As men age, they tend to have problems with the prostate, the gland that produces the fluid that carries sperm. 60% of men have some degree of enlargement of the prostate between the age of 40 and 60, and nearly 90% by the age of 70. The most common disease is prostatitis, an acute or chronic inflammation and swelling of the gland, followed by BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and prostate cancer. In Traditional Chinese Medicine all of these diseases are said to be caused by damp heat and kidney deficiencies, especially kidney yang and qi. The kidneys are in control of the reproductive system in TCM. After the age of about 40, men’s vital energy gradually decreases, causing hormonal dysfunction, which affects circulation and function of the prostate. In Ayurveda, prostatitis is seen as a pitta imbalance in a vata area of the body. Pitta type prostatitis has symptoms of an inflamed bladder and burning sensations during urination. Vata type prostatitis is characterized by spasms in the urethra. Conventional western medicine usually prescribes antibiotics for these conditions, whereas BPH is said to be an incurable disease whose symptoms can be reduced by a change in diet and lifestyle. Chinese medicine focuses on increasing circulation of energy and function of the prostate through acupuncture treatments and herbal remedies. In both TCM and Ayurveda, the following regimen is recommended for prevention and relief of prostate problems.
Avoid alcohol, excess salt and refined salt, shellfish, fried foods, damp producing foods and non-organic foods (pesticides have been shown to exacerbate hormone levels). In cases of acute prostatitis, avoid coffee, black tea and spicy foods, all of which may cause further irritation.
Reduce stress through exercise and yoga, massage the prostate area regularly to increase qi circulation, and eat a balanced diet which controls cholesterol levels. Foods containing lycopene, a prostate protective antioxidant, are recommended: watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit and cooked tomatoes. Nuts, seeds, mushrooms and berries are beneficial. For prostatitis drink lemongrass tea daily. For vata type prostatitis the sweet, warming herb saw palmetto can be effective. Pumpkin seeds, rich in essential fatty acids and zinc, have long been valued in TCM for their ability to protect the prostate gland. Eat a good handful of organic pumpkin seeds a day to keep your prostate nurtured and happy.
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