The prostate is a small gland located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. It's a male reproductive organ that produces semen and plays an essential role in the urinary system.
The prostate is walnut-sized, but despite its small structure, it can cause serious health issues if not taken care of. Two troubling conditions that affect the prostate are prostate cancer and an enlarged prostate. These prostate-related issues typically occur as men age, and prostate cancer is rare in those younger than 40.
Other risk factors can increase the chances of developing prostate cancer, like ethnicity, geography, family history, and gene changes. Even factors like diet, smoking, and sexually transmitted infections can play a role in the development of prostate cancer.
In terms of an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, men over 40 are more at risk. A family history, medical conditions like obesity or type 2 diabetes, and erectile dysfunction can also contribute to an increased risk of an enlarged prostate.
Regarding prostate cancer, enlarged prostates, and other prostate conditions, men must take a proactive stance on preventive measures. There’s a lot of information about the prostate and what preventative measures are safe and effective.
When it comes to being proactive about the health of the prostate, many men find themselves turning to supplements for prostate health as a way to prevent prostate issues. But do supplements for prostate work, and are they safe?
What Are Supplements for Prostate Health?
In the United States, adults and children alike take dietary supplements, often in the form of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and other forms. Supplements are used to promote a variety of good health conditions and well-being – from strong bones to preventing birth defects, helping those with heart disease, and slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration. There’s pretty much a supplement for everything, including prostate health.
If you’re wondering whether or not supplements for prostate health work, the answer isn’t black and white. Some studies have shown that supplements for prostate health can help decrease the risk of and treat prostate cancer. Some also work to promote prevention against other prostate diseases. The supplements that are most commonly taken by men to promote prostate health include:
- Green tea
- Modified citrus pectin
- African cherry
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
While many of these vitamins and dietary supplements aim to support prostate health, African cherry and beta-sitosterol are two supplements that have shown results to be possible treatments for prostate cancer. However, the FDA has not approved these supplements as treatments.
Another supplement, saw palmetto, is made from a shrubby palm tree’s fruit, native to the southeastern U.S. This supplement is one of the most common used to support healthy prostates. Saw palmetto has been shown to decrease prostate enlargement.
In the U.S., dietary supplements are marketed as food, not medicinal, so they can be purchased over-the-counter.
When to Take Prostate Supplements
Dietary supplements and vitamins fall under the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) form of treatment, which can be used either in addition to standard treatments or in place of standard treatments. CAM also includes specific foods, herbs, minerals, and vitamins.
Ingredients in Prostate Supplements
Saw palmetto extract is a common ingredient in several prostate supplements. Other common extracts found in these supplements include urtica dioica nettle, Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato), selenium, vitamin E, soy, zinc, and green tea.
Supplements can also contain ingredients not listed on their labels. For example, 27% of herbal products have contamination, typically by animal products, heavy metals, or poisons.
Are Prostate Supplements Safe?
Dietary supplements typically come with a label called Supplement Facts. This label has all active ingredients, the dosage and amount per serving, as well as filler ingredients, binders, and added flavors. The label will also note the suggested dose, but you should consult your doctor to learn how much you should take.
The active ingredients in supplements may have significant impacts on your body. When you start taking a new vitamin or supplement, you should be cautious and alert to possible side effects. Side effects most commonly stem from taking high doses of supplements, or if you take several supplements at once.
There are a few supplements that can cause an increased risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia during surgical procedures. Additionally, some supplements can have adverse reactions when taken with certain medications, like blood thinners, birth control, or transplant drugs, so it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement to your diet.
You may not realize that you’re taking a higher dose of a supplement than you should be, especially since many foods have additives in the form of vitamins, minerals, and other supplemental ingredients. Taking supplements when eating this type of food can result in you consuming a higher dosage than you think.
Also, individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be cautious when taking supplements, and discuss with their doctor whether it’s safe to take them or not.
It’s also worth noting that some supplements may actually increase the risk of you developing prostate cancer. These supplements include selenium and vitamin E. While they’re marketed to promote prostate health, a 2014 study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed the contrary.
Other Considerations for Prostate Health
Supplements aren't the only way to promote prostate health. Some other considerations for ensuring that your prostate remains healthy include:
- Exercise: Exercise can help fight against many diseases and conditions, including prostate cancer. In fact, a 30-minute workout of physical activity can help decrease the risk of an unhealthy prostate by 10% to 30%.
- Add more tomato sauce: Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit, has shown potential in decreasing prostate cancer risks. This means that tomato products, whether cooked or processed, can help reduce prostate cancer risks in a yummy way.
- Consume less fats: Diets high in fat can cause the body’s natural antioxidants to decrease. These antioxidants are vital to keeping your prostate healthy. You should adjust your diet to have less fat and more lean proteins like chicken and fish.
- Go in for screenings: Screening is the most important thing you can do to stay on top of your prostate health. Prostate cancer is typically a silent disease, and the symptoms often show only once the disease has become advanced, meaning that regular screenings and physical exams are a must if you want to stay proactive on your prostate health.
- Drink tea: Hibiscus tea and green tea both promote prostate health due to the antioxidants they contain. These teas should be caffeine-free since caffeine can irritate the bladder and prostate.
- Drink more water: Water is another essential drink for promoting prostate health. Keep yourself hydrated, and don’t slack off on drinking water just because you want to decrease your urine output.
- Reduce stress: Stress has been shown to negatively impact many aspects of your health, and prostate health is at the top of the list. Men in stressful situations often have tension in their pelvic muscles where they tighten their muscles without realizing they’re doing it. Tightening your pelvic muscles can result in many prostate problems, including chronic prostatitis.