To treat an enlarged prostate, some people use herbs, from flaxseed to stinging nettle to prickly pear cactus. At typical doses, experts say that most plant extracts are probably safe for BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia. But do they work?
Some supplements may help. Others -- including the most popular, saw palmetto -- might not. And a few, including zinc, may actually put you at risk for getting BPH.
"It's a complicated story, but men who get BPH often get ED. And men with ED get BPH," says Kevin T. McVary, MD, urology professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
The Link Between BPH and Sexual Problems
Men with BPH have an enlarged prostate -- the gland that surrounds the tube that carries urine. Symptoms include:
Often feeling like you need to urinate
Trouble starting and stopping urination
Weak stream of urine
The symptoms may wake you up at night.
Scientists aren't sure why, but they agree that the worse your BPH symptoms are, the more likely you'll have sexual issues such as:
Reduced sex drive
Trouble keeping an erection
Less sexual satisfaction
It may have something to do with genetics or age. It's also possible that the sleeplessness or anxiety that can come from an enlarged prostate makes sexual problems worse.
Some of the risk factors for BPH and ED are the same as those for heart disease and diabetes, McVary says. So by eating a heart-healthy diet and being active, you may be able to stave off sexual problems.
"It's very convenient that a heart-healthy lifestyle is identical to an erectile-friendly lifestyle," McVary says.
Y. Mark Hong, MD, a urologist in Phoenix, suggests you avoid heavily processed foods and boost the amount of natural foods you eat. Salmon, trout, and mackerel are anti-inflammatory and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower are good for the prostate.
Hong also says it's important to communicate with your partner. You may be inclined to keep your concerns to yourself, but understanding your condition and dealing with it together can be better for your relationship and your health.
Erectile Dysfunction Medications
You may be able to treat your BPH and your ED at the same time with erectile dysfunction medication. Pills for erectile dysfunction may also help BPH.