So what about treatment?
Recently there have been reports about research on a new drug which will help to shrink the prostate gland thus negating surgery. Unfortunately this drug is experimental at this time and causes impotency. For the most part medicines which decrease the size of the prostate without causing impotence are already available, having been used and researched in Europe since the early 1970's.
By themselves the medicinal plants, Serenoa repens and Pygeum africanus, have been shown to be very effective in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Coupled with preventive measures such as dietary changes and exercise, early detection and intervention will lead to a decrease in suffering from this common affliction. These plants which are found both in the United States and Africa, have been used for centuries for treatment of prostatic and urological disorders in men. It has been only within the last few years that modern technology has made it easier to concentrate their active principles in order to achieve standardization and a higher level of effectiveness.
The berries of the plant Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) contain about 15% saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and sterols which have been found in studies to possess antiandrogen or testosterone properties, immune stimulating effects and reduces edema or swelling of the prostate.
Specifically, when used in clinical trials, an extract of Serenoa repens has been shown to prevent the conversion of testosterone to its more potent form resulting in a significant decrease in prostate size and relief of symptoms.
Similar to Serenoa, ingestion of the powdered bark of the tree Pygeum africanus has for centuries been reported to be a treatment for urinary disorders. Recently researchers in France have begun to scientifically examine some of the clinical observations and claims made about Pygeum africanus. Isolating its active compounds, scientists were able to conclude that the herbal preparation did in fact produce antiinflammatory, antiedema and cholesterol lowering properties. Both double blind clinical trials in humans and studies on animals clearly showed regression of symptoms associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy as well as conveying tumor blocking properties. Furthermore, a reversal of abnormally appearing tissue on histologic examination was also found. In other words, Pygeum africanus consistently reversed the effects of benign prostatic hypertrophy and were shown to aid in the prevention of prostatic cancer. In each of the studies conducted there were no toxic side effects observed, even at large doses and with prolonged usage.
Standard medical treatment for BPH involves the usage of the Transuertheral Resection of the Prostate or TURP, a surgical procedure which clears excess tissue from the urethra and requires hospitalization. While the procedure is effective, it is often uncomfortable and may have the side effect of impairment of ejaculation or impotence. Indwelling catheterization or balloon implantation may also be used to relieve pressure caused by the obstruction. Each procedure along with drug therapy has side effects which make them less than desirable. In addition, these procedures treat the symptoms rather than the cause of the disorder often necessitating further treatment as the gland continues to enlarge.
Considering the far reaching effects these conditions have on the lives of sufferers in terms of discomfort, side effects of standard treatments, and the enormous costs that are brought to bear, prevention of prostatic disorders should be undertaken by all men. Both the research literature and my own experience in clinical practice make it clear that prevention and early intervention using non toxic medications can relieve the suffering caused by this inevitable process of aging.
Dr. Tom Kruzel practices in Portland, Oregon and can be reached at (503) 667-1961