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The PSA test is usually the first indicator that something is wrong with a man’s prostate. An elevated PSA may indicate prostate cancer, but it can also be the result of many other situations. For example, an above normal PSA may indicate any of the following:
- prostate cancer;
- prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate);
- benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – enlarged prostate;
- a reaction to certain medications used to treat BPH;
- a urinary tract infection;
- recent ejaculation (which can temporarily raise PSA);
- age related inflammation;
- a reaction to an injury to the perineum; and/or
- inflammation of the prostate caused by sporting activity such as bike or horse riding.
Most men who have a high or above normal PSA do not have prostate cancer. And some men with a low PSA can actually be found to have prostate cancer after a digital rectal examination (DRE) and subsequent biopsy. The takeaway is here is that neither a low or above normal PSA is a definitive sign of prostate cancer.
Even so, a low PSA is an indicator of better prostate, and overall health, so we should all strive to have a low PSA reading on the PSA test. Note that an elevated PSA may indicate a problem, but it is not the cause of the problem. The prostate specific antigen (PSA) is secreted as a reaction to an underlying disorder – so we should always aim to treat the underlying cause.
You can start by having a healthy prostate through your lifestyle and diet. While your age and family history do factor in, it’s your lifestyle that is the main contributor to your PSA levels.
6 Ways To Reduce Your PSA Levels
Eat less meat and more vegetables: Prostate enlargement is affected by hormones – specifically DHT, which promotes inflammation in the prostate. Meat and dairy products can cause your body to produce more hormones that can affect prostate growth. Meat products also have many unhealthy fats so reducing meat and fat consumption may help you lose excess weight, which contributes to prostate problems and a higher risk for prostate cancer. Also, try to eat as many organic vegetables as your budget allows as this helps in reducing your pesticide exposure. If you do eat animal protein, then make sure it’s organic and farm raised — without the use of hormones and/or antibiotics.
Eat more tomatoes: Eating tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, can help lower your PSA and reduce your risk of prostate cancer. Cooking releases the lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, from the tomatoes. Studies have shown that adding tomatoes and tomato products to your diet can not only lower risk for prostate cancer but lower PSA counts in men with advanced prostate cancer by 65%. Forget about using lycopene supplements as the studies show they don’t work – you need to eat the natural tomato products to get the full benefit. You can read more about the studies here. And avoid all canned tomatoes as the cans often contain toxic substances like BPA (bisphenol-A).
Exercise more: Studies have found that doing aerobic exercise (running, swimming), yoga, and meditation helps lower PSA levels in men. Aerobic exercise is thought to be beneficial for lowering PSA by helping men lose weight and by reducing stress related inflammation. Weight gain also promotes excess estrogen in men that can affect prostate health, contribute to an enlarged prostate, and a higher risk of prostate cancer.
Take aspirin: Research from Vanderbilt University suggests that aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lower PSA levels, especially among men who have prostate cancer.
Drink pomegranate juice: Research suggests that pomegranate juice may help to fight prostate cancer. The juice is rich in phytochemicals, and it has been shown to kill aggressive prostate cancer cells in studies and slow down the rate of PSA doubling in men with prostate cancer. Be careful though as pomegranate juice has a significant amount of sugar. This is one of those cases that the actual supplement is better than the fruit as the supplement does not have the same sugar content. Jarrow makes a pomegranate supplement. You can also get it in powder form.
Avoid foods that harm your prostate: Many foods aggravate the prostate and can contribute to elevated PSA levels as well as prostate enlargement. Some of the worst offenders include:
- saturated fats;
- excess alcohol (regular heavy drinking can put you at twice the risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer (Gong 2009);
- foods containing acrylamide (like donuts);
- French fries (large doses of acrylamide have been shown to cause neurological damage in humans and French fries and potato chips are by far the biggest culprits – acrylamide has also been associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer);
- Microwave popcorn (the lining of the bags in which microwave popcorn is popped contains chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that are associated with infertility in humans);
- non-organic potatoes;
- non-organic meats and dairy products;
- canned products, and especially canned tomatoes (the lining of the cans often contain BPA – a hormone disruptor); and
- non-fermented soy products (like soy protein isolate, soy based protein bars, and other soy products that can promote estrogen in men).
Avoid exposure to toxins: Stay away from chemicals and other substances that can increase the risk of developing cancer. Don’t drink out of plastics that are not “BPA free”. Use glass or stainless steel containers instead. Limit your exposure to other cancer causing chemicals that may affect your prostate health and eat organic as much as possible. Reduce or eliminate your use of fragrance based consumer products that contain chemicals called “phthalates” (including after-shave, moisturizers, and most products that have a fragrance). These have been shown to decrease your testosterone which leads to an imbalance in testosterone and estrogen in men. Studies have shown that this imbalance in hormones can be a significant contributor to prostate cancer and declining prostate health.
The Bottom Line
Talk to your doctor about your family history of prostate cancer, and educate yourself on the benefits and harms of PSA screening and other tests that you might undergo as a result of your high PSA. Keep in mind that while a high PSA can indicate prostate cancer, many times it is caused by a different benign condition. Get all the facts before making a decision about more aggressive and invasive screening procedures that may not be necessary.
Doctors have a economic incentive to undertake as many procedures on you as possible so make sure you ask them the right questions before agreeing to a biopsy if your PSA reading is above normal. You may want to wait and have another PSA test in a few weeks and see if there is a reduction in the PSA in the meantime. Many things may have caused a spike or abnormal reading so don’t rush into it. Take a deep breath and look at all your options. Think about some of the other factors outlined above that may have caused the abnormal reading – and look at what you can do from a lifestyle perspective to promote a healthier prostate.