With an increasing number of Canadian men requiring medication for preventable conditions, we explore the pitfalls of overmedicating and offer natural solutions for the prevention and management of common men’s health concerns.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that an inactive lifestyle and less-than-ideal dietary choices over an extended period of time can leave a man with few other options if serious health conditions start to present themselves.
And even though medication is meant to help, overreliance on medication can lead to a host of other issues. But it doesn’t have to come to that.
There are more natural means to help prevent ever needing medication in the first place and, in some cases, to help minimize the medication required for any given issue.
Top three men’s health concerns
When we take a look at prescription medication data from Statistics Canada, it becomes pretty clear there are three main reasons why Canadian men end up on
- high cholesterol or blood triglycerides
- high blood pressure
- stomach ulcer and/or acid reflux (known as GERD)
Those very issues, by the way, also increase a man’s risk for erectile dysfunction.
The even bigger problem? Some of the medications used to treat those conditions, especially certain types of blood pressure medication, can also increase a man’s risk of erectile dysfunction.
Do I have your attention yet?
Let’s take a look at some natural strategies that help address these common problems.
Keep in mind that this advice is meant to complement, rather than substitute for, the guidance and supervision offered by your primary health care professional.
The portfolio diet—cholesterol
The portfolio diet, developed by a Toronto-based physician, is known to lower cholesterol with a similar level of potency to common statin medications. It also works synergistically with those medications, such that the cholesterol-lowering effect has been shown to double.
Did you know?
Myalgia, commonly known as muscle or joint pain, is the most common side effect of statin medication use, affecting up to 10 percent of men, with those who are taking medications for multiple conditions at the highest risk.
What does the portfolio diet include?
|Food group||Examples||Suggested daily intake|
|nuts||almonds, peanuts, nut butters, pistachios, walnuts||45g|
|Plant proteins||chickpeas, peas, tempeh, tofu, soybeans, lentils, beans||50g|
|Viscous fibre||apples, corn, eggplant, psyllium, strawberries, oatmeal, barley||20g|
|Plant sterols||plant sterol-fortified foods such as oils, juices, and yogurt; soybeans; corn; squash||2g|
Potassium—high blood pressure
High blood pressure can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive sodium intake. From a physiological perspective, potassium can help counterbalance the effects of sodium, which explains why potassium supplementation has shown to be helpful in blood pressure reduction.
- pumpkin seeds
- Swiss chard
- kidney beans
Although melatonin is traditionally considered a supplement used to aid in sleep, there is some evidence to suggest it may help with the symptoms of acid reflux, otherwise known as gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD). Although not as effective as traditional medication for this issue, melatonin does appear to offer some relief.
GERD prevention options
- Avoid trigger foods such as coffee, alcohol, chocolate, spicy or fatty foods, and carbonated drinks.
- Replenish lost nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid lying down after large meals, and give yourself several hours to digest before bed.
- Try yoga.
Advice from the pros
Sheila Dyer, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, clued me in to L-arginine as an effective natural supplement for erectile dysfunction.
Lee Errett, MD, professor of global surgery at the University of Toronto, offered two principles to consider.
- Eat real food, don’t eat too much of it, and try to have it largely plant based.
- Exercise is generally to move, which means something quite different for a 30-year-old versus someone in their eighties. The important principle is to do something, preferably for 30 minutes a day, but at least three times a week.
Andy De Santis, RD, MPH, is a dietitian operating a private practice in Toronto. An avid blogger (andytherd.com), Andy also loves combining nutrition education and humour on Instagram @andytherd.