June is just around the corner—and is officially Men’s Health Month—so we thought we’d kick it off a little early with one area of concern around men’s health: prostate health.
Okay. So, that may be getting a little personal, but prostate health is an area that needs to be discussed, since more than 30 million men suffer from prostate conditions that can directly and negatively affect their quality of life.
For example, prostatitis—infection of or inflammation of the prostate—is an issue for men of all ages and affects 35 percent of men who are 50 and older. Additionally, over 50 percent of men in their 60s and as many as 90 percent of men in their 70s and beyond have symptoms of an enlarged prostate—benign (noncancerous) prostatic hyperplasia, otherwise known as BPH. What’s more is that, each year, over 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and approximately 30,000 of those men will die of prostate cancer.
But what is the prostate? It’s a small gland which rests below the bladder in men’s bodies, and is part of the reproductive system. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, the tube which transports urine from the bladder, and the normal shape and size of the prostate resembles that of a walnut. However, as a man ages, the prostate can get larger—and that can be a problem. In fact, by the time a man reaches age 40, the prostate gland can have increased from the size of a walnut to the size of an apricot. By the time a man is 60 years old, the prostate could be the size of a lemon.
The increase in size of the prostate, since it surrounds part of the urethra, can lead to problems with passing urine—a problem that typically doesn’t occur in men until they are 50 or older, but can happen earlier. An enlarged prostate (BPH) is common, too, and eight out of every 10 men will eventually develop an enlarged prostate. Some of the symptoms of an enlarged prostate include trouble starting to urinate; having to urinate frequently, especially at night; feeling a sudden urge to urinate or feeling as if the bladder hasn’t emptied completely after urinating; having to stop and start while urinating or having to strain to urinate. Treatment can include everything from “watchful waiting” to see if symptoms worsen, lifestyle changes such as limiting drinking at night, drug therapy or surgery.
Likewise, prostatitis can affect men who are late-teens to men of old age. Since it is associated with infection or inflammation, its symptoms include trouble passing urine, painful passing of urine, fever, chills or even sexual problems. Treatment typically includes antibiotics.
You can see why prostate health is an important men’s health topic.
Then there are cranberries’ role in prostate health that men might be interested in. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, cranberries have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help support men’s prostate health, including cell health in the prostate as well as prostatitis among men with an enlarged prostate.†
Among other studies and reports, The Truth About Prostate Health and Prostate Cancer says that cranberries positively change the pH of urine and “can be an effective complementary treatment for prostatitis.”† Likewise, Mark Stengler, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies, says that cranberries can help prevent prostate infections because they can block E.coli, the primary bacteria that causes prostatitis.†
The results of another study conducted by Czech researchers pointed out that men taking a cranberry supplement had their urinary symptoms—including flow rate, volume and residual urine in the bladder—improved significantly.† An additional perk was that of the men taking a cranberry supplement, their PSA levels decreased at the end of the study compared to when the study began.† PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen, which is measured by a blood test used to detect early prostate cancer. And the men in the study who didn’t take the cranberry supplement? They saw no improvement in their urinary symptoms or PSA levels.
Also, it’s best not to drink cranberry juice if you’re looking for these kinds of benefits. Why? Cranberry juice typically contains too much sugar and not enough of the nutrients required to benefit either the prostate or the urinary tract.
So, for all the men out there…take good care of yourselves, and have a healthy Men’s Health Month this June!
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.