Prostate 101 – your need-to-know guide

What is the prostate, anyway? Get the low-down on this essential little gland, and what happens to it as you get older  The prostate gland, usually the shape and size of a walnut, is found in men directly underneath the bladder. It surrounds the top section of the urethra, the tube that carries urine away from the bladder.1

What does the prostate do?

This little gland has three important jobs:

1. It’s needed for fertility

The prostate gland secretes prostate fluid into semen, which helps to thin it. This both boost sperm’s swimming powers, and the semen’s ability to reach higher into a woman’s vagina during intercourse.2

2. It stops urine and semen getting mixed up

During ejaculation, the prostate and sphincter muscle in the bladder work together to close the urethra. This prevents semen travelling back up into the bladder.3 And when urinating, the prostate shuts down entry to the seminal vesicles, where most semen is made,4 so there’s no chance of urine accidentally getting into places where it’s not wanted.5

3. It helps metabolise testosterone

The prostate gland helps convert the male sex hormone testosterone into a form that the body can use more easily.6

What causes an enlarged prostate?

The prostate grows naturally as you age – from the size of a walnut to a lemon by the age of 60.7 Around half of men over the age of 50 will experience symptoms of an enlarged prostate.8 A review of studies published in Urology in 2005 found the causes of an enlarged prostate – known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – are still poorly understood. But researchers think it’s a combination of ageing and a change in the balance of hormones. Your genes may also be a factor.9

What are the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?

BPH can cause prostate problems including narrowing of the urethra,10 which can lead to urination problems including:11,12
  • a weak urine stream
  • needing to pee more often, especially at night
  • straining to empty your bladder
  • stopping mid-flow

Keeping your prostate healthy

Researchers from the University of Texas found that regular exercise and alcohol in moderation may help protect the prostate.13 And a 2012 Italian study reported that turmeric can help relieve symptoms of BPH,14 while there’s an increasing amount of evidence to show that eating certain foods – such as tomatoes – can help slow prostate enlargement.15 BPH isn’t dangerous and doesn’t increase your risk of prostate cancer, but see your GP if you are having urination problems or frequent urinary tract infections.16,17
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
Shop our Vitamins and Supplements range
  1. . WebMD. What Is the Prostate? What’s Normal? Available from:
  2. . PubMed Health. How does the prostate work? Available from:
  3. . As Source 2
  4. . Science Direct. Seminal vesicle. Available from:
  5. . As Source 2
  6. . You and your hormones. Dihydrotestosterone. Available from:
  7. . WebMD. What is BPH? Available from:
  8. . The Telegraph. Pioneering prostate treatment for tens of thousands of men gets NHS green light. Available from:
  9. . Roehrborn CG. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: An Overview. Available from:
  10. . As above
  11. . Prostate Cancer UK. Enlarged prostate. Available from:
  12. . As Source 8
  13. . As Source 9
  14. . Ledda A, et al. Meriva®, a lecithinized curcumin delivery system, in the control of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a pilot, product evaluation registry study. Available from:
  15. . Tomato benefits for prostate health. Available from:
  16. . NHS Choices. Benign prostate enlargement. Available from:
  17. . NHS Choices. Prostate cancer. Available from:

Related Topics

Men's Health