The Truth About Herbal Supplements and Your Prostate Health

added on: September 19, 2019
herbal supplement pills

Whether you have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer or you’re trying to take preventive measures to avoid it, it’s tempting to turn to alternative or complementary medical therapy. We’re here to set the record straight about how vitamins and herbal supplements affect your prostate health. 

But before we go any further, let’s say this: we know that coping with any form of cancer is never simple. Sometimes traditional treatments aren’t as effective as you’d like them to be or what you expected. One of the biggest alternatives is over-the-counter supplements and herbs. You should always check with your Pittston urologist before you start taking any kind of new medications. Let’s take a look at some of the most common alternative remedies, potential side effects, issues, etc.

Common Herbs and Supplements for Prostate Health

Harvard Health estimates that about one-third of American men with prostate cancer have turned to at least one form of alternative treatment with supplements and herbal remedies. Some of the most widely used supplements include:

Saw Palmetto – This one ranks near the top because it’s used for a variety of urological issues such as patients who have an enlarged prostate gland (also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). Most people tend to take about 320 milligrams each day. Some studies say it can help with urinary incontinence, but some research suggests saw palmetto doesn’t really do anything. Some men take this herb along with melatonin supplements in the hopes that it will help slow down prostate cancer from spreading. However, you run the risk of bleeding if this herb is taken along with pain relievers like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. 

Vitamin E and Selenium – Have you ever heard of the SELECT study? The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial findings were highly publicized, exploring the use of Vitamin E and selenium supplements in prostate cancer patients. Preliminary studies showed there could be a possibility that using this combination could actually reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The SELECT results, published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association in 2011, found that patients who took Vitamin E supplements actually had a 17 percent higher risk of prostate cancer compared to placebo patients. Fast forward to 2014 when researchers used SELECT survey data to find that high does of Vitamin E and selenium showed no benefits to men who are at risk of developing prostate cancer. They also noted that patients with high levels of selenium going into the study increased their risk of high-grade prostate cancer by 91 percent when they took the additional selenium supplements. 

Lycopene – This naturally occurring antioxidant is found in high concentrations in your body’s prostate cells. It’s commonly found in cooked tomatoes! At one time, studies suggested that taking lycopene twice daily could help decrease prostate cancer’s growth rate and prevent cancer. However, those findings were refuted years later. 

The Bottom Line

One of the biggest concerns about alternative medicines is that supplements don’t have to go through clinical trials or gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This means there’s very little data available about what they really do to our bodies. It’s also important to remember that herbal remedies and supplements can interact with one another or with other medications you may be taking. Supplements can enhance how some medications work or cancel out the benefits. 

Just remember that these alternative therapies aren’t miracle workers. Sure, some men may experience positive side effects and benefits when it comes to treating disease in the prostate. Don’t be surprised if you don’t experience any changes at all. If you’re considering trying anything we discussed here either for the prevention or treatment of prostate cancer, please talk to your Pittston urologist before taking anything. He can offer the support you need to help work through treatment, management, and prevention of prostate issues.