Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prostate Health and Prostate Cancer Awareness - It's 'Movember'!

Since it is ‘No shave November’, AKA Movember, I thought I would make this month’s nutrition topic about foods that promote a healthy prostate!  But in addition to some healthy food choices, I can’t help but also give you some lifestyle tips as well, to maintain a healthy prostate as you age into your forties, fifties and beyond.  For example, did you know that regular ejaculation is absolutely one of the healthiest things you can do for your prostate?  To be more specific, a recent study (don’t ask me how they studied this), showed that men age 40 and over who ejaculated at least 21 times per month were at 33% lower risk for developing enlarged prostate gland, or prostate cancer than those who ejaculated less frequently.  Obviously the safest but least fun way to accomplish this is through masturbation, because increasing sex partners will increase your risk of exposure to many other STDs which could be more way more life threatening than prostate cancer!
Why should you be so concerned with your prostate anyway?  Well doctors recommend at age 40 that you get your first prostate check, by having your rectum probed with the finger of a medical expert.  This type of check will allow a doctor to manually feel your prostate gland and see if it is enlarged or has any lumps, or hard spots.  At age 50 doctors recommend a prostate check every year, by either manual check through the rectum or a blood lab PSA test (Prostate Specific Antigen test).  The problem with blood PSA tests is they are really only useful when several tests are taken over a period of time detect a trend.  Because your PSA levels can acutely rise into a risk-alert level through many activities such as sexual intercourse, bicycling or any other kind of trauma near that area of your body.  Even a sitting too long during a road trip can spike your PSA levels, possibly alarming you and your doctor for no reason.  So as unpleasant and as violating as it may be, many experts feel that the manual finger-insertion check is more accurate and reliable than a blood PSA test.  What all these tests are trying to check for is early onset of enlarged prostate gland, medically known as ‘Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia’ or BPH.  BPH can then be a precursor to prostate cancer, which at least is considered very curable and isn’t likely to kill you.  But still nobody wants cancer!

Here is the catch - all of us will eventually have enlarged prostate.  It is simply a matter of time.  Check this out:  50% of men over age 60 will experience enlarged prostate.  By age 85 over 95% of us will ‘suffer’ from enlarged prostate.  I say suffer in quotations, because to be honest, it is not really suffering at all but rather a natural part of the male aging process.  Which leads me to my next point – many doctors may recommend not even treating BPH if the patient is already past a certain age.  Why?  Because the theory is the patient will likely die from some other cause before prostate cancer would possibly kill them – it is a slow progressing cancer.  So while prostate health and awareness is important it is nothing to panic about.
There are some physiological triggers that could cause early onset enlarged prostate or cause it to progress more quickly, such as high hormone levels, especially testosterone which metabolizes into DHT or dihydrotestosterone, and estrogen.  In fact there is link between men with classic male-pattern-baldness and enlarged prostate.  Male-pattern baldness and excessive body hair, is thought to be caused by high levels of DHT.  However this is beyond the scope of this article and should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor.  Occupations that Prolonged sitting is another high risk factor, as a diet high in animal protein, especially red meat, which leaves a Uric Acid byproduct.

Okay so let’s get to the pro-prostate health foods part of this article already!  Here’s the main take away from not only my research for this article, but rather from all my years of writing as fitness professional:  A truly optimally healthy diet, is also a lean-body diet, is also an anti-cancer diet, and is also inherently a healthy-prostate diet!  Dude, just eat clean and exercise and sleep well and get regular prostate checks and your 90% there!  The only caveat is, a typical Bodybuilder’s diet in the traditional sense, could potentially be a cancer-promoting diet, if you know it already runs in your family or are exposed to many carcinogens.  Why do I say this?  Because there is BIG link between diets that are based heavily on animal-proteins and cancer progression.  Animal protein seems to allow cancer cells to thrive more when compared to a plant-based diet.  No I am not saying to go vegan here by any means, but rather simply to eat a diverse, vegetable-rich diet where animal proteins are consumed in moderation.  Another issue with the typical bodybuilding or Paleo diet, is they like to grill their meats, because grilling does in fact burn most of the fat off, producing a leaner serving.  However grilling tends to also char parts of the meat and charred meat is a known carcinogen as well as the advanced-glycation-end products grilling produces.  So grill in moderation.  The lower heat the better for avoiding carcinogens as far as all food cooking is concerned, except for steaming.  Also red meat digests leaving a Uric Acid byproduct which can cause inflammation and enlargement in the prostate after years of repeated high levels.

Here is a short list of foods that passed the ‘more than anecdotal’ test for supporting prostate health, and where possible the specific nutrient they contain that is responsible for helping your prostate:
1.      Lycopene – from cooked tomatoes and tomato sauces.
2.      Cruciferous vegetables – such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.
3.      Zinc – abundant any many foods such as almonds, pumpkin seeds and oysters.  Be very careful with your source of raw oysters however!
4.      Bell peppers – full of anti-oxidants other powerful phyto-nutrients.
5.      Omega 3 EFAs – also known as Essential Fatty Acids, abundant in cold-water fish, walnuts, avocados and olive oil.
6.      Garlic and onions – remember these from the Super Foods list we published a while back?
7.      Soy – yes that’s right I said soy!  Many bodybuilder’s fear soy as they think the natural phyto-estrogens soy contains will cause a rise in their own estrogen levels, which is absurd!  Soy is abundant in cancer fighting isoflavones, anti-oxidants and its phyto-estrogens block more harmful, synthetic xeno-estrogens.  There is no denying the repeated studies that shows cultures who consume high amounts of soy traditionally, have the lowest cancer and prostate cancer levels globally.
8.      Pomegranate – eat more pomegranate!  Just make sure it is actually pomegranate you are eating and not some fake product with only 10% real pomegranate juice.  Also with fruits, whole fruits are always a better choice than drinking juice, if you want to get all the fiber and nutrients.
9.      Avocados – are full of anti-oxidants, plant sterols, and unsaturated fats, that help battle cancer cells and lower inflammation. 

Of course there are many more foods, and the more diverse your diet the better!  However these 9 foods are the ones that made my cut.  Now I challenge you to go find 10 more foods.  Lastly you can eat the healthiest food our planet has to offer, but if you are not exercising regularly none of what you eat is going to matter.  Here’s to our prostate gentlemen!  - Because what I did NOT tell you yet, is that without your prostate, sporting wood and sexual intercourse is NOT possible.  Once your prostate starts going boys, it’s all downhill sexually!  Enlarged Prostate usually also means the beginning symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, as well, so take charge or your prostate, your health and your life right now!

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