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Yoga, Dietary and Lifestyle Approaches for Prostate Problems

by Meggan Brummer(more info)

listed in yoga, originally published in issue 129 - November 2006

Sound Familiar?

You visit the toilet more than you used to. You leave business meetings to take a quick bathroom break. You choose the aisle seat when going to the cinema, theatre or catching a plane. You seldom sleep a whole night through without being woken by the need to pee, but when you get there; you just sit, strain and wait. Having finally managed to pass something, you still feel as though you haven’t. Sometimes you have an involuntary leakage which leaves you feeling embarrassed and out of control. Perhaps you also experience bouts of impotency or pain in your lower back, as well as legs and lower abdomen. What may well be responsible for these symptoms is an important and somewhat mysterious gland – the prostate.

What is the Prostate?

The small doughnut shaped gland situated at the base of the bladder causes more grief for men than just about any other part of their bodies. Although approximately 50% of Australian men may experience some type of prostate problem at some stage of their lives, until it plays up, men rarely give their prostate a second thought.

What to Do?

Firstly, if you think you have prostate problems, don’t assume you do, have it checked out by your GP. A digital rectal exam (DRE) and, or urine and blood tests, will confirm whether or not you have Benigh Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH) or other prostate problems, and an ultra-sound test can be done to check for prostate cancer.

Treating Prostate Problems

Major issues for prostate sufferers are the pain, sexual dysfunction and embarrassing episodes, which often increase stress. Dr Bassal, Wholistic Medical Centre in Sydney, Australia, observes that lifestyle is a significant factor regarding prostate problems, which are further compounded when sufferers are stressed, anxious or depressed. Therefore, a calm, balanced state of mind is very important. Considering this, a few of the ways to deter or at least manage prostate problems may include any or all of the following lifestyle changes:

•    Learn skills with which to calm the mind and increase your awareness of the relationship between the body and the mind. (These include yoga, special breathing practices and meditation);
•    Gain a deeper understanding of nutrition, and develop the discipline to make appropriate dietary changes;
•    Utilize the healing properties of natural herbs.

Yoga for the Prostate

Poor blood circulation in the pelvic region may exacerbate prostate problems. In addition to the mental and emotional benefits of regular yoga practice, certain yoga postures help to lessen ‘congestion’ and improve blood circulation and energy flow in this region, breaking down neuro-muscular knots in the pelvic region, toning and massaging the organs and muscles and enhancing healing in the area of the prostate. Great yoga postures for the prostate include Vayu Nishkasana – Wind releasing Pose, Chakki Chalanasana – Churning the Mill, Nauka Sanchalanasana – Rowing the Boat, Vajrasana – Thunderbolt Pose and Siddhasana – Accomplished Pose for Men.

Vajrasana – Thunderbolt Pose
Vajrasana – Thunderbolt Pose

Meditation

Philosophers and teachers have, for hundreds of thousands of years, advocated the benefits of living in the present moment. However, the practical application of this wisdom has become increasingly challenging in a world where we are continually reminded of the past and endlessly warned about the future. Meditation, and the awareness of the breath, (which by its nature is always happening in the present moment), can calm our minds and allow our consciousness to settle deeply into the endless now.

The best time to meditate is after yoga asanas, always on an empty stomach, and preferably at sunrise or sunset.

Breathing

Were you aware of your breath until you read this question? The reality is that we go through life almost entirely unaware of this critical life-supporting process.

The breath can do far more than simply provide oxygen to the body; it is actually the most powerful, natural healing and health-maintaining tool available to us. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, we can maximize and direct these healing capabilities to enhance both our mental and physical faculties.

Always an integral part of yoga practice, the breath is the link between the body and the mind. When our state of mind is clear, positive, expanded and alert then we are much more likely to heal, and to do so more speedily.

Diet

It’s a telling fact that the prevalence of prostate problems is far higher in first world countries. Clearly the western diet and the stresses associated with the demanding pace of economically driven lifestyles have exacerbated the problem. By increasing our awareness of the sacredness of food, and the intimate part that it plays in the prevention as well as healing of ailments, we become more conscious of what we put into our bodies. Everything that goes into the mouth has an effect not only on the body but also the mind.

Dietary guidelines

•    Maintain a low-fat diet;
•    Include Omega-6 and Omega-3: these help to regulate many of the body’s functions;
•    Give up fried foods: bake or boil your food instead;
•    Choose low fat over full-cream milk;
•    Avoid fat-filled salad dressings and rich sauces;
•    Drink eight glasses of water daily;
•    Drink two cups of green tea daily;
•    Increase your intake of salads, fresh vegetables and fruits;
•    Check whether your intake of Vitamin D is adequate;
•    Avoid spicy foods;
•    Don’t throw out the watermelon seeds! These have natural diuretic properties which help prevent excess build-up of urine;
•    Avoid alcohol. By eliminating your alcohol intake for a week and then having it again for a day, you will notice whether it makes the urine symptoms better or worse. Alcohol often makes the symptoms worse, as it tightens the bladder neck, hampering urination and also causing restlessness in the body and mind.[1]
•    Take Vitamin C;
•    Keep your cholesterol level in check;
•    Avoid decongestants and antihistamines;
•    Avoid smoking and smoky environments: there is some evidence that cigarette smoking indirectly affects the size of the enlarging prostate.[2]
•    Some men find that their prostate problems are made worse with caffeine. Avoiding coffee, tea, soft drinks or chocolate, could make all the difference. Caffeine tightens the bladder neck and makes it more difficult to urinate.[3] Again, what you could do, is eliminate caffeine from your diet for one week and notice whether or not your symptoms improve;
•    Consume more soy-based foods: soy products have been recommended for preventing prostate enlargement. (Japanese men, who eat a higher soy diet, have lower incidences of prostate problems);
•    Eat red-orange fruits and vegetables;
•    Include polyunsaturated vegetable oils in your diet;
•    Ensure your diet contains adequate fibre: when constipation is a symptom with prostate problems a high fibre diet is important in maintaining bowel regularity;6
•    Include zinc in your diet: zinc has been shown to improve urinary symptoms and reduce the size of the prostate, and can therefore be effective in preventing and reversing prostate enlargement. Vegetables high in zinc include dried beans, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, beets, cabbage and whole grains. Additionally, pumpkin seeds, oats, whole wheat and rye are also rich in zinc;
•    Other nutrients that aid in prostate function include vitamin B6, Vitamin E, flaxseed oil (keep refrigerated and take two teaspoons of it a day) or cod liver oil (take three capsules or one teaspoon daily) and Vitamin A;
•    Also recommended are: Selenium, Evening Primrose Oil, and the amino acids – glutamine, alanine and lysine.

Natural Herbs

The herbal approach has been beneficial for men with BPH, but it is not a quick fix, and often takes about three months for symptoms to start clearing. One of the best herbal remedies in the treatment of prostate related issues, including urinary tract infections and impotency, is Saw Palmetto Berry (Serenoa Repens).

Other natural alternatives that have been used in the treatment of symptoms related to BHP include Stinging Nettle, Rye Pollen and Sunflower seeds.

Investing in our Health: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation, observes that “we spend most of our health to accumulate wealth, and then have to spend most of our wealth to gain back our health’’.

When it comes to the prostate, what can we do to invest in our health, be it preventing or healing this ailment?

Become Aware of your thoughts and emotions:
This is one of the most important lessons we can learn regarding our health and wellbeing general. Doctors often agree that the vast majority of illnesses are psychosomatic, i.e. they arise in our psyche before manifesting in our body system. Therefore, unhealthy thought and emotional patterns sow the seeds of future mental and physical health problems.

So how do we deal with negative thoughts and emotions when they arise, especially when we are unwell? According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, attempting to erase them by superimposing positive thoughts or emotions on top, is resisting, and thus strengthening them (what you resist persists). He suggests that the best way to deal with negative thoughts or emotions is to simply observe we are having them! “Just let them float by; like watching clouds on a summer day. Do not try to chase them away.’’

For instance, next time you are feeling anger, rather than just gratuitously being angry, try to observe yourself being angry. The change in your consciousness, from ‘being’ to ‘observing’, will take the sting out of the anger you were experiencing. You may notice the anger subsides for as long as you are able to observe it. This is because you cannot both ‘observe’ it and ‘be’ it at the same time, so it simply has to dissolve. The part of us that can ‘observe’ ourselves objectively, (which is our true Selves), is beyond thoughts and feelings.

This observation process helps us know that we are not our thoughts, we simply have them, or, if we don’t observe them, they have us. Furthermore, our thoughts are not synonymous with the truth about any particular thing, they are just thoughts. Separating ourselves from our thoughts in this way enhances the healing process that happens naturally when we connect with our ultimate healer – our true or ‘higher’ Selves.

References

1.    Fillon M. Natural Prostate Healers. Prentice Hall. 1999.
2.    Chaitow L. Prostate Problems. Thorsons. 1998.
3.    Preuss HG and Adderly BD. The Prostate Cure. Crown Publishing. 1998.

Comments:

  1. John Norton said..

    I have been diagnosed with BPH but "do not need to have an operation Yet" according to my urologist.
    I do practice yoga twice a week. I am a vegan now for about a year, I saw my urologist, and had a Cystocopy and
    he wants to see me again in one years time ! He also proscribed OMNIC, which I stopped taking after 20 capsules. Sleeping is of course a problem, I was always a BAD sleeper ! My health is otherwise very good and my BMI is perfect! I am just 73 years old, live alone now, and this BPH depresses me as I was always outgoing
    and sociable, but I feel restricted now. Can you give me some advice please?


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About Meggan Brummer

Meggan Brummer (BA Hons) is a health writer, Hatha Yoga and Meditation Teacher, teacher of The Art of Living courses for the International Art of Living Foundation ( www.artofliving.org), singer and traveller. Having taught yoga in Africa and Asia, Meggan now lives and teaches in Sydney, Australia. Although she specializes in Yoga and Ayurveda, Meggan is dedicated to exploring and sharing the myriad of alternative ways in which we can live happier and healthier lives through her writing. She can be contacted on meggan.brummer@gmail.com

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