If you have an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH) and your doctor suggests a drug, run for the hills. Because the drugs designed to fight BPH zap your testosterone and turn men into Eunuchs. And if that weren’t enough to discourage you from ever taking a drug to treat BPH, a new FDA warning might.
Ongoing FDA reviews suggest that men taking one class of drugs used to treat BPH run an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular events.
Don’t Treat BPH With a Machete
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is the gradual enlargement of the prostate. It can begin in men as young as 30. But in older men, it’s as common as gray hair and wrinkles. In fact, by the time a man hits 50, he’s got about a 50 percent chance of having an enlarged prostate.
Most of these men just grumble about it over beers with friends, but don’t actually seek treatment. However, for about half of men over 50 with BPH, the condition does become “clinically significant,” which means that they do seek some kind of treatment.
Surgery for BPH (with a procedure called a TURP) is usually considered a last resort. More often, doctors will turn to drugs to deal with nagging BPH. One kind of drug your doctor may prescribe is called an alpha-blocker. These drugs relax the muscles in your prostate and bladder. That means they don’t actually shrink your prostate, but can improve urine flow.
But, more likely, your doctor will send you home with a drug like Avodart or Proscar to actually shrink your prostate. In fact, these are the most common types of drugs used to treat BPH. But a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that men taking Avodart (and Proscar too, I would assume) are paying a heavy price.
According to the study, Avodart does appear to shrink the prostate gland. But among the average of 3,000 men taking Avodart for four years, sexual dysfunction was also significantly higher when compared to the placebo group.
And that’s not all…
The men on Avodart were nearly twice as likely to experience heart failure compared to the placebo group. Plus…Avodart didn’t actually reduce a man’s risk for aggressive prostate cancer tumors any better than a placebo! The drug only shrunk the slow-growing and harmless tumors.
And then there’s a class of drugs called GnRH antagonists…
Doctors use these drugs as palliative treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer. These drugs however, don’t cure prostate cancer; they just shrink the tumors to make you more comfortable. They also shrink the prostate by zapping all the testosterone (and I mean ALL of it) from your body.
Drugs That Castrate Men
Eligard is one kind of GnRH antagonist. And one of the worst, if you ask me. According to the drug company’s own clinical trials, men who used Eligard for just two to four weeks saw testosterone levels drop to below the “castrate threshold.”
This means that Eligard–in just two to four weeks–can push a man’s testosterone so low, it’s as if he’s been castrated! (And, oh yes, it shrinks your prostate gland as well…because you’ve got no testosterone left in your body.)
So, any doctor who prescribes a GnRH antagonist to treat BPH has to be off his rocker. Unfortunately, it happens all too often! And that’s a shame…because men need testosterone for so many, many reasons. And sexual function is just one small part. It’s also well known that testosterone plays a major role in regulating heart health and preventing diabetes.
In fact, that’s why I was not all surprised to receive a warning from the FDA in my Inbox a few weeks ago. Turns out, the FDA is looking into GnRH antagonists because men taking them seem to increase their risk for diabetes and cardiovascular “events.”
Now, you might not worry about those substantial risks if you’ve got advanced prostate cancer and just want some relief from the pain. But there’s no way a sane man with BPH should take a GnRH antagonist, when he knows he might get diabetes or have a heart attack or stroke as a result.
Shrink the Prostate Without Drugs
The good news is; there’s plenty of ways you can help manage your prostate size without resorting to drugs. Here’s a list of steps I recommend every man over 40 should take to keep his prostate healthy:
1. Lose weight. Just getting your waistline under control can cut your risk of BPH by 50 percent!
2. Avoid antihistamines, decongestants, alcohol, and caffeine. Each of these can make your BPH worse.
3. Drink water when you’re thirsty and urinate frequently during the day. Try not to hold it too long if you can help it.
4. Hydrotherapy (sitting in a warm or hot bath) every day can help ease symptoms and increase circulation to your prostate region.
5. Eat raw pumpkin seeds every day. They are rich in zinc, a mineral shown to help reduce the size of the prostate gland.
6. Look for a high-quality prostate support formula that contains saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil, nettle root, vitamin E, selenium, pygeum africanum bark extract, and zinc.
If you follow each of these steps, I feel confident you’ll notice a difference in just two to three months.
For really persistent cases of BPH, you may want to consider taking some straight beta sitosterol. It’s a plant sterol found in saw palmetto and used widely in Europe to treat BPH.
You may also consider upping your zinc intake. Zinc supplements usually come in 30 mg tablets. Just make sure to add 2 mg of copper for every 30 mg of zinc (as zinc depletes your stores of copper). Just don’t go over 100 mg per day of total zinc because that can depress your immune function.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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