A Naturopathic Understanding of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia


Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH

BPH is a highly prevalent imbalance in aged men, characterized by dysregulation of cell growth of the prostate epithelium and stroma.  The prevalence increases from 8% to 50% once a man reaches 50 years of age. Symptoms include urinary frequency, urgency, straining, and incomplete voiding of urine.  BPH can lead to prostate cancer in some men, and so it is important to take preventative measures, and make changes to reverse or minimize the risk factors.


Metabolism, or breakdown of testosterone

Testosterone is metabolized to DHT via an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, and is metabolized to estrogen via aromatase enzyme.  There is research showing both DHT pro_prostateand estrogen directly contribute to BPH.  Normal regulated metabolism of testosterone in a healthy man does not create the environment for BPH.  Answers to healing or preventing BPH lie in reducing the metabolism, or rather, reducing the overstimulation of metabolism to these downline metabolites – estrogen and DHT and in addition to reducing inflammation in the body overall.


Stress and BPH

Harvard study showed two mechanisms are involved.  Stress increases both adrenaline and testosterone.  Adrenaline is triggered to release by the sympathetic nervous system and constricts blood vessels in smooth muscle including the prostate and bladder. This mechanism can make it difficult for a man to urinate.  Testosterone is produced in addition to other stress hormones triggered by the hypothalamus and the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG axis).


Testosterone replacement therapy

There has been much debate over testosterone therapy and BPH.  Low testosterone in men has been recognized and treated with testosterone replacement therapy for many years now.  Low testosterone can contribute to erectile dysfunction, low mood, insulin resistance and obesity in men.  Testosterone therapy in hypo gonadal men (those with low testosterone) who have BPH, showed improvement in 31% of the 120 patients.  This is a small study, however, it shows that clearly there are other factors than testosterone alone involved in the development of BPH.  Another study of Japanese men showed those with the highest testosterone levels had the smallest prostates, and those with the highest estrogen levels, had the largest.  Alcohol increases aromatase enzyme which creates more estrogen from testosterone.  So the combination of frequent alcohol consumption and testosterone therapy may lead to BPH symptoms.


Exercise and BPH

Harvard study of 3743 participants, found an inverse relationship between physical activity and BPH, even low to moderate activity.  The reason is unknown, one theory is that exercise ultimately lowers activity of the sympathetic nervous system.  Also, the study showed that those who spent the most time watching television were twice as likely to have BPH symptoms.



BPH is highly likely in a man who is obese.  Obesity can be measured by height/weight ratio or BMI (body mass index) over 30.  A Harvard study of over 25,000 men concluded that if a man’s waist is more than 43 inches in circumference, they are 2.4 times more likely to need surgery for their BPH than a man whose waist is less than 35 inches.  Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, cardiovascular disease and increased inflammation in the body all are strongly associated with BPH.  Excess adipose tissue on the body (fat) alone, without the other factors, can cause BPH due to the estrogenic activities in the fat tissue, especially abdominal fat.  Obesity and insulin resistance are associated with increased 5-alpha reductase activity, which metabolizes testosterone to DHT and stimulates prostate growth.


Understanding insulin resistance

Cells of the body need glucose to grow and function.  Insulin is responsible for helping the glucose get into the cells.  When a diet rich in carbohydrates or is eaten on a regular basis, the baseline insulin levels rise to lower the blood glucose level.  The cells then become resistant to the “call” of insulin.  This leads to higher and higher levels of insulin, which signals the body to store make triglycerides to store fat.  Insulin resistance causes abdominal fat deposits, and obesity.


Prolactin levels

The hormone prolactin in men is involved in BPH.  Prolactin increases the effect of the androgens, both testosterone and DHT on the proliferation of sexual organs, including prostate.  Ones level of sexual satisfaction in both men and women has correlated with levels of prolactin.  Drinking beer can also increase prolactin levels, and also increases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which can worsen BPH.  Prolactin is also increased by hypothyroidism and by smoking marijuana. High dose pyridoxine or B6 has been found to lower prolactin levels in men.



Prostate cells contain the highest amount of zinc of any cell in the body.  Zinc has been shown to dramatically reduce the prostate cell’s rate of growth. Zinc plays an important role in regulating prostate cell growth.  Pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of zinc.  They also contain beta-sitosterol which is a fatty compound that blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT.  A German study of over 2500 patients showed pumpkin seed extract reduced BPH symptoms by 41%.  An Australian study linked heavy metals in the body to BPH.  Heavy metals block zinc.  Other toxins linked to BPH are poly aromatic hydrocarbons and BPA, BPA was found to bind to zinc.


Inflammation and NFkB and how to reduce it naturally

NFkB is a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies that is activated in immune cells and increases the production of cytokines (inflammatory) and growth factors (can cause BPH) that can cause a normal cell to lose its regulatory mechanisms and become a cancer cell.  To prevent BPH and cancer, it is important to inhibit or reduce the level of NFkB in our bodies.  NFkB is increased when cells are exposed to high glucose for prolonged periods of time, such as in obesity, diabetes, and insulin-resistance.  Eating a Mediterranean diet, meditation and yoga have shown to inhibit NFkB.

Much research has been done on vitamins and nutrients that reduce inflammation and NFkB activation.  These include vitamin C, vitamin E, N-acetylcysteine, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe), Alpha Lipoic Acid, Zinc, and EPA/DHA (omega 3 fatty acids).  Also curcumin, lycopene, resveratrol, EGCG from green tea, capsaicin, licorice root extract, clove extract, basil, rosemary extracts, ginger and pomegranate fruit extract have studies that show they decrease or inhibit NFkB.  Plants and vitamins all affect NFkB in different ways to exert the health benefits and modulate these inflammatory processes.

lycopene tomato

Plant medicine

Botanicals with multiple positive studies showing effectiveness in reducing the mechanisms involved in BPH.  Saw palmetto berry extract, when taken with selenium and lycopene, blocks conversion of testosterone to DHT.  Pygeum africanum blocks DHT’s activation of the receptors on the prostate cell.  Stinging nettle reduces the size of epithelial cells of the prostate.  It has shown effectiveness equal to the drug finasteride and does not have side effects.  Remember to find products with these in combination.  Botanicals work best together, as they are synergistic and have different modes of action on the prostate.  Standardized extracts of botanicals are more potent forms, as opposed to raw herb powder.


In conclusion, BPH can be prevented and or healed by making a few simple changes in our life.  I hope you are inspired to take some of this into consideration and share the information with your loved ones.  Here is where we can make a difference, by working with our body to create an environment that will promote health, rather than disease.  Natural medicine can play a role.  As always, if you have questions, please Contact Me.  Be well!

Auto-immunity, the what, where, why and how

My favorite question is “why?”.  I ask it many times in my mind during an intake until I really get to the root causes of the health concern.  When we ask ourselves, our body, “why is this happening to me?”, we can often find the answers ourselves.  Our body is always trying to communicate to us what it needs and doesn’t need.  With awareness of the wisdom of the body, even in its dis-ease, we learn, grow, have hope, and enlighten ourselves and all that we touch.  We learn to trust the body, its vital energy to heal itself, and this leads to miraculous healing power emerging.  So this is a conversation, into the “why” of auto-immune disease.  Enjoy.

What are common auto-immune diseases?

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis

What causes auto-immunity?

It happens when our immune system sees our normal cells as foreign cells.

Why does this happen? The term is cross-reactivity. The cells of our immune system are not operating properly and see a particle in the blood that should not be there, they make a “red flag” warning label for this particle. This particle looks VERY similar to a protein in our body’s structure, and sends the immune system army to attack it.

Why does this cross-reactivity happen?

2 reasons

First reason.  The immune system is geared more towards something called Humoral and Cell-mediated Immune response (aka TH2 response). The body has allowed foreign substances into the blood stream.

Why is the immune system tipped toward TH2?

Because the TH1 system or balance is suppressed.

Why is it suppressed?

Toxins in the body suppress it. Such as mercury and lead, pthalates (perfumes), exhaust from diesel, benzene, pesticides, insecticides and more. These actually suppress the chemical signals of the TH1 immune system, and use up our glutathione (the most important de-toxer in the body)

What is the first sign that this is happening in the body?

Allergies, and a person that “never gets a cold/flu”, or one that has chronic infection they cannot fight.


Second reason.  The body allows things into the body that should not be there, term is permeability.

Why does this happen?

Body linings have become permeable, or “leaky”


Some insult to the body causes this, here are a few.

Stress (I know you hear this all the time, it is researched to be true)

Drugs, commonly, steroids, NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc), anti-biotics, alcohol, other infections

Food intolerances, eating foods you are intolerant to, causes toxins in bowel

Dehydration cause dry cracked membranes (nose)

NSAIDS break down our healthy mucus protective barrier

Anti-biotics kill our natural immune barrier army

Alcohol damages the lining of the gastrointestinal tract

Other infections such as candida

So what can I do?

Avoid chemicals and things that suppress our immune system. Buy a high quality air purifier for your home or at least your bedroom. Chemicals travel on dust particles. Change your chemicals for cleaning out for vinegar, boric acid and baking soda. Do not wear perfume. Eat organic, non-GMO foods. Avoid plastics as much as possible. Sweat daily, in the form of exercise, sauna, or hot Epsom salts baths. Take NAC or n-acetyl-cysteine and buffered vitamin C daily to increase glutathione. See a naturopathic physician to help guide you through the process.


Can I reverse auto-immune disease?

Yes, while we don’t yet understand how to regenerate damaged tissues, you can certainly lower the anti-body levels, put your disease in remission, and live a long healthy life.



Exhausted and labs normal: adrenal fatigue?

“Am I crazy?  The doctor said I am normal!  I have every test and then was prescribed an anti-depressant!”

No, no, you are not crazy.  The doctor is just looking in the wrong place for the answers to your health issue.

I would like to address one of the most common underlying causes of exhaustion, and that is…Adrenal Fatigue.

Our two adrenal glands, are endocrine glands that are located near our kidneys and control many parts of our health.  adrenal pic They secrete adrenaline which gives us energy and resilience during stressful times.  They wake us up in the morning and get us going, and put us to bed at night.  They help control the immune system and keep allergies in check.   Other functions include helping control  our blood sugar, convert thyroid hormone and help with blood pressure.

First, let’s check in and see if you pass the test.  Here is a Self-Test you can take to determine if adrenal fatigue is your underlying cause.  Or maybe you do not have adrenal fatigue, yet you are just not handling stress well.

There are other underlying causes of fatigue that must be ruled out, such as low-level anemia, sub-optimal thyroid function, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity and sex hormone imbalance.  Testing may be needed if one of these causes is suspected.  Don’t worry, I use functional medicine or optimal function ranges, not “normal” ranges to determine imbalances.

Ok, so here are some clues for you.  Some of the common things I hear from patients that may make me suspect adrenal fatigue

  • “I get dizzy when I stand up quick”
  • “my stress level is very high”
  • “I cannot handle stress like I used to”
  • “I wake up and feel as if I haven’t slept”
  • “I get a burst of energy at night before bed”
  • “I’m always cold”
  • “I bruise easily”
  • “I have allergies now, and never did before”

How do I confirm I have adrenal fatigue? Well testing is helpful to understand the stage and severity of the imbalance, but it is not always necessary. Testing to confirm the suspicion is done via a saliva test from specialty lab.  The test samples are taken at 4 times during the day to give a full picture of their function, or lack of function.

So what to do if your adrenals are fatigued?  Now what to do?

Remember, this is an IMBALANCE not a permanent, incurable disease! The adrenal gland is a part of the body that has been overworked. So the answer is most often to REST the gland (give it a break), then feed it what it needs (certain nutrients), and change the reasons why it got off-balance in the first place.

Yes supplementation can definitely help you feel better quickly yet we need to ask, “why and how did your adrenals get fatigued?”. Here lies the real healing.   The treatments can vary greatly, this is the art of what I do.  Once all the information is gathered a treatment plan is put in place using naturopathic principles, recovery happens in 3-6 months for most.

  1. Remove obstacles to cure (if possible) – i.e. high stress lifestyle is primary obstacle to cure
  2. Establish a healthy regimen – i.e. include more techniques to deal with stress in life, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, massage
  3. Support weakened systems – i.e. feed the glands what they need – vitamin C and minerals, and take their work load off so they can rest – give herbs and glandulars

Here is an example. 54-year-old man, new onset of chronic fatigue, wakes up tired, cannot stay awake during the day. He has a history of running marathons (EXCESS STRESS). He was eating a whole foods diet, nothing processed. Testing revealed very low cortisol throughout the day (adrenal fatigue stage 4) and low testosterone. Treatment is to discontinue exercise for now, vitamin C intravenously to replete the stores in the adrenal gland, high dose glandular adrenal supplementation. After several months he began to “wake up” and felt good in the morning even before taking his supplement. This was the sign to begin weaning down off the medicine and introducing mild exercise. At this point, he has weaned off and is doing fine on his own.

Another example. 39-year-old female, executive, high stress job, 2 teenage sons, and mother just passed away (EXCESS STRESS). She got a second wind of energy every night at 9pm and had trouble sleeping. She was truly exhausted and was not eating well or drinking enough water. She had adrenal fatigue, stage 1.  Treatment began with support for sleep, grief counseling, and a nutrient dense diet. We added 2 liters of water per day with minerals, anti-oxidants and adrenal support that lowered cortisol and helped her adapt and deal with the stress. This was all she needed. After 6 months, she fully recovered.

Side note: I often prescribe an active meditation technique that helps you be stronger in yourself and not be so influenced by the outside world. Here is the video and the handout for this healing meditation technique.  Also, here are some other stress management techniques and Things to do to avoid getting too stressed out.

Remember for a free consult, contact the office at 480-607-0299,  email me directly.  I’d love to talk to you!  Check out our Facebook page and follow our feed on twitter.