The prostate is a gland often forgotten about, however it has very important functions for Men’s health. Find out how you can support the health of your prostate with diet and lifestyle.
Prostate problems are common in men of all ages. As with many chronic conditions, diet and lifestyle play a role.
What is the prostate?
Only men have a prostate. It’s a walnut-sized gland that sits at the base of the bladder, encircling the urethra (the tube through which a man pees). This location plays a role many prostate symptoms—but more on that later.
It may be a small gland, but the prostate has three pretty important functions:
1) Production Of Fluid For Semen
A special type of liquid, called prostatic fluid, combines with sperm from the testicles and fluid from two other glands. Together, these form semen.
2) Muscle Contraction For Ejaculation
Yes, this little gland is critical in that crucial moment. Muscles in the prostate contract to ensure semen is pushed into the urethra and expelled during ejaculation.
3) Metabolism Of Hormones
In the prostate, testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is the more biologically active form of the hormone, which plays a key role in creating typically male characteristics.
What can go wrong with the prostate?
Despite its importance to the male experience, most men don’t think about their prostate until things go awry. And it’s more common that you think. Broadly speaking, issues can show up as three diagnosable conditions:
Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH)
This is when the prostate increases in size. The enlargement is non-cancerous, so it’s generally not considered a threat to health—but it can still cause some irritating symptoms.
The enlarged prostate can compress the urethra, leading to difficulties in passing urine or making man feel he needs to pee more often (especially during the night).
However, around half of men with BPH don’t have symptoms, which means it can go undetected. It’s believed that up to 90% of men in their 80s have an enlarged prostate .
This is inflammation or infection of the prostate gland. As you’d expect, it can lead to prostate pain and swelling, urination problems, sexual dysfunction and even mood disorders .
Prostatitis can be acute (short-lived) or chronic. In 5 to 10% of cases it’s caused by bacteria that enter the bladder and reach the prostate, but in the remaining 90–95% of cases there’s no discernible infection. When symptoms go on for a long time despite there being no obvious inflammation, it’s called prostadynia, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
It’s estimated that 15% of men will experience some form of prostatitis in their lifetime, and it’s more common in younger and middle-aged men .
This is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK. In fact, 130 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed every day .
Symptoms of prostate cancer are similar to those of BPH, namely:
- Increased need to pee
- Straining to pee
- The feeling that you can’t fully empty your bladder
Although there are often many causes of cancer—and they’re different in every individual—some research suggests that having prostatitis could be a risk factor for the development of prostate cancer .
What causes prostate problems?
As mentioned, bacterial infection can be the cause of prostatitis—but this is rare. New studies are shining light on some of the many factors that can affect prostate health and, believe it or not, your gut might play a role.
Here are some snippets from emerging research:
A Man’s Gut Microbiome And His Reproductive Tract May Be Linked
Men with chronic prostatitis have been found to be at increased risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What’s more, they tend to have a less diverse microbial ecosystem . It’s possible that dysbiosis in the gut leads to inflammation, which shows up in the prostate in susceptible men.
A Man’s Urinary And Seminal Microbiomes Can Also Have Dysbiosis
One study found that urine samples from men with prostatitis had increased levels of bad bacteria, while another found that their semen samples had fewer good bacteria than normal [7, 8]. Anything that disrupts the gut microbiome—think stress, toxins and antibiotics—can also disrupt other microbiomes in the body.
Environmental Toxins Can Target The Prostate
Many environmental toxins are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they affect our hormones and reproductive function. A type of fungicide applied to fruit has been found to alter prostate gene expression in animal studies . Bisphenol-A (commonly found in plastics) also has detrimental effects on the prostate.
There are many other factors that affect prostate health, but a clear picture is emerging: look after your health in general, and your prostate will thank you for it.
How to help your prostate naturally
Many of the foundations for good health—eat well, sleep well, exercise appropriately and relax frequently—have a knock-on effect on a man’s prostate health. Let’s look at a few in more detail:
Eat An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Research suggests that pro-inflammatory diets (think white flour, sugar and processed foods) increase the risk for prostate cancer . It makes sense, then, that an anti-inflammatory diet is a good approach for your prostate and beyond. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, plus high-quality protein and healthy fats.
Load Up On Tomatoes
Choose Oily Fish
A review of studies found that men who consume fish oil had a lower risk of prostate cancer . This could be because the omega-3 fats in oily fish exert an anti-inflammatory effect. Salmon, mackerel and sardines are all good choices.
Find A Form Of Exercise You Enjoy
Exercise modulates hormone levels, supports immune function and helps to prevent obesity—all of which have an effect on your prostate. Find a form of exercise that you like, as you’re much more likely to do it regularly.
Enjoy A Sensible Amount Of Sun
A higher level of vitamin D has been found to correlate with decreased rates of BPH . This may be because vitamin D inhibits certain inflammatory pathways. The most powerful source of vitamin D is exposure to the sun—so get outside (making sure, of course, that you don’t burn).
Try A Supplement
Certain herbs, such as saw palmetto and stinging nettle, have been found to reduce the symptoms of BPH and prostatitis. These are readily available as supplements, but it’s best to seek personalised advice from a functional medicine practitioner.
The sebaceous gland - located in the dermis - is responsible for producing an oily substance called sebum. Sebum provides lubrication to the skin and helps to make it waterproof. In some people, the sebaceous glands can produce too much oil which leads oily skin. The most common condition caused by excessive sebum production is acne. The key the successful treatment of oily skin is to identify and address the following underlying causes:
- Genetic factors - a positive family history is often a good indicator.
- Imbalance of the skin’s and the gut’s microbiome (the gut-skin axis).
- Systemic inflammation.
- Insulin resistance - exacerbates oily and acne prone skin by increasing the proliferation of keratinocytes and it also stimulates the synthesis of androgens.
- High androgens - testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT, the more metabolically active form of testosterone) cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum in the skin.
- Changes in female hormone levels - before menstruation, oestrogen and progesterone levels fall and result in proportionally higher levels of testosterone.
- Stress and other environmental factors.
The best vitamins to consider when treating oily, acne prone skin:
Vitamin A is by far the most researched vitamin in relation to oily and acne prone skin. Vitamin A is well known for its role in supporting barrier function, it also heals the skin and modulates sebum production. Consuming dietary beta carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, may be the most optimal option to achieve good levels of Vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin E stimulates skin regeneration and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a promising tool in the treatment of oily, acne prone skin.
Vitamin C has also been shown to improve oily skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties.Vitamin C may help to reduce redness and swelling and is good for accelerating the healing process of the skin.
Vitamin B3 and B5 regulate the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce and prevent them from going overdrive (9).
What vitamins are good for hair, nails and skin?
The skin, together with hair and nails, forms the integumentary system, a major protective barrier which guards us from chemicals, pathogens and other elements of our environment. Both hair and nails develop from the epidermis and are composed of (dead stratified squamous) epithelium cells which are rich in protein, especially keratin. Strong nails and glossy hair are considered great signs of health and vitality. From a naturopathic point of view, brittle nails and dry, lifeless hair can be a good indicator that some of the key vitamins and minerals are deficient.
The best vitamins for skin, hair and nails and their mechanisms discussed below:
Vitamin C and Vitamin E may be useful in supporting the integumentary system. There is growing evidence to suggest that oxidative stress is a pivotal mechanism behind hair graying and hair loss (10) thus ensuring these nutrients are adequate should be part of your intervention.
Biotin is one of the B vitamins and has many vital roles relating to the health of skin, hair and nails (11). It helps to protect your skin from water loss and regulates fatty acid metabolism and it has been shown to promote hair growth, particularly in people who are deficient (12). Brittle nails, scaly scalp, hair loss and dandruff can be signs of biotin deficiency.
Vitamin B12 and iron are essential for the production of red blood cells and haemoglobin and deficiency of these nutrients have been implicated in hair loss (13).
Nutrients that are essential in providing the building blocks for hair and nail growth: zinc, iron, copper, selenium, silicon, calcium and magnesium, silica. Proteins are also crucial for the health and vitality of our skin, hair and nails, especially the amino acids methionine, lysine, cysteine, glycine and proline.
What vitamins are good for skin elasticity?
Skin elasticity is the skin’s ability to return to its original shape after stretching. Your skin gets its stretchiness and resilience from two important proteins, collagen and elastin. The loss of elasticity, called elastosis, is a natural part of the ageing process which starts to appear in our 30s or in your 40s - if you’re one of the lucky ones (14). This ageing process is a result of both intrinsic (as with all internal organs) and extrinsic factors (sun exposure, stress, poor nutrition, high alcohol intake, smoking and air pollution) (15). Hormonal changes are also key factors, particularly the natural decline in oestrogen (16) and testosterone (17) production.
Here are the best vitamins essential for skin elasticity:
Vitamin A (retinol) is converted to retinoic acid in the skin and it has been shown to modulate gene expression and influence cellular processes in both the epidermis and dermis, thereby exerting potent anti-ageing effects on our skin. Vitamin A has a key role in the prevention and treatment of UV-induced skin damage (18), making it the most important vitamin in the prevention of wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
Vitamin C is vital for the formation of collagen and elastin. This great but humble vitamin is also a powerful antioxidant, which means that it can trap free radicals that contribute to many processes of ageing, including loss of elasticity of the skin.
Vitamin E is another skin-friendly antioxidant and has been extensively investigated for its role in UV damage protection (19). Vitamin E appears to improve skin elasticity and vitality.
B vitamins – contribute to the production of collagen in the human body. Studies have shown that deficiency of Vitamin B2 & B6 is directly correlated with low collagen content of the skin so including a good B complex may be beneficial.
Get in touch and find out more about our Skin and beauty IV therapy, available here at our clinic in London.
What vitamins are good for skin with eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, characterised by red, dry and itchy patches. It’s commonly found on the skin of our neck, hands, feet, elbows and the back of the legs. Atopic eczema (atopic means ‘with a genetic predisposition’) is the most common form affecting 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults in the UK (20).
Usually, healthy skin cells are tightly packed together creating a good natural barrier for immune defence. When you have eczema this barrier function is impaired and the skin’s delicate balance of beneficial bacteria is disrupted. This disruption allows toxins and pathogens to enter the skin (a process similar to leaky gut), which leads to an immune response and ultimately to an inflamed, irritated skin.
The best vitamins and nutrients for the management of eczema:
Vitamin D has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of eczema through its immune-regulatory, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities in the skin. Vitamin D deficiency is very common in eczema (21) and supplementation of at least 1000IU daily has been shown to reduce symptoms. Your practitioner will be able to assess your vitamin D levels through a simple finger prick test.
Vitamin A - the great ‘skin-vitamin’ - strengthens the skin’s protective layer and supports healing (22) and has been implicated in the treatment of eczema.
Vitamin E accumulates in the mitochondria within skin cells and promotes collagen and fibroblast synthesis. In a recent study, 400iu of vitamin E significantly improved the severity of eczema symptoms, including itching (23).
Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties, it’s a natural antihistamine and due to its effect on collagen production it’s a really useful vitamin for the treatment of eczema. Vitamin C might also help alleviate redness, itchiness and long-term damage to the skin.
Eczema is a multifactorial condition and its development often starts as early as birth so it’s important to approach it with a holistic, in-depth and comprehensive support. Read more about our expert practitioners who can offer more personalised support and advice.
Which is the best vitamin for skin complexion and makes your skin glow?
I’m sure we’ve all met someone who has a beautiful, blemish-free skin with an inner glow and luminance to it. Great skin is a true reflection of our inner wellbeing and you can achieve it by having good nutrition and looking after your physical and mental health.
The best vitamins for a healthy glow and great complexion:
Vitamin C, as mentioned above, is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates collagen production (24) making it your number one ticket to a luminescent skin. When applied topically Vitamin C has been shown to brighten the skin by reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin A again. Vitamin A has the ability to even skin tone and to give your skin a beautiful, healthy glow.
Biotin, helps to protect your skin from water loss and regulates fatty acid metabolism, giving your skin a healthy complexion.
Vitamin B3 is known to increase keratin, a protein that keeps your skin firm and healthy.
IV- nutrient therapy with glutathione can give your skin a natural ‘refreshed’ glow and may even reduce pigmentation and redness of the skin.
Do Multivitamins help skin?
A well-balanced multivitamin that contains the key nutrients discussed above can be a great tool to support your skin health and your overall wellbeing. Choose a carefully formulated complex that is effective, pure, ethical and contains therapeutic doses of vitamins and minerals in their most bioavailable and easily absorbed from. Look for Vitamin D3 vs D2, methylfolate vs folic acid, iron citrate vs iron sulphate and so on. For the best skin support, choose a good multi that contains the most important nutrients: vitamins A, C, D, E, B complex, zinc, iron, selenium and chromium. Any plant derived antioxidants like green tea, rosehip, blueberry, turmeric is a bonus!
Have you tried IV nutrient therapy before? Here, at the London Clinic of Nutrition, we offer a range of conventional and bespoke infusions to revitalise our clients’ health and help them reverse chronic disease. Find out more here.
Dietary and lifestyle considerations for a healthy and glowing skin
- If your skin complaints continue to persist, consider eliminating allergens such as wheat, dairy and eggs.
- Include probiotic rich foods such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented tofu and kefir to support the skin’s (and gut) microbiome.
- Take a good quality and pure omega 3 supplement to support skin hydration and regulate inflammatory response of the skin (26).
- Consider supplementing with marine collagen, a natural source of type 1 collagen that is easily absorbed.
- Support methylation and detoxification with vitamins and minerals like methylfolate, methylcobalamine, vitamin B6, zinc and copper.
- Consume organic produce wherever possible.
- Although sun exposure is vital for vitamin D production and our circadian rhythm, a sensible approach is recommended to avoid sun damage.
- Protect your skin from damage with antioxidants. Eat plenty of vegetables and (some) fruits of rainbow of colours. Particularly green and orange ones for their carotenoid and polyphenol content.
- Include protein rich foods - protein supports the growth and maintenance of collagen and elastin fibres. Amino acids proline and lysine work together with vitamin C to enhance the formation of collagen.
- Choose more natural household products to minimise exposure to environmental toxins.
- Manage stress through mindfulness, meditation and yoga. Improve sleep hygiene by reducing blue light in the evenings.
Consult one of our expert team members to discuss functional tests to assess gut issues, liver function, hormonal irregularities and genetic predisposition for vitamin inefficiencies (for example MTHFR and VDR).
Call us today on 020 3332 0030 and a member of the team will be available to answer any queries you have.
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The London Clinic of Nutrition is a multi-disciplined health practice offering personalised nutritional medicine and naturopathy using the functional medicine approach.
100 Seymour Place
020 3332 0030