temperature while turning frequently, can prevent these carcinogenic compounds from forming in high quantities. For example, a study measured the carcinogenic chemical benzo(a)pyrene in foods during different cooking methods. Benzo(a)pyrene is a byproduct of burning organic matter and can also be found in coal tar and tobacco smoke. An oven baked chicken breast may have around 0.08 ng/g benzo(a)pyrene while a barbecue grilled chicken breast may have around 4.5 ng/g benzo(a)pyrene, a significant increase. Over time, consumption of grilled meats at higher temperature has shown to increase risk for developing prostate cancer.
In summary, where would an ND fit in for support concerns of the prostate?
- Cancer prevention, especially in those at higher risk
- Active surveillance (lab testing, medical history)
- Pre and post-surgery support
- Support during ADT (Androgen Deprivation Therapy to slow cancer growth)
- Support during chemotherapy or radiation treatment for recurrent/advanced disease
- Symptomatic relief of prostate enlargement, prostatitis, frequent urinary infections
- Slowing progression of enlargement