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Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia


The Health Index

In young men, the prostate is about the size of a chestnut or walnut. It surrounds the upper part of the urethra. The the number of prostate cells increases with advancing age - and so does the volume of the prostate. That means the prostate becomes bigger and and may eventually constrict the urethra, making it more difficult for a man to pass urine. This usually happens from around the age of fifty.

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What are the causes?

The exact causes of prostate enlargement are not yet known. Doctors suspect that this slow enlargement of the prostate is part of the normal ageing process. This is why age is the most important – but not the only! – risk factor. The following factors also seem to be involved:

  • Hormones: The prostate grows under the influence of sex hormones, testosterone and its breakdown product dihydrotestosterone. Oestrogens are also suspected to be involved in the enlarged prostate. Although oestrogen is often thought of as a female sex hormone, small amounts of oestrogen are produced in the male body, too, just as women have small amounts of testosterone.    

  • Hereditary factors (genes)  

  • Unhealthy diet, overweight  

  • Smoking and alcohol consumption - the link with an enlarged prostate is not sufficiently proven.

Image by Sander Dalhuisen

What are the symptoms?

Some men never know their prostate is enlarged because it causes no or only unspecific symptoms. However, there are several typical symptoms that the prostate is enlarged.

  • A frequent and strong urge to urinate, including an increased need to urinate at night   

  • Problems starting and stopping urination   

  • Weak urine stream, urination takes longer than usual   

  • Interrupted urine stream   

  • Incomplete bladder emptying   

  • Incontinence, or leakage of urine

Benign prostatic hyperplasia can lead to permanent damage to the bladder and kidneys if left untreated. The complications can even become life-threatening. So always consult your doctor if you suffer from one or more of these symptoms.

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

Some of the risk factors for BPH are diet and lifestyle related, so there is a lot of scope for a nutrition practitioner to help. Diet and lifestyle interventions are a great way to help balance hormones and are worth considering if elevated oestrogen is an issue. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits.


They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.

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