Last Updated on December 16, 2023 by Max
Understanding prostate health is critical for all men, especially as they age. Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, along with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition of enlarged prostate, are common prostate-related concerns that affect numerous men worldwide. However, it’s crucial to distinguish these two conditions as they manifest differently and have distinct causes and treatments. This blog post will shed light on these conditions, discuss their relationship, and present a comprehensive exploration of lifestyle factors that could influence prostatitis symptoms.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Versus Prostatitis
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis both present against the backdrop of an enlarged prostatic gland, but it’s crucial to distinguish between these two conditions. According to pioneering research by Gat, Y et al. in 2008, which has been validated by numerous clinical studies, BPH occurs due to a failure of one-way valves in the internal spermatic veins. This failure leads to venous blood stagnation, initially on the left side and later on the right side, resulting in varicocele.
Varicocele prevents free testosterone produced in the testes from entering the systemic circulation. Instead, it seeps through the “back door” directly into the prostate. Consequently, free testosterone concentration in the prostate soars, almost 100 times its’ content in the peripheral blood, which stimulates prostate cell proliferation and growth, leading to BPH. Both BPH and varicocele are age-dependent processes.
On the other hand, prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland, usually caused by bacteria (in about 5% of cases) or various other irritants. Although this is a widely accepted explanation by conventional medicine, there is another viewpoint. This perspective considers chronic pelvic pain as a result of chronically contracted pelvic floor muscles, unrelated to the pathology of the prostate, bladder, uterine, or other organs.
The Wise Anderson Protocol, developed at Stanford University, focuses on training patients to relax the spastic muscles of the pelvic floor and manage the arousal of the nervous system that contributes to the pain. According to clinic data published in 2015, a third of their patients discontinued all medication as a result. As noted in previous posts, the size of the prostate or the progression of BPH doesn’t always correlate with the severity of prostatitis symptoms. Some men with only slightly enlarged prostates suffer severe symptoms and blockage, while others with larger prostates experience negligible blockage or prostatitis signs.
By distinguishing BPH from prostatitis, we obtain a clearer understanding of their interconnections and the ways to effectively treat them. It’s important to note that officially accepted prostatitis treatment methods primarily aim at treating BPH, while traditional or folk methods focus on treating prostatitis.
In examining the literature, we find contradictory data about lifestyle factors and their role in prostatitis. Let’s consider the impact of factors such as alcohol consumption, smoking, exposure to the cold, biking, obesity, specific food intake, and physical activity on prostatitis.
Alcohol Consumption and Prostatitis
Alcohol consumption appears to aggravate prostatitis symptoms, despite numerous evidence-based studies demonstrating a strong negative correlation between alcohol intake and obstructive prostate pathology. In a cohort study by Dr. Po‐Huang Chyou et al. involving 6581 men, the relative risk of developing BPH was much less for men drinking at least 25 oz of alcohol/month compared with nondrinkers. Interestingly, this negative association was present for milder drinks like beer, wine, and sake, but not for spirits. Furthermore, the presence of prostatitis symptoms was positively related to an increased risk of obstructive uropathy. So, while alcohol seems to mitigate BPH symptoms, it exacerbates prostatitis symptoms.
The Ambient Temperature and Prostatitis
While ambient temperature may not be considered a lifestyle factor per se, it’s critical not to overlook its effects. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or hypothermia can trigger a worsening of chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Surveys show that prostatitis is more common in colder regions than in warmer climates. Avoid sitting on cold surfaces and refrain from swimming unless the water is comfortably warm.
Physical Activity and Prostatitis
Physical activity is universally accepted as beneficial for health, but balance is key. Excessive physical activity, whether in the gym or at work, can trigger prostatitis symptoms, particularly if performed daily. If you work out, avoid exercises that put direct pressure on the abdomen. If you work in construction or landscaping, try to alternate strenuous activities with less physically demanding tasks.
The technological revolution has led to an increase in sedentary lifestyles, which I believe is a significant contributing factor to urinary and genital organ diseases. Sitting for extended periods, particularly on a chair, places pressure on the pelvic area and disrupts the natural circulation of blood and other body fluids, leading to stagnation. Sitting on the floor, a traditional practice in Asian countries distributes the body’s weight to the upper thighs and leaves the groin area open. This practice, combined with a warm climate, may explain the lower prevalence of prostatitis in these countries compared to North America.
It’s not surprising that bikers experience prostatitis more often than other groups. If you enjoy biking, choose a comfortable seat that minimizes pressure on the groin area, and consider using a warm cover on the seat in colder weather to avoid contact with cold surfaces.
Diet, Cigarette Smoking, and Prostatitis
Regarding diet and cigarette smoking, research by Po‐Huang Chyou et al. suggests that cigarette smoking does not significantly influence prostatitis symptoms. However, a diet high in beef, protein, and overall energy intake has a weak association with BPH, while fat intake shows no correlation.
Obesity is not just a lifestyle factor, but also a health condition caused by a complex interplay of genetics, high-energy diet, sedentary lifestyle, and consumption of junk food. As a result, obese men have altered hormonal status and overall cell metabolism, making them more prone to developing BPH.
From the discussions above, we understand that prostatitis and BPH are relatively independent conditions:
- BPH may make the prostate more susceptible to inflammation but doesn’t necessarily lead to prostatitis. Thus, to prevent prostate issues, we must address BPH at its roots. To prevent BPH, we need to understand its exact mechanism of occurrence.
- Any BPH treatment, chemical or surgical (except prostatectomy), does not necessarily result in the resolution of prostatitis.
- We can treat prostatitis without addressing an enlarged prostate by focusing on relieving the inflammation symptoms.
Through a mindful and balanced lifestyle, and by paying attention to certain critical factors, it’s possible to mitigate the symptoms of prostatitis and lead a healthier life.
Po‐Huang Chyou et al. A prospective study of alcohol, diet, and other lifestyle factors in relation to obstructive uropathy The Prostate 1993 V. 22, N 3 P: 253-264
Suzuki S et al. Intakes of energy and macronutrients and the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Apr;75(4):689-97.