Symptoms of an enlarged prostate — known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — can range from a weak, slow urinary stream, to hesitancy and straining to urinate, to an inability to empty the bladder completely, to more serious complications including recurrent urinary tract infections and kidney damage.
If a man lives long enough, he will almost certainly experience some degree of BPH. Although 50%–60% of men with this condition may never develop any symptoms, BPH can make life miserable. The November issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch examines the safety and effectiveness of several herbs commonly used to reduce BPH symptoms and offers practical lifestyle tips that can ease living with this prostate problem.
Among herbal remedies, saw palmetto seems to be the most promising. One large analysis of studies done on this herb found that saw palmetto reduced nighttime urination by 25% and other bothersome complaints by 28% when compared to a placebo. Side effects reported were mild and did not differ significantly from problems that the men attributed to the placebos.
The November issue also offers a few simple adjustments that can reduce the bother of BPH:
- Reduce your consumption of fluids, particularly after dinner.
- Limit your use of alcohol and caffeine, and avoid them after about 3 p.m.; both increase urine flow.
- Avoid medications that stimulate muscles in the bladder neck and prostate, as well as medications that weaken bladder contractions.
- Never pass up a chance to use the bathroom, even if your bladder does not feel full.
The Harvard Men’s Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of the Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/men or by calling 1-877-649-9457 toll-free.