Relieve Urinary-Tract Symptoms by Boosting Prostate HealthSeptember 2017
By Michael Downey
More than 50% of men in their 60s and as many as 90% of men in their 80s suffer lower urinary-tract symptoms related to prostate enlargement.1
Common problems include urinary frequency, urgency, and weak stream. Over time, these urinary challenges can cause bladder infection, kidney stones, kidney damage, and erectile dysfunction.2-4
Frequent nighttime urination also results in chronic sleep deprivation—increasing the risk of heart attack,5,6 cancer,7,8 depression,9 inflammatory syndromes,10,11 and death.12
In lieu of drugs, European physicians have for decades prescribed natural plant extracts to alleviate urinary discomforts associated with benign prostate enlargement (BPH). Efficacy of these plant extracts has been demonstrated in a number of published medical studies.
Scientists have found that combining different plant extracts works better to alleviate prostate discomfort.
Conditions Causing Enlarged Prostate
A young healthy prostate gland weighs less than an ounce,13 but enlarges considerably as most men age.
Because of its location, even a small amount of prostate swelling can block the urethra, resulting in decreased urine flow and the potential for incomplete bladder emptying.
The majority of men who suffer from nonmalignant prostate enlargement have either benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis.14,15
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is a common cause of prostate enlargement that occurs when prostate cells increase in number. Men have a 50% chance of developing BPH over the course of their lives.2,16 It leads to progressive urinary symptoms2,17,18 and erectile dysfunction.19-21 In severe cases it can cause kidney and bladder infections,22 bladder stones,23 and other serious long-term problems.
Prostatitis is characterized by prostate inflammation or infection, and treating it is medically challenging.24-27 This is partly because prostatitis is an umbrella term for many conditions, including acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis, chronic nonbacterial prostatitis, inflammatory and noninflammatory prostatodynia (prostate pain), and asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis.28-30
Scientists have found that men with persistent urinary problems can benefit by supplementing with prostate-specific plant extracts.
The saw palmetto berry (Serenoa repens) was long ago shown to improve symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
Some studies suggest it helps relieve BPH symptoms as well as finasteride and tamsulosin,31,32 minus the sexual dysfunction associated with these drugs.31
One study found that 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily improved the International Prostate Symptom Score of elderly men by 52% and their sexual dysfunction scores by 40%.32 Another review demonstrated saw palmetto’s efficacy, especially for men with mild-to-moderate BPH symptoms.33
Two large meta-analyses showed that saw palmetto extract improved the International Prostate Symptom Score, reduced nighttime urination frequency, and improved peak urine-flow rates.34,35
An underlying reason for these effects is that saw palmetto is rich in bioactive compounds—including beta-sitosterol—that support the aging prostate. One mechanism is to impede the adverse effect of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on prostate cells. DHT is a hormone that increases prostate growth.36 Blocking DHT receptors on prostate cells reduce DHT’s potential negative impact.37
Not all studies on saw palmetto by itself demonstrate clinical benefits.38 For this reason, plant-based prostate formulas today include additional botanical extracts, and many are prescribed in Europe as “drugs” to alleviate urinary symptoms.
Urtica dioica, or stinging nettle root, has been shown to shrink the prostate and relieve BPH symptoms.39-41
One study showed that nettle root extract improved lower urinary tract symptoms significantly better than placebo, with marked improvements in the International Prostate Symptom Score, increases in peak urinary flow rates, and reductions in urine volume remaining in the bladder.41
Other compelling research found that the combination of nettle root and saw palmetto extracts results in improvements that are similar to those of prescription BPH medications, but with substantially fewer adverse events.42-44
Scientists demonstrated that stinging nettle combined with saw palmetto reduced nighttime urination by one episode nightly, a significant difference.43 And, in elderly BPH patients, this combination reduced the International Prostate Symptom Score by 53%, improved urinary flow by 19%, and reduced residual urine volume 44% compared to placebo.45
While producing improvements similar to BPH drugs, this combination (nettle root and saw palmetto) results in far fewer adverse events.42,44
Pygeum africanum is a plum tree in tropical Africa, and an extract derived from this tree has been widely used in Central and Eastern Europe for decades. Numerous human studies have demonstrated the clinical efficacy of pygeum extract in the management of mild to moderate BPH.46,47
Pygeum extract has been shown to improve International Prostate Symptom Scores by 38%-46%,47 reduce the frequency of nighttime urination by 32%,46 and raise peak urinary flow rates by 16%-19%,47—all at typical doses of 100 mg per day.
In two different studies, scientists demonstrated that pygeum extract improves quality of life—a critical factor in this condition—by about 30%.46,47
In a meta-analysis of 18 randomized clinical trials that involved a total of 1,562 men, researchers found that pygeum extract reduced nocturnal urination by 19% and increased urine flow by 23%. Pygeum use also resulted in a critical reduction in the volume of urine remaining in the bladder after urination, which decreases the risk of urinary tract infections. The extract was also found to more than double the odds of a man reporting an overall improvement in urinary tract symptoms compared to men using a placebo.48
Rye Flower Pollen Extract
Rye flower pollen extract reduces lower urinary- tract symptoms by selectively inhibiting the growth of prostate cells and effectively treating BPH.49-53
Confirming early findings,50-53 scientists treated 79 BPH patients (ages 62 to 89) with 126 mg of pollen extract three times daily for at least 12 weeks. Maximum urine-flow rates increased about 18%, average urine-flow rates increased nearly 18%, and residual urine volume (urine left in the bladder after voiding) plummeted 45%. Those taking the extract beyond one year experienced an average decrease in prostate volume of about 20%, without adverse reaction.54
A subsequent review revealed that BPH patients who were treated with pollen extract were 2.4 times more likely to experience improvement and over two times as likely to reduce nighttime urination as the placebo group.55
Pollen extracts have also demonstrated an ability to suppress prostatitis and prostatodynia (chronic pelvic pain). In early human studies, pollen extracts eliminated these conditions from many patients.56,57 This is exciting, given how difficult these conditions are to treat.
One study divided 90 chronic prostatitis patients into two groups, one without related complicating factors and one with complications such as prostate stones or bladder-neck narrowing. All took pollen extract three times daily for six months.57 In the group without complicating factors, 78% had a favorable response in their symptoms and 36% experienced complete elimination of symptoms. Patients in the group with complicating factors did not respond as well,57 suggesting that pollen extract is most useful in patients who lack complications.
Landmark research showed that pollen extract may help patients for whom no standardized treatment exists. Patients with inflammatory prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome received pollen extract for 12 weeks. Over 70% of supplemented patients showed at least a 25% improvement in their NIH Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index score.58
Flower pollen extract was shown to improve the quality of life of patients with chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome better than ibuprofen,59 without severe side effects.59,60
Pumpkin seeds have been used in traditional medicine for generations to treat prostate issues. Now, modern medicine is confirming their ability to reduce prostate size as well as improve symptoms associated with enlarged prostate.
A 2016 study on hyperplastic (proliferated) cells from prostate tissue showed that pumpkin seed extract safely inhibited cell growth by a remarkable 40%-50%.61
The study author concluded that this “corroborates the (traditional medicine) use of pumpkin seeds for treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia.”61
Clinical studies have shown that pumpkin seed and pumpkin-seed oil significantly decreased International Prostate Symptom Scores within 3-12 months.62,63
In 2016, researchers conducted a review of studies related to lower urinary tract symptoms and BPH and found that all six clinical studies demonstrated that pumpkin seeds led to improvement in International Prostate Symptom Score and in volume and speed of urinary flow.64
BPH patients who took flaxseed lignan extract experienced improvements in International Prostate Symptom Score and life-quality scores.65 In a 2017 study of animals with induced BPH, a flaxseed diet was shown to reduce the thickness of the prostate epithelium, the outer layer of the prostate surface.66
The life-disrupting, lower urinary-tract symptoms of BPH affect aging men and can lead to complications such as bladder infections, kidney damage, and sexual dysfunction.
The frequent nighttime urination associated with BPH also results in chronic sleep deprivation, which has been shown to boost the odds of heart attack,5,6 cancer,7,8 depression,9 inflammatory syndromes,10,11 and death.12
Abundant research demonstrates that a number of prostate-specific plant extracts can improve many of the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate—and may also reduce prostate gland volume without significant side effects.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
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- Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/kidney-infection-pyelonephritis. Accessed May 3, 2017.
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