Ask The Doctor: Prostate Hyperplasia

I have just been diagnosed with benign prostatic hyperplasia. At 46, am I too young?
Robert Keller, CA

Actually, it’s not unusual for men in their mid-40s to experience a swelling of the prostate, which is what BPH is. Nearly half of all men in their 50s have the condition, and more than 80 percent of octogenarians suffer from it. Blame a rise in dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a converted form of testosterone, the levels of which increase with age. But simple diet and lifestyle changes—as well as acupuncture and herbs—can alleviate BPH, which tends to get worse if left untreated.

The telltale sign? Problems with urination—going too frequently, urgently, hesitantly, weakly, or incompletely. Dribbling urine and waking during the night to pee are also common. These symptoms arise when the prostate swells, applies pressure to the bladder, and constricts the urethra, which empties the bladder.

According to Chinese medicine, your prostate swells because of two main imbalances: low kidney energy and stagnant blood flow. Other factors—such as spleen qi deficiency, damp heat, and qi stagnation—also contribute. Too much caffeine, coffee (even decaf), sugar, fried foods, spicy foods, cold foods or drinks, and alcohol make things worse. So does lack of exercise, working long hours, stress, prolonged sitting, and not urinating when you need to. Chinese medicine recommends eating mostly warm, cooked foods, including grains, vegetables, and legumes, as well as fruits, nuts, and seeds. These high-fiber, antioxidant-rich foods have been shown to boost healthy prostate function.

If you have a simple case of BPH, you can take an over-the-counter Chinese herbal remedy called kai kit wan (1 gram, three times daily). You can also purchase herbal remedies that contain combinations of saw palmetto, pygeum, and pumpkinseed (follow dosage recommendations on labels). For more persistent cases, you’ll want to get a more precise diagnosis and treatment plan from a Chinese medicine doctor. Both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine—when combined with the dietary suggestions above, stress reduction, and regular exercise—can reduce prostate swelling and relieve symptoms. In addition, massage can ease symptoms and prevent prostate problems. Try stimulating the prostate by massaging the region behind the scrotum lightly with a piece of smooth, natural-fiber cloth. Also, massage the inside and outside of the heel, where the Achilles tendon attaches, and the midline of the lower abdomen above the pubic bone. For both techniques, apply 30 seconds of mild pressure with the thumb or index finger twice daily.

Robert Keller, CA, practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.


Prevent Prostate Problems
1. Sex saves. Studies show that men between the ages of 20 and 50 who ejaculate frequently—one study says seven times a week, another 21 times a month—are up to a third less likely to get prostate cancer.

2. Eat to beat prostate swelling. Include warm, cooked foods high in fiber (legumes, whole grains, and berries) and high in antioxidants (red or purple fruit, green tea, wine, and cruciferous vegetables) in your diet.

3. Who moved my qi? Robert Keller, CA, recommends this daily qigong exercise to open up the pelvis and relieve pressure on the prostate. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent, spine straight, and arms at your sides. Allow your knees and hips to support your weight, releasing your upper thighs, low back, and pelvis. Hold this position for a few breath cycles.
—Nora Simmons