Author: Dr. Leigh Vinocur
Did You Know That 3 out of 4 Men Don’t Know What the Prostate Does?
Most men don’t even think about their prostate until it gives them problems. And many are surprised to learn that the prostate is a male reproductive organ that plays a critical role in sexual function and fertility.
History… What’s in the Name?
The word “prostate” comes from the ancient Greek word “προστάτης” (prostátēs), meaning “one who stands before,” “a protector,” or “a guardian.” And the gland does ‘stand’ in front of the rectum, just below the bladder, making up part of the urethra. The prostatic urethra is part of the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis to the outside.
The Prostate and Sexual Function
The prostate plays a key role in sexual function and fertility in men. There are 3 primary ways it does this:
- Makes ingredients for semen. The prostate creates key fluids that make up semen. This fluid combines with the sperm cells from the testicles and other fluids that are all mixed together in the urethra.
- Nourishes and protects sperm. The secretions from the prostate are important for the proper functioning of the sperm cells, thereby associated with fertility in men. This milky liquid contains many enzymes such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which makes the semen thinner, and other substances that ensure that the sperm cells have good movement and motility.
- Supports ejaculation. The prostate is very muscular, with many smooth muscle cells that contract during ejaculation to forcefully push the fluid that has been stored in the prostate out into the urethra.
Maintaining a Healthy Prostate
One of the best ways to prevent prostate disease and to maintain a healthy prostate is to get annual checkups and to live a healthy lifestyle. That includes regular physical exercise, maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet, as well as potentially taking natural supplements that promote prostate health.
Basically, a heart healthy diet will also translate into a prostate healthy diet. A good example is the Mediterranean diet, which is a plant-based diet, abundant in lean proteins, such as fish with a lot of omega-3s, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, and fruits, as well as healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados. You should avoid over-processed and junk foods. And you should try to avoid a diet that is high in animal fats and red meat. Also, avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, try cutting back on salt, and watch your portion sizes. This will help you maintain a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI), which will also help keep your prostate healthy.
Staying active is key. Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes per day of low or moderate intensity helps to maintain your weight and an ideal BMI, which has been shown to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke, and it will keep your prostate healthy too.
According to the results of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a questionnaire completed by more than 30,000 men, there is an inverse relationship between physical activity and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) symptoms, such as increased urinary frequency, urgency, and nighttime urination, which are due to an enlarged prostate. That means that men who were more active were less likely to suffer from BPH. Even low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, showed there were meaningful health benefits.
Get Annual Checkups
A Kaiser Foundation poll showed that 92% of Americans believe it is important to get an annual health checkup, while only 62% actually do it. You should consider getting regular checkups, even if you feel healthy. The purpose of these visits is to screen for medical issues, update vaccines, assess potential health risks, and to learn more about healthy lifestyles. Prevention is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy life.
Complementary and Alternative Approaches
An adjunct to a healthy lifestyle can include prostate health supplements, which can be beneficial too. However, make sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist first about taking any supplements to check for interactions with the medications you may already be on.
A good example of a prostate health supplement is saw palmetto extract. Saw palmetto oil extract, not to be mistaken with saw palmetto powder supplements, is the most studied botanical in prostate health. Nearly 40 years of clinical research shows that a high-quality saw palmetto extract can benefit men’s prostate and urinary health. As with any supplement, quality matters, so it is important to do your research.
The United States Pharmacopeia, the most comprehensive source for medicine and supplement quality standards in the world, has created a monograph for saw palmetto oil extract. A monograph is a written standard that, among other things, articulates the required purity, potency, composition, and performance of a dietary supplement ingredient for it to be considered of the highest quality. If you want to ensure that you are taking a high-quality supplement, like Flomentum®, be sure that it has been independently verified by a trusted third-party organization, like USP.
Stay healthy and live well!