Anyone with a prostate who lives long enough is likely to develop an enlarged prostate gland, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). But the condition is different from prostate cancer, and treatment depends on a person's symptoms.
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At least half of people with an enlarged prostate don't have any symptoms at all, and they typically don't require treatment, urologist Don Arnold, II, MD, chief of surgery for Southern Illinois Healthcare Herrin Hospital and Southern Illinois Health Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Many mild symptoms — such as a frequent or urgent need to urinate — can be managed without medications or surgery. Here, we'll look at home remedies that may help you manage symptoms and shrink an enlarged prostate naturally.
The symptoms of BPH can be similar to the symptoms of prostate cancer, so make sure to talk to your doctor about the proper screenings based on your risk factors.
1. Eat a Plant-Based Diet
"Decreasing animal-based foods [like red meat] is first-line therapy as far as decreasing prostate growth," she notes.
You'll want to prioritize the following foods:
Fruits and Vegetables
Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, and fruits like cranberries are all high in antioxidants and reduce oxidative stress on cells, Dr. Swenor says. They're also rich in fiber, providing extra ammunition against inflammation.
The foods highest in antioxidants include:
- Red beans
- Artichoke hearts
- Sweet cherries
Soy is another food that's good for BPH. As a phytoestrogen, it serves as a brake on testosterone production, explains Dr. Swenor. The hormone testosterone fuels prostate growth, says Dr. Arnold.
Foods containing soy include:
- Soy nuts
Green bananas are rich in fiber and, along with other foods high in resistant starch like lentils, green beans and kidney beans, feed the "good" organisms in our gut microbiome, says Dr. Swenor. This feeds into a complicated communication chain that eventually connects with the immune system and helps fight inflammation.
"A large prostate is an inflammatory process where cells are proliferating," she explains. (Take comfort in the fact that this doesn't equate with an excessive risk of prostate cancer.) .
2. Try Meditation
If you've ever had to perform on stage, you know that anxiety can increase the urge to urinate. Nerves can be especially troublesome when you have an enlarged prostate and are already having symptoms like urinating at night (nocturia), straining to urinate and needing to go all the time.
Relaxation techniques like meditation can help, says Pedro Maria, MD, an attending physician in urology at Montefiore Health System in New York City. "It relaxes the overall body, and that can help you relax when you go the bathroom. You go more freely," Dr. Maria explains.
3. Add Exercise
Add physical activity to your regimen as well. "Exercise is a form of relaxation," says Dr. Maria, who is also associate professor of urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It's also a potent anti-inflammatory.
So, how much do you need to do? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week (that's about 30 minutes a day, five days a week). Examples of moderate-intensity exercises include walking, biking and swimming, but anything that gets your heart beating faster counts. You could also choose to do at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity (think: jogging or running), or a mix of the two.
All adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week, according to the guidelines. These should work all your major muscle groups, including your arms, chest, shoulders, core, legs, hips and back. This could mean lifting weights, or you could do body-weight exercises like air squats, push-ups and sit-ups.
Getting enough movement each day isn't just good for your prostate — it lowers the risk of a number of health concerns, including cancer and type 2 diabetes.
4. Tweak Your Bathroom Habits
One of the simplest things you can do for the bothersome urinary symptoms of an enlarged prostate is change some of your bathroom habits.
Make sure you urinate as soon as you feel the need to go and that you empty your bladder completely each time you go. This will reduce the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom, both day and night.
Michigan Medicine offers the following tips to make it easier to fully empty your bladder when you have BPH:
- Relax as much as possible before you urinate. As we mentioned earlier, anxiety can make it even more difficult to urinate, so try not to worry about your symptoms and consider meditation for a few minutes or doing some deep breathing.
- Don't rush. Give yourself plenty of time in the bathroom.
- Consider sitting on the toilet instead of standing, to help you relax.
- Turn on a faucet or visualize running water; this may help get your urine flowing.
- Read or think of other things while you urinate, to help you stay relaxed.
- Try "double voiding," when you urinate as much as possible, relax for a few moments, then urinate again.
5. Check Your Meds
Certain medications, including some antihistamines and decongestants, can affect the urge to urinate, according to Harvard Health Publishing. In other words, they could make your symptoms worse.
Check with your doctor to see if any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you're taking are aggravating your symptoms, and whether there are alternatives that could cause fewer side effects.
6. Watch What You Drink (and When)
Any liquids that go in must ultimately come out. You can cut down on urinary irritation by monitoring when and where you drink.
Both caffeine and alcohol spur the kidneys to make urine, which means ever more trips to the bathroom, per Harvard Health Publishing. Moderating these, especially at night, can cut down on how often you need to go.
Also, limit how much you drink, whatever the fluid — water, cranberry juice, coffee or wine — before you go to bed and before you leave the house.
What About Acupuncture?
Several studies have suggested that acupuncture can shrink an enlarged prostate. One review of eight randomized controlled trials (considered the gold standard in medicine) concluded that acupuncture could reduce BPH symptoms in four to six weeks, per April 2017 results in PLOS One.
But eight studies is not a lot, and the authors of the review suggested that more research be done over longer periods of time before any recommendations are made.
What About Herbal Supplements?
Although some people have reported relief from bothersome BPH symptoms by using herbal supplements such as saw palmetto, beta-sitosterol, pygeum, stinging nettle and rye grass pollen extract, there's really no evidence to back up their benefit. The same goes for turmeric.
"It's all hypothetical," Dr. Maria says.
And supplements bought over-the-counter may even be harmful. "Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so that means that anything goes as far as bringing a product to market," says Dr. Swenor. "They don't have to prove what's in the supplement, and there's no standardization."
Some supplements also have medications in them and can interact with other drugs, like blood thinners, adds Dr. Maria.
For these reasons, make sure to talk to your doctor before trying any herbal supplements.
What About Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian regimen that seeks to optimize health with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. Although the internet is peppered with accounts of Ayurvedic medicine shrinking an enlarged prostate, the actual evidence is slim to none.
With that said, lifestyle changes can make a difference for people with BPH, Dr. Swenor says. But your best bet is to follow the tips above by adopting a plant-based diet, getting enough exercise and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard Health Publishing: “4 tips for coping with an enlarged prostate”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Natural ways to treat an enlarged prostate”
- Journal of Mid-Life Health: “Various treatment options for benign prostatic hyperplasia: A current update”
- Mayo Clinic: “Benign Prostatic. Hyperplasia (BPH)”
- Urinary Care Foundation: “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “How much physical activity do adults need?”
- PLOS One: “Acupuncture for benign prostatic hyperplasia: A systematic review and meta-analysis”
- McMaster University: “6 natural remedies for enlarged prostate (BPH)”
- Archivio Italiano di Urologia e Andrologia: “Nutraceutical treatment and prevention of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer”
- BJU International: “Efficacy and safety of a hexanic extract of Serenoa repens (Permixon) for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (LUTS/BPH): systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies”
- Current Urology Reports: “Phytotherapy for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia”
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health: “Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth”
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition
- Michigan Medicine: "Enlarged Prostate: Bathroom Tips"