Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are the edible seeds of a pumpkin, commonly used in cooking or as snacks. Regardless of how you enjoy them, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed extract, and pumpkin seed oil all have beneficial health properties.
These seeds have long been used as traditional folk remedies for inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract, and research now shows they can benefit the health of your bladder and prostate too.
Pumpkin seeds or extract contain important vitamins, including thiamin, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, and folate. They are also rich in essential minerals like potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and calcium.
Beyond the nutritional value, pumpkin seeds are one of several powerful phytotherapeutic agents used to treat medical conditions. Pumpkin seeds benefit the body through a variety of mechanisms.
♦ Antiandrogenic effect: It has the ability to block the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Too much DHT can cause hair loss and interfere with healthy hormone function.
♦ Antiestrogenic effect: It has the ability to block the activities of estrogen and mediating its effects in the body. Too much estrogen can interfere with hormone function and cause headaches and reduced sex drive.
♦ Blockage of alpha receptors: Blocking alpha receptors promotes low blood pressure and enhanced circulation.
♦ Anti-inflammatory effect: It can reduce inflammation through the body, which can cause conditions such as heart disease, prostatitis, and cystitis.
The prostate gland is an important gland that sits below the bladder. This small gland produces 75 percent of the fluid that makes up semen.
The prostate naturally grows as you age, but sometimes it can become enlarged as a result of inflammation. Inflammation can come from infection along the urinary tract that spreads to the prostate. Enlarged prostate or an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:
♦ Urgency to urinate
♦ Nighttime urination
♦ Difficulty urinating
♦ Urine flow starting and stopping
Enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) increases your risk of bladder infections or the development of painful bladder stones. BPH affects close to 60 percent of men over the age of 50, and without treatment, it can be a life-threatening condition.
Although BPH is not cancerous, it has been known to coexist with prostate cancer. BPH is also known to cause sleep deprivation, as individuals need to wake through the night to urinate. Prolonged sleep deprivation increases inflammation in the body, as well as increases the risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer.
Reducing the risk for BPH has been shown to reduce the risk for prostate cancer, and pumpkin seeds are one way to naturally lower this risk. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil block certain types of prostate growth, preventing the gland from becoming enlarged.
The metabolite of testosterone builds up in the prostate, which causes it to grow in size. Pumpkin seed phytochemicals block the activities of an enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT. This activity reduces the risk of an enlarged prostate or BPH.
Zinc is a mineral that is important to the healthy function of the prostate. Research shows that healthy prostate glands have the highest levels of zinc in any part of the body. Men with BPH or those with malignant or cancerous prostate tissue have been found to have less zinc than those with healthy prostate tissue.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, and one cup a day is believed to provide all the zinc you need to keep levels in the prostate healthy.
Pumpkin seeds have also been found to support the health of your bladder. Studies have not yet found that pumpkin seeds can treat bladder infections, but they are proven to help bladder-related complaints, such as overactive bladder and incontinence.
Traditionally, pumpkin seed extract has been used to strengthen bladder tissue and to help the bladder expand and contract. Today, these same benefits help prevent common bladder problems. Bladder weakness and incontinence commonly increase as you age, causing individuals frustration, embarrassment, and unhappiness. Pumpkin seed extract provides relief from these common problems in different ways.
♦ Anabolic actions: Pumpkin seed extract strengthens the pelvic floor, so as to reverse the natural weakening of these tissues caused by age. They exert an anabolic effect by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme allowing for more testosterone to be available. Testosterone is responsible for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
♦ Nitric oxide synthesis: Nitric oxide plays an important role in lowering urinary tract infections. This molecule is required in order for the urination muscles to relax when the bladder is full, and without it, the bladder becomes hyperactive, and bladder volume is reduced. Pumpkin seed extract has been shown to increase the synthesis of nitric oxide, thereby alleviating incontinence and bladder hyperactivity.
It is important to note that it is the water-soluble components of the pumpkin seeds that are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and are the most effective at bringing relief to troubling urinary symptoms.
♦ Pumpkin seed oil can treat hair loss: For individuals who have androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern baldness), pumpkin seed oil has been found to reduce hair loss and promote hair growth.
♦ Pumpkin seeds can boost heart health: By replacing dietary pills that are high in saturated fats with pumpkin seed oil, you can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
♦ Pumpkin seeds prevent magnesium deficiency: These seeds are high in magnesium, which increases energy levels, regulates blood pressure, stabilizes blood glucose levels, and supports nerve and muscle function.
There is not a set dosage of pumpkin seeds that doctors recommend for prostate or urinary tract health. In general, a handful a day will provide the zinc levels and protection you need.
You can find raw or toasted pumpkin seeds in most stores, and be sure to look for organic brands that have not been grown with pesticides or fertilizers. You can also prepare your own pumpkin seeds by:
♦ Removing seeds from the inside of a pumpkin, making sure to remove all pulp
♦ Spread the seeds in a single layer on paper towels to dry overnight
♦ Roasting them on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes, adding olive oil and your favorite seasonings
Unless you are allergic to pumpkin or pumpkin seeds, they are safe for consumption. Pumpkin seeds contain large amounts of fiber, so a large quantity can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Pumpkin seeds are great if you want to prevent constipation and promote healthy bowel movements, but too many can cause the opposite effect.
It is also important to note that these seeds are high in fat and calories, with one cup containing 285 calories and 12 grams of fat. Eating too many, too often, could contribute to weight gain.
Pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack as well as a natural and effective way to promote prostate and urinary tract health. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oils provide preventative care for your prostate as well as a host of other health benefits to help you stay active.
The benefits of adding pumpkin seeds can usually be seen within a few weeks, and you should always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding how much and how often to eat them. Pumpkin seeds are the perfect replacements for unhealthy snacks and an easy way to prevent bladder and prostate problems.