The 10 Worst Foods For Prostate Health

10 Worst Foods For Prostate Health

Prostate health isn’t necessarily the most fun subject to talk about. However, with prostate cancer (1) being the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths and the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, it is especially important to pay attention to the signs and start taking steps to ensure a healthy prostate as soon as possible.

As a functional medicine practitioner, it is my job to help people reclaim their health and empower them with knowledge so they can prevent health problems before they begin. One way to do this is through diet. So let’s take a look at the ten worst foods for prostate health, the best foods for prostate health, and ways you can ensure a healthy prostate for years to come.

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What is the prostate?

The male reproductive system includes the prostate as well as the penis, testicles, and vesicles. The prostate surrounds the urethra and is responsible for producing fluid that makes up semen.

Problems with the prostate can develop over time as it tends to increase in size with age. Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) is not cancerous but it can occur when the prostate becomes too large and impacts your ability to urinate. Men over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer with the main risk factors being: 

  • Family history of prostate cancer
  • Genetics
  • Race (higher in those of African American and Caribbean descent)
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Vasectomy

Symptoms of a prostate issue typically manifest as urination problems as enlargement can inhibit urine from exiting the bladder through the urethra. Signs that something could be wrong with your prostate include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Pain or burning during ejaculation
  • Bloody urine and/or semen
  • Lower back, hip, or pelvic pain

How diet affects prostate health

As a functional medicine expert, I believe food is foundational to your entire health - prostate health included. The food you eat on a daily basis directly instructs your biochemistry and influences everything from your hormones to your cellular health. Factors like nutrient deficiencies and an overload of chemicals from processed foods can trigger the development of certain cancers.

For those with an increased risk of prostate health problems, your diet can play a major role in whether or not your genetic risk factors are ever expressed. In fact, did you know that up to 77% of your health is determined by your lifestyle choices including your diet? That’s right, you have more power than you realize over your health.

So with that knowledge, let’s take a look at the specific foods that can play a role in poor prostate health.

The ten worst foods for prostate health

There is no one-size-fits-all diet. But we can’t disregard the clinical evidence against these ten worst foods for prostate health. While you should factor in your personal health case, consider these foods within the grand scheme of your overall diet.

1. Dairy

Studies have correlated an increased risk of prostate cancer with higher dairy consumption. In fact, one systematic review published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control (2) found that consuming dairy products elevated insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in individuals that played a role in the development of prostate cancer. Instead, try coconut, cashew, or almond-milk based substitutes for cheese, ice cream, milk, and other dairy products. 

2. Processed + Grilled Meat

Processed meats include hot dogs, sausages, lunch meat, and bacon. While studies are still looking at the mechanisms by which processed meats contribute to prostate cancer, researchers believe it has to do with the chemical process of producing these meats and the way it breaks down in our bodies during digestion.

Grilled and well-done meats can also increase prostate cancer risk due to the development of cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCAs) the longer the meat is cooked for.

3. Alcohol

High alcohol consumption doesn’t have many benefits for any area of your health - and prostate health is no exception. Currently there are limited studies that directly look at the link between alcohol and prostate cancer however, alcohol doesn’t facilitate optimal prostate health.

Since alcohol is a diuretic, it increases urine in the bladder, causes the bladder to constrict making urination more difficult, and hinders the prostate from relaxing. This can further aggravate prostate problems whether you have BPH or prostate cancer. 

4. Fried foods

Who doesn’t love a good piece of fried chicken, a deep fried Twinkie, a basket of fries, or really any other food that’s deep fried? Unfortunately, fried foods have been linked to a 35% increase (3) of prostate cancer. This is most likely due to the inflammatory seed oils that are used during frying at the development of carcinogenic compounds that result including the same heterocyclic amines found in grilled meats.

5. Spicy foods

Here’s the good news: spicy foods don’t necessarily increase your risk for developing prostate cancer. But, if you already have problems with your prostate, it’s best to avoid any sort of spicy foods like salsa and peppers since they can trigger inflammation and aggravate both your bladder and prostate.

6. Caffeine

Similarly to alcohol, caffeine acts as a diuretic putting excess pressure on your bladder and prostate that can be aggravating for BPH sufferers and those with prostate cancer. Make the switch from coffee, caffeinated tea, and sodas to herbal tea.

7. Eggs

Eggs are a nutrient-dense superfood that is high in choline. This nutrient is needed for mood regulation, memory, muscle control, and more. While choline is essential for optimal health, there can always be too much of a good thing. Studies have found that increased choline intake resulted in a 70% increase (4) in prostate cancer risk. 

However, meat and milk - two other foods that can play a role in prostate cancer - also contain high levels of choline, so limiting your intake of these and choline overall, without cutting it out completely, could be just as beneficial for mitigating your risk.

8. Excess sodium

As an electrolyte, your body needs sodium to maintain essential functions. We should be getting sodium naturally through things like sea salt, but our modern diets typically contain way more sodium than we would ever need in the form of prepackaged and processed foods. When it comes to prostate health too much sodium can aggravate urinary and prostate function. 

9. Refined carbohydrates

Not all carbs are bad. Sweet potatoes and other forms of clean carbs can be great additions to your diet depending on your health case in certain amounts. Refined carbohydrates on the other hand include foods like white flour, cookies and other baked desserts, cereals, and bread. These are all considered high-glycemic foods that can significantly spike your blood sugar. When your blood sugar is elevated it can stimulate the production of sex steroid hormones that have been shown to contribute (5) to the development of prostate cancer. 

10. Excess saturated fat

Saturated fats have long been demonized in our society but over time we have realized that a healthy intake of certain fats like omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught fish can be extremely beneficial to overall health. When it comes to prostate health, the problem has been more so correlated with excess saturated fat intake from certain sources such as dairy and meat products that have also been linked to poor prostate health in other ways.

List of foods that benefit prostate health

Just like there are less-than-optimal foods for prostate health, there are foods that have been clinically shown to be beneficial for prostate health.

1. Wild-caught seafood

Instead of loading up on dairy and meat products, eat more wild-caught seafood like salmon that contains beneficial forms of saturated fats like omega-3s. These are considered anti-inflammatory and are beneficial for everything from brain health to hormone production.

2. Cruciferous vegetables

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are high in sulforaphane that has been linked to a decrease in cancer risk with one study (6) showing that sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts was able to delay prostate cancer formation and decrease its severity! More studies need to be done though on this correlation for long-term recommendation.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant, lycopene. Multiple studies have looked at the relationship between lycopene and prostate cancer and found (7) that a higher consumption of lycopene from tomatoes was able to lower prostate cancer risk. Just be aware that tomatoes have a higher level of acidity and can aggravate bladder function in some individuals.

4. Green leafy vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables like kale, spinach, and mustard greens are low-glycemic and are loaded with micronutrients that have been linked to a decrease (8) in prostate cancer development.

Best practices for prostate health

While the foods you eat and don’t eat are important, they are just one piece of the puzzle. You need to look at your overall health and take steps to ensure all parts of your body are working together to form a solid foundation. Here are some steps you can take to maintain proper prostate health.

1. Get tested

If you are over 40, one of the best things you can do is start getting regular prostate examinations. These can help detect prostate cancer in the earliest stages to help facilitate a fast, total recovery.

2. Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet

A lot of the foods listed above that increase prostate cancer risk, are also highly inflammatory. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet will incorporate more nutrient-dense foods into your day that have their own cancer-fighting properties. Plus, since cancer and BPH has roots in inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet can help alleviate symptoms.

3. Heal your gut

It all comes back to the gut, doesn’t it? Researchers are continually looking at how the microbiome directly impacts prostate health, but it is believed that those with prostate health problems have gut dysbiosis (9) - aka an imbalance ratio of good to bad bacteria strains in the microbiome. Others believe it has to do with poor metabolism of estrogen in the microbiome that ends up facilitating (10) the development of cancer cells in the prostate.

While we are continuing to learn more about this relationship between the gut and prostate health, we do know that having a healthy gut is only going to help in the long-run. Adding in a daily probiotic like The Probiotic, from my supplement line The Collection, can ensure your gut is getting enough healthy bacteria to combat dysbiosis. If you want to learn more about how you can heal your gut, check out my article here.

Consulting a functional medicine professional

Ultimately, everyone’s health case and biochemistry is unique. What works for one person isn’t always going to work for the next. Working with a functional medicine professional can help you identify the right steps for your health. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we run labs that look at all areas of your health - nutrient levels, gut function, etc. to see where there could be gaps contributing to poor prostate health.

If you are struggling with your prostate health and want to take a more natural approach to healing by getting to the root cause, schedule a telehealth consultation appointment today. 

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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References:

  1. Nouri-Majd, Saeedeh et al. “Association Between Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 9 801722. 7 Feb. 2022, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.801722
  2. Harrison, Sean et al. “Does milk intake promote prostate cancer initiation or progression via effects on insulin-like growth factors (IGFs)? A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Cancer causes & control : CCC vol. 28,6 (2017): 497-528. doi:10.1007/s10552-017-0883-1
  3. Lippi, Giuseppe, and Camilla Mattiuzzi. “Fried food and prostate cancer risk: systematic review and meta-analysis.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition vol. 66,5 (2015): 587-9. doi:10.3109/09637486.2015.1056111
  4. Richman, Erin L et al. “Choline intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer: incidence and survival.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 96,4 (2012): 855-63. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.039784
  5. Turati, Federica et al. “High glycemic index and glycemic load are associated with moderately increased cancer risk.” Molecular nutrition & food research vol. 59,7 (2015): 1384-94. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201400594
  6. Beaver, Laura M et al. “Broccoli Sprouts Delay Prostate Cancer Formation and Decrease Prostate Cancer Severity with a Concurrent Decrease in HDAC3 Protein Expression in Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of the Mouse Prostate (TRAMP) Mice.” Current developments in nutrition vol. 2,3 nzy002. 26 Dec. 2017, doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy002
  7. Rowles, J L 3rd et al. “Increased dietary and circulating lycopene are associated with reduced prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Prostate cancer and prostatic diseases vol. 20,4 (2017): 361-377. doi:10.1038/pcan.2017.25
  8. Hardin, Jill et al. “Impact of consumption of vegetable, fruit, grain, and high glycemic index foods on aggressive prostate cancer risk.” Nutrition and cancer vol. 63,6 (2011): 860-72. doi:10.1080/01635581.2011.582224
  9. Liu, Longfei et al. “Urethral dysbacteriosis as an underlying, primary cause of chronic prostatitis: potential implications for probiotic therapy.” Medical hypotheses vol. 73,5 (2009): 741-3. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2009.04.035
  10. Sha, Sybil et al. “The human gastrointestinal microbiota and prostate cancer development and treatment.” Investigative and clinical urology vol. 61,Suppl 1 (2020): S43-S50. doi:10.4111/icu.2020.61.S1.S43

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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