Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. In addition, prostate enlargement is found in 50 percent of American men in their sixties, and up to 90 percent of men in their seventies and eighties. While modern science claims that the specific cause of prostate cancer is unknown, the traditional view from Ayurveda is that many prostate problems can be prevented by making simple lifestyle and dietary changes. Recently, researchers have suggested a link between growing numbers of prostate cancer and the rise of environmental chemicals. Today, let’s look both at lifestyle and dietary factors that can support prostate health and at specific toxins that need to be avoided.
Lifestyle Factors Supporting Prostate Health
All three doshas are involved with prostate problems: a Kapha imbalance contributes to the abnormal growth; a Pitta imbalance contributes to inflammation and a Vata imbalance creates the physical discomfort. Therefore, if you are concerned with prostate health, your diet needs to simultaneously balance all three doshas. This means moderation in all areas. Nothing too spicy, too cold, too dry, or too heavy.
- Turmeric is a helpful spice when dealing with any kind of inflammation. In addition, the presence of curcumin (contained in turmeric) has been proved to arrest the spread of cancerous cells in the prostate. Spices like turmeric, cumin, ginger and fennel help purify the body of toxins that can build up and lead to imbalances or infection. Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants and has DNA-protective qualities.
- Black pepper helps strengthen the body’s detoxification systems, aiding in purification of the blood tissue and enhancing the overall immune system. Black pepper also helps boost the bioaccessability of turmeric and other spices, so that the body can make maximum use of their helpful properties.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are anti-androgen and have been proven to fight the production of cancerous cells in the prostate.
- Asparagus is recommended because it helps support balanced hormones.
- Quinoa is an ideal grain because it is rich in zinc. Maintaining proper levels of zinc in the seminal fluid contributes to maintaining a healthy prostate. Zinc is stored in the prostate gland. Quinoa is considered a “light” grain and can be eaten at night without increasing Kapha.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan environmental health research and advocacy organization, has named four high-risk substances to watch out for in terms of prostate health.
- Cadmium in tobacco: People who smoke have twice as much cadmium exposure as those who do not. Studies have associated cadmium with an increased risk of prostate cancer in human epidemiological studies. This adds one more reason to the already extensive list (preventing lung cancer, respiratory and heart disease) of reasons to stop smoking.
- Pesticides: Studies show that farmers who mix and apply pesticides on their crops have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer. These same pesticides are also prevalent in our food supply, unless you buy organic food. If your budget makes it difficult to buy organic, at least consider going organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables called “the dirty dozen”. These foods are commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system. The dirty dozen are: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, chili peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens, and zucchini and summer squash.
- PCBs (often found in animal fat) Even though polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned more than 30 years ago, these industrial chemicals are pervasive in our environment and show up in the blood of most individuals. They have been linked to a number of health concerns, including prostate cancer risk, lower cognitive performance, depression and fatigue. Since PCBs typically accumulate in animal fatty tissues, especially in fish, choose leaner meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. PCBs build up in our fat tissues and remain there until they naturally decay (which may take up to 20 years). While modern science offers no means of removing PCBs, published studies have shown that Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, can actually reduce blood levels of PCBs by 50% in just 5 days.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) BPA is a chemical found in plastic. According to the EWG, a number of animal studies have shown that even at low exposures, BPA can cause DNA damage and development of precancerous lesions in rats. One study has also shown DNA damage in humans. Use glass kitchenware instead of plastic. Reuse old glass bottles and glass jars for storing food. If you use plastic containers, buy BPA-free and avoid those with recycling code #7, which may contain BPA. While it was once thought that BPA cleared the body quickly and completely, new studies show that, like PCBs, BPA may build up in our fat tissues, releasing slowly into the body over time. This is leading to a serious reevaluation of the risk of exposure to BPA.
Ayurvedic Tips for Reducing Toxins
- Scheduling regular Panchakarma treatments to remove fat-soluble toxins that build up in fat tissues. Add morning oil massage to your daily routine.
- Reduce your intake of animal fat. Choose fresh, organic foods and make sure you get lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Get regular exercise and avoid being sedentary for long periods of time. A sedentary lifestyle is thought to be a risk factor of aggressive prostate cancer.
If you are worried about your prostate, talk to an Ayurveda expert who can give individualized recommendations for herbs and dietary and lifestyle changes that would best support your balanced health. You should also have your prostate checked regularly by your regular doctor.