Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet Protects the Prostate

If you are a man who wants to avoid hav­ing prostate prob­lems, eat less fat and more fiber and catch some rays. The stan­dard Amer­i­can diet, which is high in fat and ani­mal hor­mones and low in fiber, is a major risk fac­tor for prostate prob­lems. The lack of vit­a­min D, the sun­shine vit­a­min, is anoth­er risk fac­tor. To get vit­a­min D, go out in the  sun­shine.

The prostate gland, which is found only in males, pro­duces sem­i­nal flu­id, which car­ries and nour­ish­es the sperm cells. The prostate is found under­neath the blad­der, and it is wrapped around the ure­thra, which is the tube that drains urine from the blad­der. In a young man, the prostate is nor­mal­ly about the size of a wal­nut. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the prostate can grow much larg­er as a man ages. Thus, it can end up block­ing the flow of urine from the blad­der. That’s why so many elder­ly men often have so much trou­ble in emp­ty­ing their blad­der com­plete­ly, and why they often have to get up sev­er­al times dur­ing the night to pee. For­tu­nate­ly, this enlarge­ment is pre­ventable.

The prostate is a sex gland, and its growth is dri­ven by sex hor­mones. The sex hor­mones in a man’s body are made main­ly by his testes but also by his adren­al glands. If he eats dairy prod­ucts and meat, he can also get a dose of ani­mal hor­mones in his food. Even meat and milk from organ­ic farms con­tain the animal’s nat­ur­al hor­mones. Dairy prod­ucts are a par­tic­u­lar­ly potent source of estro­gen because dairy cows are milked dur­ing their preg­nan­cies.

Plants also have hor­mones, but their hor­mones are com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from ours. Some plant foods, such as soy­beans, con­tain estro­gen-like sub­stances called phy­toe­stro­gens. How­ev­er, the phy­toe­stro­gens tend to be weak­er than nat­ur­al estro­gens. Thus, they could end up reduc­ing the effects of the body’s nat­ur­al estro­gens by com­pet­ing with nat­ur­al estro­gens for the estro­gen recep­tors.

A change to a plant-based diet helps to reduce a man’s expo­sure to sex hor­mones. A diet based on low-fat, unre­fined plant foods also helps the body excrete excess sex hor­mones. In par­tic­u­lar, the fiber in unre­fined plant foods helps to car­ry the excess hor­mones out of the body.

The sex hor­mones are made out of cho­les­terol, which is a waxy sub­stance that does not mix with water. Nor do the active forms of the sex hor­mones mix with water. To be car­ried around the body by the blood­stream, they have to be bound to a spe­cial car­ri­er pro­tein. To get rid of excess sex hor­mones, the liv­er con­verts them to an inac­tive, water-sol­u­ble form that then gets passed out of the body through the kid­neys or is car­ried by the bile into the intestines. If the per­son is eat­ing a high-fiber diet, the sex hor­mones can bind to the fiber inside the intes­tine and be car­ried swift­ly out of the body.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if the man is eat­ing the stan­dard Amer­i­can diet, he is eat­ing way too much fat and not near­ly enough fiber. When peo­ple eat a fat­ty diet, their bow­els tend to con­tain a large pop­u­la­tion of the kinds of bac­te­ria that can con­vert the sex hor­mones back to the active form. This prob­lem is com­pound­ed by low-fiber diet, which caus­es con­sti­pa­tion. The low-fiber diet pass­es through the bow­els so slow­ly that there will be extra time for those reac­ti­vat­ed sex hor­mones to be reab­sorbed. That’s why peo­ple who eat fat­ty, low-fiber diets have trou­ble elim­i­nat­ing sex hor­mones. As a result of that prob­lem, they end up with high­er risks for hor­mone-dri­ven dis­eases, includ­ing acne, prostate enlarge­ment, and prostate can­cer. Not sexy.

When a man has benign enlarge­ment of the prostate, he sim­ply has too many cells in the prostate. This prob­lem gen­er­al­ly results from a hor­mon­al imbal­ance: too much sex hor­mone and not enough vit­a­min D, which is also a hor­mone. Most peo­ple know that vit­a­min D is impor­tant for main­tain­ing cal­ci­um bal­ance in the body. How­ev­er, it is also impor­tant for reg­u­lat­ing the immune sys­tem, and for keep­ing cer­tain kinds of cells, includ­ing benign and can­cer­ous cells of the prostate, from grow­ing out of con­trol.

Most peo­ple of Euro­pean ances­try who live in the north­east­ern Unit­ed States can get enough vit­a­min D through get­ting a few min­utes’ worth of mid­day sun­shine on the face, hands, and arms in the spring, sum­mer, and fall. But since the melanin that makes dark skin dark is a form of sun­screen, dark­er-skinned peo­ple need to spend a lot more time out­doors to get enough vit­a­min D.

African-Amer­i­can men have the world’s high­est risk of prostate can­cer. Yet prostate can­cer is rare among black men in Africa. That’s because black men in Africa gen­er­al­ly eat a diet that is far low­er in fat and high­er in fiber, and they get plen­ty of expo­sure to strong sun­light. In con­trast, black men in the Unit­ed States tend to eat the rich, fat­ty stan­dard Amer­i­can diet, and they are at par­tic­u­lar risk for vit­a­min D defi­cien­cy because of our rel­a­tive­ly weak sun­shine and their rel­a­tive­ly dark skin.

A low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet is a promis­ing way to pre­vent prostate can­cer. It can even pro­vide ben­e­fits to men who already have prostate can­cer. A study led by Dean Ornish, MD, found that this kind of diet could help men with ear­ly-stage prostate can­cer avoid or delay con­ven­tion­al treat­ment for at least 2 years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18602144

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