How does stress affect the prostate?
Stress and BPH symptoms can seem like a vicious cycle: the worse your BPH symptoms become, the more stressed you feel, and equally, the more stressed you become, the worse your enlarged prostate symptoms appear. Understanding the link, and finding effective ways of tackling stress can do wonders for your BPH.
When faced with a stressful situation, whether you are the type of person who takes a deep breath, thinks logically, and tackles the situation calmly, or whether you become panicky, fearful and unable to think rationally, though you may not realise it you are likely to begin to tense your muscles.
Most people can identify this in their hands, neck and shoulders but it also commonly occurs with the pelvic floor muscles. Tightening of these pelvic muscles constricts the urethra, the tube which carries urine out of the body, and so the urine flow is reduced. This is the same tube which is constricted by an enlarged prostate, and although it can seem as if symptoms of the enlarged prostate are worsening, the problem may actually be traced back to stress.
Additionally, stress can cause zinc levels in the body to lower. Zinc is an important mineral for the prostate, occurring more commonly in this gland than in other human tissues. Zinc deficiency, which can be caused by prolonged stress, can cause the prostate gland to enlarge, worsening symptoms. As well as reducing stress, eating certain foods rich in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, can ease BPH symptoms.
When stressed, the body can begin to release the testosterone and DHT hormones. These hormones can cause the prostate gland to enlarge. Additionally, the adrenaline released when stressed can cause contraction of the muscles in the bladder and prostate. The combined effects of the release of these hormones can negatively impact your BPH symptoms.
So what can I do about it?
It’s all very well to identify that your symptoms are being caused by stress, but it’s just as, if not more important, to find a way of solving your problems. Learning to combat stress is a very individual matter, and what works for one person may not work for another, so try out some techniques to see what works best for you.
As well as helping your prostate, managing stress will also generally make you feel calmer, more relaxed and more positive. Helpful tips include:
Remember to breathe
Breathing is one of those instinctive reflexes that we don’t think about too much, but sometimes being aware of how we are breathing helps us to manage stress. If you notice your breathing becoming shallow and rapid, it’s time to take control. Place your hand over your belly button, and breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply. Feel your abdomen rise a couple of inches before exhaling slowly through your mouth. Breathing exercises like this can be done at any time of the day, or when you go to bed at night to help you relax and go to sleep more easily.
Relax your muscles
Sometimes it is obvious when your muscles are tense, such as your hands clenched into a fist, but often we can be tensing muscles without even realising it. One way to help relax your muscles is to start at toes and work up through your body, focusing on relaxing each of your muscles one by one. Keep breathing slowly and deeply when doing this to help your muscles to relax.
This is a natural stress reliever as it promotes the secretion of the happy hormone, serotonin, and uses up any excess supply of adrenaline, making it easier for you to relax. Some people find that the controlled rhythm of walking or swimming helps to relieve stress, while others prefer the more unpredictable nature of team sports, for example. Simple exercises can help to manage your BPH symptoms and reduce their severity, so this is another good reason to stay active and improve your fitness.
Plan and prepare
It is often unexpected circumstances that can cause stress levels to rocket, so try to take control, as much as possible, by planning the day ahead, making lists, and organising everything that you will need, so that you are not in a panic trying to find the car keys, while running ten minutes late for a meeting that you forgot you where supposed to be presenting. Being able to plan your days effectively will often free up some time to relax too.
Choose what you eat
Certain foods may help to ease your stress more than others. We have probably all heard that caffeine and alcohol are stimulants and should be avoided, and while this is true, drinking green tea is a great alternative, and has been found to help ease BPH symptoms. Zinc-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, help to counter the effects of stress and are good for prostate health. Keeping your blood sugar stable also stabilises your mood, making you more tolerant to stress factors. Carbohydrates are better options than refined sugars, as these release the sugars more slowly, keeping your energy levels constant.
For many, herbal remedies are the preferred method of medically treating stress, as they are natural and do not cause the side-effects that conventional medicines can. A.Vogel’s Stress Relief Daytime combines fresh extracts of Valerian and Hops to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety. This can be use alongside A.Vogel’s Prostasan Saw Palmetto, to help reduce symptoms associated with BPH.
What stress relieving techniques do you find most helpful for your enlarged prostate?
Meet our expert
Having trained as a doctor at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Jen Tan, Medical Director of A.Vogel, has been involved in herbal medicine research over a number of years, coordinating projects both within the UK and internationally.