What foods should you avoid if you have an enlarged prostate?
While the exact cause of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (otherwise known as BPH or an enlarged prostate) is not entirely understood, we do know that what you eat can have a big influence on the health of your prostate. While some foods can help to reduce the risk of developing BPH, as well as lessening the severity of your symptoms, there are others which can actually aggravate the problem including:
- Red meat
- Eggs and poultry
- Sugary foods
- Spicy foods
Unfortunately gentlemen, as we can see, it is often some of our favourite foods that can cause inflammation flare-ups and bladder problems; however, knowing the main culprits could help you to manage your symptoms better.
Foods to avoid: Red meat
A juicy steak, a Sunday roast or some Italian meatballs are just a few popular dinner choices that make use of red meat; however, if these are some of your favourites then I have some bad news - they won't help the health of your prostate!
The problem with red meat is that it elevates levels of arachidonic acid in your body and this, in turn, increases inflammation - the very thing your enlarged prostate does not need! The more inflammation present in your body generally, the more likely you are to have inflammation in the prostate. Therefore, avoiding or limiting your intake of foods which trigger an inflammatory response is a good place to start when dealing with the problem.
The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives to red meat that won't cause such issues including fish. Why not swap that Sunday roast for a tasty fish stew?
If this doesn't take your fancy though, simply have a look at our Recipe Hub for some cooking inspiration. Our Healthy Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas is extremely popular, as is our Trout with Creamy Potato Salad.
When cooking from scratch, beans also make a good alternative to meat, plus they happen to be high in protein and fibre.
Foods to avoid: Eggs & poultry
A study published in the January 2006 issue of Urology explored the connection between diet and BPH symptoms.1 It found that eating eggs and poultry appeared to increase symptoms. This may be to do with the fact that egg yolks have high levels of arachidonic acid, which, as mentioned earlier, increases inflammation.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you must cut eggs and chicken out of your diet completely – this is just one study and more research would be needed to make a more thorough conclusion on the issue. However, I would advise you not to focus your diet around these foods and to get more variety instead. Vegetables are an excellent option as they contain and array of nutrients and can be incorporated into meals like curries and soups, as well as snacks.
Foods to avoid: Sugary foods
Refined sugar is another no-go for those with prostate problems as this can increase inflammation.
Sugar is abundant in some obvious sources such as fizzy juice and cake, but don't forget it is also added to processed foods to give them extra flavour. This includes ready meals, crisps, some cereals, white bread and ready-made sauces. You could try cutting down your intake of these things in order to reduce the pressure on your prostate.
They say fresh is best for a reason, so try swapping these processed foods for wholegrain products, fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Not only are these better for the prostate, they are also highly nutritious and healthy too!
Foods to avoid: Spice
Spicy foods such as curry and chilli are yet another thing you must be aware of if you suffer from an enlarged prostate. These things can irritate the bladder and prostate and may bring on the urinary symptoms associated with BPH such as feeling the need to urinate frequently and urgently.
If you're a fan of spicy meals, try adding a little less spice or hot sauce than normal and, if you still need extra flavour, add herbs or veg in their place.
Foods to avoid: Caffeine
Avoiding or limiting your caffeine intake, including coffee, tea, energy drinks and fizzy drinks, is another thing that can make a big difference to your urinary health.
Caffeine has a diuretic effect which means it can increase the urge to go to the toilet. On top of this, drinking these beverages, especially late at night, can irritate the bladder and so will make it more likely that you'll need to use the loo. As it is difficult for men with an enlarged prostate to empty their bladder completely anyway, consuming caffeinated drinks will only add to the problem.
There are now so many caffeine-free drinks available that it shouldn't be too much of a challenge to swap your usual brew for something a little kinder to your bladder.
Chamomile tea is particularly beneficial as it has anti-inflammatory properties. If you favour coffee, though, then Bambu, our caffeine-free coffee, is a great alternative.
On top of this, another important drink for your prostate is water. It's vital you stay well hydrated if you suffer from the condition (and even if you don't, for that matter) but remember not to drink anything at least 2 hours before bedtime.
Foods to avoid: Dairy
Dairy is high in saturated fats and inflammatory chemicals which, as I've explained, can worsen your prostate-related symptoms. As a result of this, it may help your enlarged prostate symptoms to reduce your intake of dairy.
Nowadays, there are plenty of dairy-free alternatives including soya milk, almond milk and coconut milk. These drinks are all readily available in health food stores and supermarkets so why not give them a try?
I understand that you may be worried about the suspected oestrogenic effects of soya but you can read my article on whether or not soya is safe for men to drink for more information on this.
Foods to avoid: Alcohol
If you have an enlarged prostate, it is also recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol, or at least reduce your intake. There are a number of reasons why alcohol can cause problems.
Firstly, it is inflammatory so can exacerbate the inflammation already present in the prostate gland. Next, it can cause the muscles in the urinary tract to relax which could result in the need to urinate more frequently.
On top of this, alcohol also acts as a diuretic, it dehydrates the body and it can reduce stores of magnesium. All of these things can make urinary symptoms more severe.
If you'd like further information on this issue, take a look at my blog 'How does alcohol affect an enlarged prostate?'.
What foods help an enlarged prostate?
Now, you may be looking at the list above thinking, "what foods are left that I can actually eat?". Well, the good news is that, not only are there still plenty of foods to choose from, there are a number that may actually improve your symptoms too!
You can read my blogs 'Good foods for an enlarged prostate' and '5 helpful drinks for an enlarged prostate' for more information on how diet can improve enlarged prostate symptoms but, for now, here are my top foods to eat:
- Seeds – pumpkin seeds contain compounds called phytosterols which research shows could reduce the size of an enlarged prostate.2
- Nuts – almonds, cashew nuts, peanuts and pine nuts are high in zinc, a beneficial mineral for those suffering from an enlarged prostate as it can be anti-inflammatory.
- Fish – fish including salmon, trout and sardines are a good source of omega-3 which is anti-inflammatory.
- Vegetables – tomatoes, broccoli and kale are particularly good options as they are rich in vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C could reduce the chances of developing an enlarged prostate.3
- Tofu – research suggests that soy isoflavones could reduce symptoms of BPH.4
- Fruit – in particular, citrus fruit tends to be high in vitamin C which may inhibit the growth of prostate cells, thus helping to keep symptoms of an enlarged prostate at bay.
Top tips for dealing with an enlarged prostate
So, there are definitely a few foods you should try to avoid if you have BPH; however, I hope this blog has also shown you that there are lots of alternatives out there too.
From here on in, if you want to keep your symptoms under control, there are a few additional things to remember:
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables – soups, smoothies and veg-only meals will help with this.
- Exercise – from walking to crazy golf, staying active should help to manage symptoms of an enlarged prostate as it can reduce inflammation in the body.5 It also helps to manage weight which is helpful as obesity is a risk factor for developing an enlarged prostate. If you need a little inspiration on how to exercise more then read our blog 'Bored of exercising? Try these unusual sports!'.
- Tackle stress – stress can exacerbate prostate problems. To help tackle stress try speaking to those around you about any concerns. You may also find Stress Relief Daytime helpful. With a mix of Valerian and Hops, this helps to relieve mild stress and anxiety.
- Drink more water – undiluted urine can irritate the bladder, thus causing more frequent trips to the toilet. Drinking lots of water, however, will keep urine diluted so this should make you feel comfortable longer term.
- Try Saw Palmetto capsules – this licensed remedy can help to bring relief from the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if the following symptoms develop:
Although these are all symptoms of an enlarged prostate, there are other health conditions that they could also point to. Therefore, it is important to get a full diagnosis from your doctor in order to treat the symptoms most effectively.
Originally published 23 February 2015 (updated on 5 August 2019)