Treating an Enlarged Prostate With Diet

NF-Feb5 Treating Enlarged Prostate

The majority of American men will develop a pathologically enlarged prostate gland (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH). The good news, though, is that like many other epidemics of chronic disease plaguing the Western world, it can be prevented and treated with a plant-based diet.

The prostate gland surrounds the urethra as it exits the bladder. If the gland gets too big it can constrict the normal flow of urine. Men can be left with a hesitant, weak urine stream, dribbling, irritation, and inadequate emptying of the bladder requiring multiple nightly trips to the bathroom. In the United States, it affects about 50% of men in their 50′s and 80% of men in their 80′s, but as I note in my 3-min. video Some Prostates Are Larger than Others it’s extremely rare in certain populations and diet may be to blame for our BPH epidemic. What if you already have it though?

According to a recent review I profile in my 3-min. video, Prostate Versus Plants, the most notable development in the epidemic of prostate enlargement and lower urinary tract symptoms is the recognition that modifiable lifestyle factors such as diet can substantially influence the progression of the disease. All men should consider eating a prostate-healthy diet that includes legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soy); certain vegetables (like garlic and onions); and certain seeds (flax seeds); and avoids refined grains, eggs, and poultry.

If individual plant foods reduce the risk of prostate enlargement, what about an entire diet composed of plant foods? In my last blog post, Cancer-Proofing Your Body, I showed how a healthy diet can slow down the abnormal growth of prostate cancer cells, but what about the abnormal growth of normal prostate cells?

In a similar series of experiments researchers took a bunch of men and put them on a plant-based diet for 2 weeks. Then they dripped the mens’ blood on prostate cells growing in a petri dish and saw, as with the cancer, a significant drop in growth. As I detail in my video Prostate Versus a Plant-Based Diet not only do prostate cell growth rates drop almost immediately upon adopting a healthier diet, but follow-up studies on men eating plant-based diets for up to 28 years straight show that as long as one continues to eat healthy, prostate cell growth rates go down and they stay down.

For more on the health benefits of garlic and onions see:

More on flax in:

And more on the concerns about poultry:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image credit: lazzarello / Flickr

  • Eric O’Grey

    Hello Dr. Greger – I’m 53, and have been on a 100% whole food vegan diet for 2 years. The only remaining issue (and I consider this an inconvenience rather than a medical problem) I have from when I was an omnivore is exactly what you describe above, in terms of having to get up several times each night to urinate and sometimes urgently needing to urinate, especially after drinking coffee. I am now a long distance runner, and the biggest inconvenience involves having to stop to urinate during marathons, it costs me a few minutes from my time. I now only drink water and green tea, with a cup of coffee every other day or so. I don’t use any medications, not even Advil, and would not take any medications unless needed to save my life. I had always assumed my frequent and urgent urination issue would become lessened over time on my vegan diet, but it hasn’t. Is there anything I can consume to help with this that doesn’t involve medication?

    • Catherine J Frompovich

      Mr. Eric,

      As a retired natural nutritionist who was in practice for many years, I came to realize that the one thing men were overlooking in dealing with prostate issues from a holistic approach was NOT drinking chemically treated water, especially fluoridated water which most municipal water supplies are. You may be interested to know that there is an under-the-kitchen-sink reverse osmosis water filter [r.o. is the most efficient for removing pollutants] that costs around $200.00 plus installation. You then use that water for drinking, cooking, food prep, and all beverages, including ice making. That just may be the missing link you are looking for. That suggestion used to help other men. Good luck!

      • Eric O’Grey

        Hi Catherine, thank you for your response! What you suggest is the one thing I haven’t tried. I installed a ceramic based filter a while back, which I use for all my drinking water. But there are issues with my municipal water here, not just flouridation but also polutants such as hexavalent chromium that I know are not removed by a ceramic filter. My company makes water filtration systems and I really have no excuse for not installing a reverse osmosis system. Thank you again for your suggestion.

        • MBOKO

          Hi Eric. What is the progress 11 months later after you fitted the reverse osmosis filter?

    • Mike Quinoa

      Coffee unfortunately does the same thing to me. Don’t forget as well that you take in a lot of fluid from the numerous fruits and veggies I’m sure you eat, even apart from water consumed on its own.

    • Gregory Countee

      Hey I here you!. I eat veggies 4 to 5 times a week. Bam!. (Thanks! E.L.). Smile!. Good post!. Best Yet!. Take care. Oh! back to the jams.

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  • Lauritz

    Could you write an article on how not only to prevent the recurrence of crohn’s and ulcerative colitis symptoms but to treat these intestinal disease with diet. I have noticed that even though I am eating a very healthy vegan diet my symptoms came back. They are much less than before I was vegan, but I want to heal my inflamed intestines.

    Are any studies out there on liquid or fasting diets to treat that?

    • Eden Derry

      Lauritz, you must read Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Prof John Hunter. And Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall.

  • JohnC

    I developed BPH while on a whole plant based diet. It is supposedely very common in older men

    I went vegetarian at age 45, ten years ago, and have been eating a low fat whole food vegan diet high in whole food starches (but eating a lot of fruits and vegetables) for most of the 10 years. I was diagnosed with BPH approx. 3 years ago and have the symptom of a sudden and frequent need to urinate, but do not have the symptom of feeling an incomplete emptying of the bladder. I have heard BPH does NOT increase the odds of prostate cancer. I sometime think the frequent peeing is due to all the liquid I eat in my food, but the doc did say the prostate was enlarged. I also wonder if it is related to the bedwetting problem I had when I was a child. According to Dr. McDougall, bedwetting has been linked to dairy consumption.

  • Harold

    I have a request of you. You obviously know your stuff and can help a lot of people. The one request, or perhaps suggestion might be a better word, would be to team up with a nutritionist/author that could complement your knowledge with a cook book that shows us how to prepare the best food ingredient options, to get the most benefit from the food suggestions you make. I would buy it in a heartbeat! Most articles I read (not yours of course) only tell what NOT to eat or drink, (which is usually everything we currently consume) but there is no REAL alternatives given. In other words a lot of don’t but very, very few dos! If there are already recepe books that you know of, please suggest them. Buy the way, what do you eat? My e-mail address is I would buy the book in a heartbeat! Thank you for your work! Harold.

  • homehealthplanet

    Nice overlook of BPH! Prostate health is really big issue for men, Besides your listing foods, add Saw Palmetto Extract to diet will help manage enzymes. Find my suggestion

    • Richard

      Maybe you need eyeglasses! BPH is covered in the article and who is paying you to advertise Saw Palmetto when there is no evidence that it helps BPH? Given today’s evidence I do not see any better solution for BPH than your diet…

      • Steve Bickel

        Saw palmetto plus flax and plant based diet helped my bph dramatically. Saw palmetto is the most important factor after testing each piece.

  • matt

    I remember reading a study on coagulation and lignins, and recall lentils can increase platelet aggregation in humans? SO one needs to be careful if are prone to hypercoagulable state such as those with lipid abnormalities.

    • Toxins

      Lignans, along with other antinutrients, are eliminated with cooking. So its not a concern unless you are eating raw lentils. Soaking and sprouting also significantly reduces lignan content.

      • matt

        Thanks Toxins, good to know;)

        • Richard

          Thanks? That is bad information! Lignans are good for the gut and fight some cancers. Additionally, cooking does not destroy them… If your problem is really lignans you are especially going to have to avoid flax, cooked or otherwise. Sprouting flax seeds increases the lignans so the comment you are addressing is just garbage.

  • Ingrid

    Flax seeds is linhac(ss sound)a in Portugues? Here the golden one is considered the best one.

  • Amanda Powell

    Is magnetotherapy could be efficient , for example Androspok device?

  • Gale

    My husband has been taking Saw Palmetto for prostate health, but just learned at least one study showed no positive impact. Could you share the latest clinical studies? Thank You!

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Hi Gale. Best to discuss supplement options with your husband’s doctor. Some clinical trials found reduced inflammation of the prostate when taking saw palmetto, lycopene, and selenium (aka: Serenoa repens). Another study did not find any benefit from saw palmetto alone. I don’t think there is enough evidence to support it’s use for prostate health. However, if there are not major side effects (which it does not appear there are) and it will not not cause further harm, then I see no concerns trying it with doctor consent. Hope this help. I think addressing diet is far more important. I know we’ve been in touch about that via FaceBook. I appreciate your patience. Thanks, Joseph

  • Brad

    Hello, I am having good luck with 80% vegetarian and some fish, usually just some Salmon and a bit of tuna, wild. I feel my symptoms are getting lighter. I did want to give a shout out for egg whites though. I stopped eating the yolk about two years ago and find the protein a great one. You mentioned not eating eggs? Are there studies that show such risks for cooked egg whites?

  • Joycee Bastian

    Hello, better diet can really help to protect men at older age from this problem of enlarging prostate. Some beneficial foods are salmon, tofu, bell peppers, sesame seeds, avocadoes, tomatoes.