Prostate health: Zinc, capsaicin and more

Macho American men are not getting enough zinc in their diet, and far too many procrastinate until their prostate is the size of a bowling ball before they visit their family physician for the dreaded one-digit “test.”

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting one in six men. One new case of prostate cancer occurs every 2.25 minutes and a man dies from prostate cancer every 19 minutes. It is the second most common cause of cancer-related death among American men, and more than half of all men over 50 years of age suffer from an enlarged prostate and its symptoms.

Race and family history are significant as well. African American men are 61% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men, and are nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from the disease. Every year about 400,000 men have prostate surgery, adding over $3 billion annually to our national health care bill

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignant tumor in men. There are no apparent symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Because your prostate becomes larger as you age does not mean you have cancer.

The non-cancerous version is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH for short. For some lucky guys, the prostate gland grows large without causing problems with urination. This may be because their urethra is wider than average, or because the gland tends to enlarge outward. In many, however, enlargement of the prostate gland squeezes the urethra and interferes with urinary flow

Genes are responsible for about 5 to 10% of prostate cancers, but a diet insufficient in macro-nutrients from plant foods and animal protein (especially beef) is the main culprit.

Overweight, sedentary men have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.


A need to urinate frequently, especially at night;

Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine;

Weak or interrupted flow of urine;

Painful or burning urination;

Difficulty in having an erection;

Painful ejaculation;

Blood in urine or semen

Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

( Source: )

The American Cancer Society recommends that men with a high risk, and with a strong family history should begin testing at age 45.

Shooting blanks?

The agony of impotence is another warning sign. Don’t be surprised if your integrative health care physician prescribes zinc first over Viagra for sexual performance issues. The 2005 Linus Pauling Research Institute reports, “The prostate has the highest concentration of zinc of any tissue in the body. It’s abundant in semen and in the thin, milky fluid that the prostate gland secretes into the urethra just before ejaculation to prevent infections.” In fact, 15mg of zinc are lost from ejaculation, so supplementing with zinc may help prevent prostate enlargement.

Zinc is a component of several hormones – and a lack of it can lead to decreased sexual desire and function. The mythological aura surrounding oysters is accurate as the crustacean is extremely high in zinc.

A little dab’ll do ya!

If you are severely deficient in zinc, Dr. Roger Spahr, MD, regenerative medicine specialist in Carmel, Indiana, says to take 30 to 60 milligrams of zinc daily during zinc recovery time, which can take up to several weeks. But Spahr advises that you talk to a doctor who has zinc management experience if you’re considering taking more than 20 milligrams as daily maintenance.

If you’re experiencing impotence, zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, and zinc monomethionine are the most absorbable. The RDA is 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams a day for women. Spahr advises that the best and safest source of zinc is through food, not supplementation. Do not exceed 15 milligrams over the long term.

Calcium may interfere with zinc absorption, so take them at opposite times of the day. Taking calcium supplements, however, will not result in a zinc deficiency. If you don’t see results after four to six weeks, he recommends that you see your doctor for a re-evaluation.

Spahr also recommends taking a high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement in addition to zinc to lay the foundation for a healthy libido. “Vitamins C and E, and selenium are also found in high concentrations in the prostate gland, so they can help speed your recovery from impotence,” Spahr says. He recommends 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams of vitamin C with meals, no more than 200 micrograms of selenium, and 400 to 800 international units of vitamin E daily. Arginine and bioflavonoids are also effective in increasing the Co2 which helps keep our arteries wide open.

For those experiencing erectile tribulations, Dr. Spahr recommends “The Hardness Factor,” by Dr. Stephen Lamm.

Zinc and nutrition

Foods that contain zinc include oysters, the ancient grain, quinoa, beef tenderloin, pot roast, turkey breast, chicken leg, fortified cereals, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, plain yogurt and pecans. According to The Berkeley Wellness Letter, zinc – the most ubiquitous of all trace elements – defends us from free radicals, is essential for health and is needed for the enzymes that regulate cell division. It protects DNA from damage, enhances wound healing, and the proper functioning of our immune systems. Also, the brain must have adequate zinc to keep our thoughts organized and balanced.

Zinc helps tissues grow and repair themselves, and in addition to helping heal wounds faster, zinc is probably the most important mineral for keeping the immune system strong. Too little zinc can lead to a drop in infection-fighting white blood cells, which can increase your risk of getting sick. If you are a vegan over 60 years of age, you might consider taking a multivitamin supplement with zinc.

Too little; too much?

Zinc is such a critical element in human health that even a small deficiency is a disaster. Organ systems affected by zinc deficiency include epidermal, gastrointestinal, central nervous, immune, skeletal and reproductive systems. Zinc deficiency has been implicated as a factor in birth defects, impaired learning, loss of smell and taste, anorexia, loss of appetite, paranoia, depression, body odor, cataracts, acne and dermatitis, weight loss, dwarfism, rough skin, mental lethargy, diarrhea, pneumonia, stretch marks, macular degeneration, myopia and retinal detachment.

Eating, inhaling, or drinking too much zinc in a short period of time can lead to adverse health effects, such as stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Eating large amounts of zinc for longer periods may cause anemia, nervous system disorders, damage to the pancreas and lowered levels of “good” cholesterol.

Too much zinc may interfere with the workings of another trace mineral you and your thyroid need – copper. Zinc can enter the body if you eat foods or drink water or other beverages containing zinc, or if you breathe industrial zinc dust or fumes from the air. If you live near a metal smelter, be checked fairly often, because more is definitely not better:

Hot finale

In the March 15, 2006 issue, Cancer Research reports that capsaicin, the component that gives jalapeno peppers their heat, may also kill prostate cancer cells. According to the report, capsaicin caused almost 80% of prostate cells in mice to die.