Men's health: simple, research-based tips for improved health
It is widely known that men have shorter life expectancies than women, and during their lifetimes, men are more inclined to illness/disease than women (Harvard Health Publishing, 2010). In the arena of holistic or Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM), it is much less likely to find research or articles geared to men’s health, which is not surprising since women are statistically more likely to utilize CAM. Of CAM users, only about 40.9% are male, while 59.1% are female (Zhang et al., 2015) It is worth contemplating whether women's utilization of holistic health is one of the reasons for increased longevity and overall better health, though, of course, you cannot attribute this to a single factor.
Even if men are generally less likely to seek professional CAM guidance, the following measures can drastically improve overall health: improving nutrition, reducing environmental toxins, and practicing good sleep hygiene with minor changes to their lifestyle.
The importance of reducing inflammation cannot be overstated. For men specifically, systemic inflammation in the body can contribute to heart disease, arthritis, and erectile dysfunction, etc. (Das, 2007). A number of foods exacerbate inflammation in the body, but highly refined sugar and oils are two of the biggest culprits. Swap out canola oil, vegetable oil, and margarine for avocado oil, olive oil, and ghee. It’s best to reduce sugar intake as much as possible, but when you do consume sugar, coconut sugar, raw honey, and dates are better choices than cane sugar or artificial sweeteners.
For a meal geared toward men's health, check out my recipes here!
Xenobiotics are toxins that are not naturally occurring in the body but are introduced by sources such as plastic, unfiltered water, and pesticides (Bonde & Giwercman, 2013). For men, xenobiotic exposure can cause oxidative stress and fertility issues. The long-term health effects of overwhelming xenobiotic exposure are not fully known as extensive longitudinal studies are needed (Zhu, Boye, Body-Malapel, and Herkovits, 2017). Fortunately, there are attainable solutions for reducing xenobiotic exposure.
Instead of using plastic storage containers, switch to glass or use silicone bags (such as Stasher bags) to store food. Invest in a water filter for drinking and cooking, and a shower filter. Pesticides are pervasive these days, and it’s important to minimize exposure as much as possible by purchasing organic produce. If buying all organic is not within your budget, look at the EWG’s guide for the most pesticide laden produce, and make sure to purchase these items organic.
We live in a world where hustling and running on fumes is often seen as a badge of honor. Rarely are men (or women) praised for taking their sleep seriously! However, substantial, deep sleep is imperative to maintain testosterone levels, manage stress, allow your brain time to flush out metabolic waste via the glymphatic system, blood sugar regulation, weight management, and bolstering your immune system. Start viewing good sleep as a non-negotiable, and watch how other areas of your life benefit.
Begin with simple interventions to improve your sleep hygiene. First, get to know how many hours of sleep your body needs; the general rule of thumb is eight hours per night: experiment to see if your body needs more or less to feel your best. If you watch TV or use your phone or computer before bed, consider getting blue blocking glasses to protect and regulate your melatonin secretion. If you have an iPhone, make sure you turn on the Night Shift setting. Caffeine impairs your sleep even up to 6+ hours before bedtime (Drake, Roehrs, Shambroom, & Roth, 2013), so, do not consume coffee or anything caffeinated less than 6 hours before your bedtime. The temperature of your room also affects sleep quality: cooling the air down at night will improve your deep and restorative sleep.
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Bonde & Giwercman (2013). Environmental xenobiotics and male reproductive health. Asian journal of andrology, 16(1), 3–4. doi:10.4103/1008-682X.122191
Drake, Roehrs, Shambroom, & Roth (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24235903
Harvard Health Publishing (2010). Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health
Regitz-Zagrosek V. (2012). Sex and gender differences in health. Science & Society Series on Sex and Science. EMBO reports, 13(7), 596–603. doi:10.1038/embor.2012.87
Das. (2007). Is erectile dysfunction a low-grade systemic inflammatory condition?, European Heart Journal, Volume 28, Issue 5.Pages 642–643, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehl531
Zhang, Leach, Hall, Sundberg, Ward, Sibbritt, Adams. (2015). Differences between Male and Female Consumers of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in a National US Population: A Secondary Analysis of 2012 NIHS Data. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. doi: 10.1155/2015/413173.
Zhu, Boye, Body-Malapel, and Herkovits. (2017). “The Toxic Effects of Xenobiotics on the Health of Humans and Animals,” BioMed Research International, Article ID 4627872, 2 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4627872.