A low-fat diet, moderate but regular exercise and medication — a combination of these will help keep your prostate problem in check

Sanjay Iyer, a 60-year-old businessman, was concerned about his urge to urinate frequently, especially at night, so he visited his urologist. The doctor explained that his prostate had enlarged, partially blocking the urethra and impeding the flow of urine resulting in straining while urinating and/or frequent urination. He was prescribed medication for his condition and recommended lifestyle changes, such as a diet low in fat and red meat and high in vegetables and fruits. He was also asked to exercise regularly. Six weeks after following his doctor's advice, a beaming Sanjay stated, “I am glad I took corrective action. Now my nights are restful and I get undisturbed sleep.”

It's only when a particular organ or body part starts troubling you that you become aware of its existence. Take the prostate gland. Shaped like a walnut and just as small too, men probably never give it a second thought...until trouble erupts. Suddenly the prostate looms large on their consciousness and they become aware of the part it plays in the human body!

So what exactly is the prostate? It is a gland of the male reproductive system and is charged with the responsibility of producing fluid for semen. It works quietly, efficiently for the most part until men cross their fifties, which is when problems may occur:

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): In simple terms, it refers to an enlarged prostate. It may create a frequent, urgent need to urinate and problems like urine leakage, weak urine stream and blood in urine.

Prostatitis: Or inflammation of the prostate. Symptoms include burning while urinating or a more frequent need to urinate. If detected early, it can prevent acute prostatitis from becoming chronic.

Prostate cancer: No symptoms may be seen in the primary stage. The PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test may help with the screening; the higher the PSA the higher one's chances of getting prostate cancer. Again, early detection can facilitate a complete cure.

Age, genetics and an unhealthy lifestyle up one's health risks, but an annual prostate examination after turning 50 can detect and help address these problems before they grow out of hand. A physician will be able to recommend the best course of treatment, which may include medication or surgery depending on the condition.

Prevention

You should aim for a low-fat, low-calorie diet that is packed with nutrition. So say ‘no' to the following:

1. Refined, processed foods: They lack nutrients and contain far too much saturated fat and sodium.

2. Alcohol, especially beer: It increases your chances of urine retention.

3. Too much caffeine: It makes heavy work of urination, so consume aerated drinks, tea, coffee and chocolate sensibly.

4. Saturated fats: Red meat in particular contains unhealthy fats, which can stimulate the growth of cancer.

5. Sugar: Especially watch out for culprits such as sweetened juices and soft drinks.

The five fighters

Tomatoes: No matter what the form — juices or sauces, cooked or uncooked — tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which could cut your risk of prostate cancer by half.

Soy: It contains phytoestrogens, which lower your risk of getting cancer.

Fresh vegetables: Including green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are packed with enough nutrients and antioxidants to keep your prostate happy and healthy.

Water: Eight to ten glasses a day will keep urination problems at bay.

Probiotics: These include curds and buttermilk. They contain good bacteria which will help you ward off urinary infections.

Say ‘yes' to exercise

Regular exercise provides twin benefits that reduce your likelihood of developing prostate cancer — it builds your immune system and releases antioxidants; it also strikes a balance in your hormonal levels. Opt for a combination of aerobic exercise (such as regular walking) and strength training for general well being.

In addition, you should focus on toning your pelvic muscles via Kegel exercises. You can perform them lying down, when sitting or standing up. Contract your pelvic muscles, as though you intend to stop the flow of urine, for up to 10 seconds. Keep breathing while at it. Then relax for 10 seconds and repeat. Do this 10 times. Now try shorter, faster contractions, about five to 10 of them, several times a day. This will tone your pelvis and support normal bladder and bowel movements.

Dos and Don'ts

1. Get your prostate checked on an annual basis.

2. Maintain ideal weight. Regular exercise is a must.

3. Follow a low-fat, healthy diet. Research suggests that it is more prostate-friendly than a diet that includes too much fat, fried foods and red meat.

4. Drink lots of fluids (about eight to ten glasses a day) to avoid urinary infections.

5. Avoid stress. Try meditation and deep breathing exercises for some nirvana.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.