Maintaining Prostate Health
At age 55, John felt that he was in peak condition. He didn't think it was unusual that he often had get up in the night to urinate, and that urination was more frequent during the day, with reduced speed and flow. A year later, when his symptoms worsened, John paid a visit to his doctor and was told that he had benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): an enlarged prostate gland. John suddenly faced a choice between taking drugs — with dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and reduced sexual drive and performance as side effects — and surgery, with a high risk for complications and a possible negative impact on the quality of his life. The bad news is that 75-80% of American men develop prostate problems some time during their lifetime and face similar hard choices. Fortunately, there are measures men can take to help avoid that scenario.
The Ayurvedic View
Every person goes through three stages of life, called kalas in ayurveda, and each is associated with one of the three doshas — ayurvedic operators that govern all the activities of the mind and body. In the Kapha stage (childhood and young adulthood), qualities of Kapha dosha predominate; in the Pitta stage (adulthood), Pitta dosha is dominant; and in mature adulthood and beyond, the Vata stage of life occurs. Prostate enlargement is a transitional health problem that can occur when a man is going from the Pitta stage of life to the Vata stage of life, which takes place from 50 to 60 years of age.
The dry, fluctuating qualities of Vata dosha cause testosterone production to fluctuate, and this in turn can cause enlargement of the prostate and other prostate problems. In addition, the drying, fluctuating effect of Vata reduces the prostate's production of a thin, milky, alkaline bodily fluid that increases sperm mobility, lubricates the urethra, and prevents infection. Thus bacterial infections of the prostate often occur at this age (or at any age when Vata dosha is out of balance).
Enhancing Prostate Health
Because prostate enlargement is caused by an imbalance in Vata dosha, it's important to avoid Vata-aggravating foods. These include dry, cold, and light foods and bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Instead, favor the Vata-pacifying diet, which includes sweet, sour, and salty tastes and warm, oily foods. Proteins are important for prostate health. Quinoa and amaranth are high-protein grains that also have high zinc content, and thus both strengthen the prostate. The link between zinc and prostate health has been recognized by the American Medical Association.
Certain spices, such as cumin, improve absorption and assimilation, enhance digestion and eliminate impurities (ama). Fenugreek boosts fat and sugar metabolism, keeps the fat and blood tissues ama-free, and strengthens the immune system. Coriander is known for removing toxins from the body through the urine. It also keeps the urine free of ama, and thus helps prevent prostate infection. Turmeric is a well-known anti-inflammatory, helping to relieve pain and modulate the immune system. As the most effective antioxidant spice, turmeric has a cholesterol-lowering effect. And fennel helps balance hormonal levels. Vegetables can also help. Asparagus helps balance testosterone levels, and dikon radish helps purify the urine and improves flow. Anything that aggravates Vata dosha — too much stress, staying awake past 10:00 p.m., and rushing around during the day — should be avoided. Starting the day with an ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga) is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to balance Vata dosha.
Too much continuous sitting can also cause imbalances in the prostate, so plan to take a short walk every hour or so if your job is sedentary. It's also wise to keep the elimination balanced by drinking more water, eating more vegetables and adding fiber to the diet, such as psyllium seed husks. The Herbal Cleanse formula also helps keep the elimination system balanced.
Synergy of Herbs for Balanced Prostate Health
Based on the ancient texts, The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians has developed a balanced ayurvedic formula called Prostate Protection, to help maintain prostate health. The ayurvedic herbs Guggulu (Guggul) and Kachnar (Orchid Tree) help balance the prostate; Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus Indicus) and White Sandalwood help reduce burning and purify the genitourinary tract; Heart-leaved Moonseed (Indian Tinospora), Turmeric, and Licorice help strengthen the immune system. In addition, Shilajit (Mineral Pitch), Bala (Heart-leaf Sida), Punarnava (Boerhavia) and Zinc help maintain the balanced flow of testosterone, while Barley, along with Punarnava (Boerhavia), helps maintain the urine's flow. Other herbs enhance bioavailabilty, making it easy for the body to absorb the entire formula. This formula is very balanced and supports the whole system, including the prostate itself.
Using a single herb, such as saw palmetto, which targets the testosterone level, could create an imbalance from the ayurvedic persepective. All of the recommendations of Maharishi Ayurveda focus on balance: a balanced diet, balanced lifestyle, and balanced herbal formulas. And in recent years, modern research studies are verifying that this is the best approach. For example, a recent study showed that balanced nutrition is the key to maintaining endocrine secretion. The ancient ayurvedic view is now being ratified by modern science.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.