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Men are usually told they should have their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level measured beginning between ages 40 and 50, depending on their ethnicity and family history.
Why is it recommended you have your PSA checked? An elevated PSA can be an early indication that something is not quite right with the prostate, such as the possibility of prostatitis, an enlarged prostate, or prostate cancer, while a lower PSA is a strong indication of good prostate health. However, an elevated PSA can be associated with other situations that don’t directly involve prostate health, such as a reaction to medication, a urinary tract infection, recent catheterization or ejaculation, or inflammation of the prostate associated with a sports injury or age.
In any event, it’s best to get a PSA test so you and your doctor can decide whether any action is necessary. As a general course of action, you can help ensure a healthy prostate by following certain lifestyle guidelines.
Eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts
Although several hormones have an impact on the prostate, one in particular — DHT, or dihydrotestosterone — promotes prostate inflammation and stimulates insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone that can promote abnormal cell growth and cancer. Certain foods contain substances shown to naturally inhibit DHT. One of those substances is lycopene, which is found in carrots, mangoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.
A National Institutes of Health study noted that lycopene inhibits IGF-I growth in prostate cells by reducing DHT-modulated IGF-I production. Other food substances that inhibit DHT include L-lysine (in almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts), and zinc (in cashews, kale, spinach, wheat germ, white mushrooms, and supplements). Make a point to include several of the mentioned foods in your diet every day.
Add some pomegranate to your diet
Whether you enjoy pomegranate juice, the tasty pulp and seeds, or prefer the supplement, be sure to include this fruit in your diet more often. Research at Johns Hopkins has shown that this phytonutrient-rich fruit can reduce the rate of PSA doubling in men who have prostate cancer. Overall, the doubling time increased from 11.9 months at baseline to 18.5 months after treatment with pomegranate extract. Since pomegranate is rich in sugar, taking a supplement may be better than having the fruit on a regular basis.
Staying physically active on a regular basis can help lower your PSA levels. Aerobic activities, such as walking, running, cycling, and rowing, are encouraged as well as some resistance exercise to help strengthen and tone muscles. A highly recommended exercise approach is HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which is perfect for men who want to maximize their exercise benefits in a minimal amount of time.
A study in the Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at the PSA levels and physical activity of nearly 2,000 healthy males and found that “PSA levels were significantly higher among the group with hypertension or the group of individuals that did not exercise regularly or group of office workers who were considered to have lesser physical activities.”
Some contradictory evidence surrounds the association between overweight and obesity and PSA. On the one hand, excess weight is associated with a greater risk of prostate cancer, prostatitis, and enlarged prostate, all conditions also associated with an elevated PSA. However, several studies point to lower PSA levels in healthy overweight and obese men, including a new study in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. Overall however, losing weight is the more logical and healthful step for the prostate and your general health.
Several studies have indicated that use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce PSA levels. A University of Arizona study, for example, found that this effect was especially significant among men who had never smoked. Before taking aspirin, however, talk to your healthcare provider about whether it is safe for you to do so and the optimal dose for you.
Eat more tomatoes
Tomatoes are an important source of the potent antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to reduce PSA levels and lower a man’s risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is released from tomatoes when they are cooked, so you get the most benefit from enjoying stewed tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato-based pasta sauces, and tomato juice. One caution, however: don’t eat tomatoes that have been canned, as they may have been exposed to BPA (bisphenol-A) in the lining of the can, a chemical that disrupts your endocrine system and may contribute to prostate cancer. Fresh is definitely best when it comes to this fruit.
Reduce or avoid foods that harm the prostate
You may be surprised at how many common foods irritate the prostate and can contribute to a rise in PSA levels and an enlarged prostate. Here are some of the foods and beverages that fall into this category:
- Foods that contain acrylamide, such as French fries and potato chips (the two biggest offenders) and doughnuts
- Foods rich in saturated fats
- Excess alcohol
- Nonfermented soy products such as tofu and edamame, which can raise estrogen levels
- Microwave popcorn
- Nonorganic potatoes, meats, and dairy products
- Canned foods, especially tomatoes, which are acidic and more likely to leach bisphenol A (a hormone disruptor) from the lining of the cans
- And these 8 worst foods for prostrate health.
Reduce animal protein intake
Meat, poultry, and dairy foods are typically high in protein and also trigger the release of a substance called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). When you consume a considerable amount of these high-protein foods, the body makes a lot of IGF-I and can use some of it to promote cancer growth, including prostate cancer.
A study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention reported that IGF-I levels were elevated among animal protein eaters but not among plant protein consumers. In fact, eating plant protein seemed to reduce IGF-1 levels. If you do eat animal protein, be sure to choose organic products that have not been raised with antibiotics or any other hormones.
Try quercetin and pollen
Both quercetin and pollen have demonstrated properties that promote and support prostate health, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, especially in the management of the inflammatory condition known as prostatitis. In addition, a new study in Urology looked at the effect of an anti-inflammatory combination (consisting of quercetin, nimesulide, saw palmetto, and bromelain) taken daily for three months by men with PSA values of 7.2 ng/mL or 7.3 ng/mL at baseline. By the end of the study, the combination had effectively and safely reduced PSA levels from 7.3 ng/mL to 4.6 ng/mL among men who had prostate inflammation. Both quercetin and pollen can be taken separately, but they also can be found together in supplement formulas designed to support prostate health.
Follow The Prostate Diet
Men who want to help keep PSA levels low, support overall prostate health, and fight inflammation are encouraged to follow The Prostate Diet. The diet has 10 foundations which, if you follow them consistently, should reward you with a healthy prostate and overall health as well. Post them where you can refer to them until they become a habit.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, organic whenever possible
- Consume healthy fats — monounsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids
- Choose plant protein over animal protein
- Drink green tea often
- Choose whole, natural foods over refined, processed foods
- Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., cold-water fatty fish, walnuts, algae)
- Avoid or significantly limit certain foods and supplements (see “Reduce or avoid foods that harm the prostate”)
- Choose prostate cancer-killing foods and supplements, such as tomatoes, green tea, and vitamin D
- Stay well hydrated with pure water
- Consider taking natural supplements that support prostate health
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- Algotar AM et al. Effect of aspirin, other NSAIDs, and statins on PSA and PSA velocity. Prostate 2010 Jun 1; 70(8): 883-88
- Allen NE et al. The associations of diet with serum insulin-like growth factor 1 and its main binding proteins in 292 women meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 2002 Nov; 11(11): 1441-48
- Gallo L. The effect of a pure anti-inflammatory therapy on reducing prostate-specific antigen levels in patients diagnosed with a histologic prostatitis. Urology 2016 Aug; 94:198-203
- Kim SH et al. Serum prostate-specific antigen levels and type of work in tire manufacturing workers. Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2014 Nov 4; 26(1): 50
- Liu X et al. Lycopene inhibits IGF-I signal transduction and growth in normal prostate epithelial cells by decreasing DHT-modulated IGF-I production in co-cultured reactive stromal cells. Carcinogenesis 2008 Apr; 29(4): 816-23
- Paller CJ et al. A randomized phase II study of pomegranate extract for men with rising PSA following initial therapy for localized prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease 2013 Mar; 16(1): 50-55
- Zhang J et al. An inverse association of obesity and prostate-specific antigen in elderly males. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine 2016; 9(9): 18746-53