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Ask the Expert: What Can I Do About Common Prostate Problems?

A reader wrote in to ask about prostate health and whether saw palmetto supplements can help. Read our expert's answer here:

Question:

Hi there! Can you post more information about prostate symptoms and recommended remedies? A friend recommended GNC Saw Palmetto, should I give it a try?

Answer:

These days, the awareness about prostate health has increased. However, a lot of people still do not know the function of the prostate and how to maintain a healthy prostate.

What Does the Prostate Do?

Source: webmd.com

Source: webmd.com

The prostate is a small gland of men’s reproductive system. The prostate helps to make semen, which carries sperm when a man ejaculates. Its shape and size is almost similar to a walnut. It’s located below bladder, in front of rectum and surrounds part of urethra, the tube where urine gets excreted from our body.

Common Complaint: Enlarged Prostate

Perhaps the most common complaint about the prostate is enlarged prostate, which will lead to urinary-related problems. The prostate surrounds part of urethra, so when it is enlarged, it will squeeze on the urethra and cause symptoms like:

  • Difficulty starting to urinate or urinate freely
  • Weakened flow of urine
  • Strain to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Feeling that the bladder is not empty after urinating

Prostate enlargement is also known as Benign (non-cancerous) Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH). It is a common condition associated with aging.

Around 60% of men who are aged 60 or over have some degree of prostate enlargement. The cause is unknown, but research suggests hormones probably play an important role in the development of the condition.

Treatments for Prostate Enlargement

  • Lifestyle changes: for example, avoiding or cutting down on alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Medication: two common treatments for BPH are alpha-blockers, which alleviate BPH symptoms, and 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors, which helps to shrink the prostate.
  • Surgery: This is generally used for men with severe symptoms who haven’t been helped by other treatment.

Can Saw Palmetto help with urinary symptoms of BPH?

Source: immunetree.com

Source: immunetree.com

Saw Palmetto is a type of plant which can help to reduce urinary symptoms related to an enlarged prostate. Saw palmetto doesn’t shrink the overall size of the prostate; it is believe to shrink the inner lining that puts pressure on urethra.

Even though there is no conclusive evidence to show its effectiveness against urinary problems caused by enlarged prostate, there are many studies shows that saw palmetto maybe as effective as hormonal agents to reduce bladder problems and especially improve the symptom of frequent urination during the night.

There is no specific guideline as to what dosage of saw palmetto should be taken for urinary symptoms. Generally, the dosage can range from 100mg to 960mg of saw palmetto extract daily, taken orally. The most common recommendation is 320mg daily or in divided doses.

Saw palmetto is not suitable for everyone. It interacts with medications which can affect blood clotting such as Aspirin, Anti-coagulant (e.g. Plavix), Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) (e.g. Ibuprofen, voltaren). It also interacts with birth control pills and oestrogens.

Seek advice from healthcare professionals before taking saw palmetto if you have any medical conditions.

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Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Send in your health-related questions to expert@healthworks.my.

 

Contributed by: Rachel Gan MPharm (UK), RPH, MMPS, Clinical pharmacist, proprietor of Alive Pharmacy Sdn Bhd
Rachel Gan is a registered pharmacist with over five years of experience in both community and hospital settings in the UK and Malaysia. Trained as a pharmacist in the UK, she strongly believes in the importance of patient education and counselling. She believes if patients are well-informed and understand their health conditions, the results of therapy will be greatly enhanced. She is the proprietor of ALIVE PHARMACY in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.

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