Prostate Health and TCM
By Ban Wong, L.Ac.
The American Cancer Society classifies prostate cancer as the most common form of cancer among U.S. men. According to recent projections, of the 232,090 new cases to be diagnosed, about 30,350 men will die from prostate cancer. If you are a man over the age of 40 and prostate cancer runs in your family, it is extremely advisable to monitor your Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. A PSA blood test measures the level of a protein released by prostate cells. Recent experts state that if a PSA level is 2.5 or higher, it reveals the possibility of prostate growth (hyperplasia), but it does not always mean that cancer is present. Since PSA levels may fluctuate with infection and lab errors, usually more than one test over a period of time is done to confirm your PSA level. Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and ultrasound are other ways to evaluate the prostate. However, only biopsies can truly determine whether the growth in the prostate is benign or malignant.
The prostate gland lies at the base of the bladder surrounding the urethra (urinary tract from bladder to penis). During ejaculation, the prostate secretes a fluid that combines with the seminal fluid in order to prevent infection in the urethra while protecting and invigorating sperm. Due to the aging process, the prostate naturally enlarges as hormones change and weaken after the age of 40. The swelling of the prostate puts pressure against the bladder and urethra, thereby affecting the smooth flow of urine. Abnormal patterns of urination such as higher frequency at night, burning sensation, difficulty, blockage and dribbling are common symptoms and signs of prostate enlargement.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Approach to Prostate Care
TCM associates hyperplasia of the prostate with damp heat and kidney deficiency. After the age of 40, one’s vital energy in the kidney system decreases, resulting in the disturbance of sex hormones. This process also decreases one’s sexual energy, which affects the function of the prostate and the circulation in this region. Throughout the ages, in order to compensate for the decline of prostate function, men in China have used regular acupuncture treatments to improve the circulation and energy in the prostate. To enhance the effect of acupuncture, they have also used Chinese herbs such as He Shou Wu, in traditional, custom herbal formulas to replenish the kidney essence. Kidney essence nurtures the prostate. As the prostate is revitalized, it is now capable of self-regulating toward normal functioning and maintaining a balance of growth and non-growth. This is the balancing properties of Chinese medicine.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
TCM nutrition encourages men to eat more nuts, seeds, pumpkin, mushroom and berries to help nourish their prostates. Managing stress, regular exercise and massaging the prostate are also vital to help maintain prostate health. Besides Chinese herbs and western herbs such as saw palmetto, there are many delicious foods that you can eat to help maintain a healthy prostate. Regular consumption of foods that contain lycopene (a prostate protective antioxidant) is highly recommended. The following are foods that contain lycopene: watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, apricot and cooked tomatoes (tomato paste, tomato soup, tomato juice and marinara sauce). Nutrition experts have expressed concern that pesticides and herbicides in animal products may trigger cancer growth. This may be another good reason for you to eat more organic fruits and vegetables and avoid saturated, high-fat animal products and snacks that contain hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils. These diet and lifestyle recommendations may help prevent this pervasive cancer and help invigorate your body.