It is difficult to think of men’s health and not consider the prostate, since prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men.
Prostate problems, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate swelling), prostatitis (inflammation and/or infection), and frequent nighttime urination, are hard enough to contend with, but what’s more concerning is that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian men and is diagnosed at the same rate as breast cancer is in Canadian women.
Testosterone Not the Culprit
When it comes to prostate disease, the common belief is that prostate growth and cancer is fuelled by testosterone, but numerous studies indicate that estrogen, not testosterone, may actually be the culprit.
This makes sense, as all men lose testosterone as they age, all the while gaining estrogen–especially estradiol, the most powerful of the estrogens. Many research studies back this assumption, including a 2005 study from the University of Chicago which showed that testosterone is able to induce death to prostate tumours, while estradiol is essential for initiating their growth.
Another study from the Harvard Medical School looked at the association of free and total testosterone to prostate disease and cancer concluding that no correlation exists between testosterone (both free and total) and prostate cancer. The study also showed that low–not high—serum-free testosterone may be a marker for more aggressive disease.
The recommendations below will be beneficial for both men and women in the natural fight against all cancers.
One of the best ways to reduce excess harmful estrogens is to consume plenty of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts). Researchers from Cancer Care Ontario report that consuming more than one serving of broccoli and cauliflower a week may reduce prostate cancer risk by 45 percent.
This is probably due to a group of powerful phytonutrients called indoles, the most powerful of which is indole-3-carbinol which has been shown in studies to help stimulate enzymes that weaken powerful estrogens, block carcinogens from entering prostate cells, and initiate the self-destruction mechanism in cancer cells.
Also important is reducing inflammation. Lowering consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oils, high-fat, grain fed meats, dairy products) and increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids (flaxseeds, hempseeds, walnuts, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and krill) have been shown to greatly reduce prostate cancer tumour growth rates.
Zinc-rich foods: A deficiency in the mineral zinc has been connected to poor prostate health. Zinc is not only nourishing to the prostate but also essential for male hormone production. Foods with high zinc content include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, mushrooms, spinach, whole grains, and seafood (especially oysters).
Garlic: This powerful herb has been preventing disease since Hippocrates recommended it centuries ago. Today studies show that those who eat fresh garlic daily have lower rates of cancer than those who do not. Traditionally, one clove per day has been used as a cancer preventive. Garlic is thought to help prevent cancer in many ways, for example by aiding in the breakdown of the hormone testosterone and by enhancing immune function.
Lycopene-containing foods: The red pigment in tomatoes is thought to reduce prostate cancer risk. Lycopene is made more available once the tomatoes are cooked. Enjoy homemade tomato soups, stews, and sauces. Other foods that offer this cancer-fighting boost include strawberries, watermelons, and pink grapefruits.
High-fibre foods: We often think of heart health in relation to high-fibre foods, but a lack of fibre is also linked to cancer. The fibre in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains help to eliminate toxins from the body. Try leafy green vegetables and whole grains such as barley, quinoa, buckwheat (or kasha), wild rice, brown rice, and oats.
Pomegranate juice: This juice contains polyphenols and other antioxidants that researchers have proven beneficial for prostate health. Well-publicized results of the first clinical trial of pomegranate juice in men with prostate cancer were published in Clinical Cancer Research in 2006.
The trial involved 50 men who had received surgery or radiation for prostate cancer, but were identified as at risk for further recurrence. Researchers measured the rate of time it took for the men’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to double, indicating a potential progression of the condition.
Men who consumed 8 ounces (250 mL) of pomegranate juice daily were able to delay their PSA doubling time from an average of 15 months to an average of 54 months (four and a half years). Some men in the study had suppressed PSA levels after three years, despite having no other treatment than the daily pomegranate juice.
Now researchers in California have shown that drinking 8 oz (250 mL) of pomegranate juice daily increased blood flow to the heart and could help prevent heart disease. The juice was shown to have no negative effect on weight gain or blood sugar levels.
Fortunately, this fruit juice is available year-round at supermarkets and health food stores.
Here is a treat recipe that uses this healthy juice.
3 cups (750 mL) dried cranberries
1/4 cup (60 mL) raisins
1/4 cup (60 mL) dried apricots, chopped
1/4 -1/2 cup (125 mL) honey (to taste)
1 cup (250 mL) pomegranate juice
Base and Topping
2 cups (500 mL) spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp (7mL) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) rolled oats
3/4 cup (185 mL) raw sunflower seeds
3/4 cup (185 mL) coconut butter (or coconut oil if you can't find butter)
1/4 cup (125 mL) brown rice syrup or honey
To prepare filling, combine dried fruit, honey, and pomegranate juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir until mixture thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes.
To prepare base and topping, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease a 9 x 13-in (23 x 33-cm) baking pan. Mix together all base ingredients in a large bowl, blending in coconut butter with fingertips until mixture looks like moist crumbs. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of mixture for topping, and press remaining crumbs firmly into bottom of baking pan. Bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and spread with cranberry filling. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top and bake another 30 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Makes 12 bars.