Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy

Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is a condition in which the prostate gland becomes enlarged, interfering with urinary function. Benign prostatic hypertrophy affects around 20% of men aged 41-50, but becomes more common with age, and occurs in over 90% of men over 80 years old.


  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy is sometimes asymptomatic. When symptoms occur, they may include:
  • Increased frequency and urgency of urination, especially during the night
  • Intermittent or reduced urinary flow
  • Hesitancy (difficulty starting urinating)
  • Sensation that the bladder has not completely emptied
  • Incontinence
  • Pain and blood in the urine may also occur


  • Age-related hormonal changes (e.g. enhanced conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a form of the hormone with adverse effects on prostate tissue) lead to enlargement of the prostate gland. Due to its location in the bladder, the enlarged prostate interferes with the flow of urine through the urethra, creating the characteristic urinary symptoms
  • Genetic factors may predispose some men to benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Men with weight problems are more likely to be affected, especially those with abdominal obesity. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, having high Cholesterol, and drinking alcohol may also increase risk
  • Exposure to environmental toxins, especially heavy metals (e.g. lead), pesticides, and paint fumes. Aside from their toxicity, many such compounds have oestrogen-like effects in the body, and this may interfere with male hormone balance

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • The herbs saw palmetto and pygeum have been clinically proven to relieve symptoms of medically diagnosed benign prostatic hypertrophy. Research studies have shown them to be as effective for the condition as some prescribed medicines, but with fewer side effects. The way these herbs work has not yet been fully established, but saw palmetto is known to inhibit activity of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which is involved in the production of dihydrotestosterone
  • Nettle root is also traditionally used in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, often in combination with saw palmetto and pygeum
  • Zinc is essential for the functioning of the male reproductive tract, and helps regulate hormone imbalances that may contribute to benign prostatic hypertrophy; for example, it limits the production of dihydrotestosterone by inhibiting activity of 5-alpha-reductase
  • Consuming high levels of lycopene may help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, perhaps due its potent antioxidant activity
  • Laboratory studies suggest that in addition to its more widely recognised role in the maintenance of healthy Cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health, resveratrol also have prostate protecting properties

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Urinary tract symptoms in men may be indicative of underlying disease, and require medical investigation. In particular, it is important to rule out prostate cancer, which has similar symptoms
  • Take steps to manage your Cholesterol. Having high Cholesterol has been correlated with increased risk of prostate cancer. The association may be due to the fact that certain male hormones are synthesised from Cholesterol
  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy is more common in men who are physically inactive, and increasing exercise levels may help to relieve symptoms, as well as helping to manage weight problems, abdominal obesity and Cholesterol levels
  • Reduce your consumption of animal proteins (such as red meat) and instead eat several serves of fish and soy products (such as tofu) each week. Fish contain omega-3s and soy products contain phytosterols; these compounds help reduce prostate symptoms and manage Cholesterol levels
  • Decrease alcohol intake, especially beer and wine, which are associated with increased likelihood of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia. Avoiding caffeine-containing beverages (e.g. coffee, tea, cola) may also be beneficial
  • Snack on pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels). They contain essential fatty acids that support optimal prostate function
  • To increase your consumption of lycopene, eat several servings of tomato products every week. Lycopene is easiest to absorb from tomato sauce and dishes in which tomatoes are cooked with oil

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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