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Health for him

Check out our men's health special looking at the most common health issues faced by men, and the best natural helpers. Your local health store is a great source of support and knowledge

The days are gone when women were the main care givers in Irish society and men took a very token role in maintaining their own health," says Gerald Colfer of health store Only Natural in Wexford. "Men today are far more clued in than their predecessors regarding the challenges they face to stay healthy and take a proactive role in the process. There are still, however, some issues that men of all ages need to stay aware of.

Your health and your diet

"There are many ways to improve your diet and lifestyle to help decrease your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer and lung disease," says nutritional therapist Olive Curran who works with PPC Galway. "I'd recommend the heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, olives, olive oil, legumes and wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and wholemeal pasta. People who follow the Mediterranean Diet enjoy fish regularly, and there is low consumption of meat and meat products.

"It's also important to include more good fats such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, tuna), seeds such as flaxseed and seed oils, olive oil, avocados, nuts (walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds) and also nut butters. Limit saturated fats to a minimum."

Acne and skin issues

"Teenage acne among the male population is as prevalent as ever and can be every bit as distressing for young men as for young women," says Gerald Colfer. "Zinc and vitamin A as well as the herb agnus castus can all help."

"It is important to have a good cleansing routine for the areas affected, and a range of facial and body washes are available that can remove excess surface oils without irritating the skin," says Rob Whinnett at Blasta Wholefoods, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. "Make sure you wash after exercising or any time you've been sweating, as sweat can clog your pores. Omega oils, agnus castus and probiotics can also be useful for tackling acne."

"Acne on the forehead and cheekbone areas would indicate acne as being a real problem," says Matt Ronan of health store Evolv in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. "There are some very good gentle cleanse and treatment formulas available in health stores which can help with the skin itself, but hormonal issues need to be supported with the likes of agnus castus and zinc."

Fertility support

"The Peruvian herb maca is an adatogen that can restore hormonal imbalance, sexual desire and fertility in both men and women, and l-arginine can be useful in cases of erectile dysfunction," says Rob Whinnett. "There are a number of vitamin and mineral formulations specifically designed to maximise the vital nutrients required to optimise the potential for male reproductive fertility."

"Fertility can be massively affected by lifestyle choices and if there is an issue it is worth finding a good natural therapist to work with. Acupuncturists and nutritional therapists have a great deal to offer in this regard," says Matt Ronan. "Famously zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 can all help."

Stress less

"Stress is the bane of our modern multitasking lifestyle with downtime being difficult to define," says Matt Ronan. "Sleep is hugely important and I keep seeing this being neglected in the modern day approach to self-care – there are terrific herbs which can help with stress, ashwagandha, rhodiola, lemon balm, valerian, all have valuable contributions to make. The foundation is the B vitamins, required in extra doses to help the nervous system cope when we are under pressure."

"Men are still less likely to seek help with the stresses caused by the faster pace and demanding nature of modern life," says Gerald Colfer. "Finding a state of balance is hugely important, as is maintaining a support network of family and friends. If you think you're affected by stress consider taking herbs like passiflora, or supplements like l-theanine and magnesium."

Healthy heart

"Heart health needs to be examined carefully for all men and if there is any history of cardiovascular events in the family, then particularly close attention should be paid to this area," Matt Ronan. "If there is one nutrient which stands out as being a vital contributor to keeping this situation under control then it is vitamin K2 which should be part of the regime for heart health along with vitamins C, E, and omega-3 fish oils."

"Omega-3 fatty acids from cold water fatty fish have many benefits for heart health," says Olive Curran. "They have been shown to lower triglycerides, reduce cholesterol, regulate heart rate and make blood platelets less sticky, overall improving heart health considerably."

"It's easy to fall into bad habits of eating on the go without thinking of how healthy the food we eat is," says Rob Whinnett. "This can catch up with us as we age. Try to cut down on sugary and fatty foods, and keep the less healthy stuff as more occasional treats. Make sure your body gets enough of the good oils by eating seeds and oily fish, or supplementing with omega oils. Supplements that can help manage cholesterol levels include plant sterols, lecithin, red yeast rice and some probiotics."

"Nutrients such as plant sterols and red yeast rice are scientifically proven to lower cholesterol," says Olive Curran.

Dealing with diabetes

"A healthy diet is particularly important for diabetics, and increasing fibre by adding ground flaxeeds can be useful," says Rob Whinnett. "Slow release foods like pinhead oats offer a good start to the day, while cinnamon helps with balancing blood sugar levels. Healthy foods like hummus on oatcakes can provide filling snacks to help avoid sugary alternatives. Those seeking to supplement to balance their blood sugar levels can find that cinnamon with chromium can help."

"Unless you've got a super clean diet already, then this is one which all of us need to keep a close eye on," says Matt Ronan. "Sugar is of course the enemy in all of its forms and carbohydrates need to be carefully scrutinised. Diabetes is now regarded as being the true source of Alzheimer's, and we should all practise careful blood sugar control. Supplements such as berberine and chromium can aid you in your progress."

Bones and joints

"A good diet and exercise regime and maintaining a healthy weight is vital to maintain joint and bone health, particularly as we age," says Rob Whinnett. "Omega-3 oils help fight inflammation, so eating seeds and oily fish or supplementing with omega oils is highly recommended. Vitamin D3, calcium and magnesium are hugely important for bone density. Glucosamine may help the body to maintain healthy cartilage levels. If joint pain is an issue natural anti-inflammatories such as devil's claw, MSM, turmeric or curcumin may help."

"I am a great believer in a good diagnosis of miscellaneous joint pains before settling on a single course of action," says Matt Ronan. "Sometimes there are other mechanical issues which if properly dealt with can greatly reduce pain. I am also a big believer in following an anti-inflammatory diet, especially where there seems to be trouble in the fingers and hands. Fortunately there is a terrific choice of joint helpful products now, ranging from omega-3 fish oils, turmeric capsules and glucosamine sulfate and its allies chondroitin and MSM."

Prostate support

"Needing to pee more often, being unable to get through the night without getting up to pee, or having difficulty or pain when passing urine can be a sign of prostate enlargement," says Rob Whinnett. "It is important to check with your doctor that any enlargement of the prostate is benign. Saw palmetto is a natural remedy that has been used for many years as a herbal treatment for symptoms of a benign enlarged prostate."

"Ongoing prostate health screening, especially after middle age, is the preferred route for many," Gerald Colfer. "For those of us wanting to take something to encourage ongoing prostate health, there are a number of specialist natural prostate health formulas available."

"Saw palmetto combined with zinc, vitamin E, selenium and pumpkin seed oil can help," says Matt Ronan. "Getting some advice from your local health store can yield a huge benefit in quality of life."

Olive Curran's top 5 supplements for men

A multivitamin-mineral as ‘nutritional insurance'. Choose a multivitamin with adequate zinc, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, selenium, chromium, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and E.

Omega-3 fish oil high in EPA and DHA, is vital for heart, brain, joint and eye health. Your brain needs 250mg DHA to maintain adequate brain function, so make sure your preferred fish oil contains enough DHA. Surprisingly, a massive 89% of Irish people are not consuming sufficient oily fish in their diet, so a good quality omega-3 fish oil is needed.

Co-Enzyme-Q10 shown in many studies to reduce blood pressure and with no side effects.

A green supplement add a tablespoon of a greens powder into a smoothie or protein shake to get extra phytonutrients.

Ginger and curcumin heart-healthy spices a must for good health. Both help to reduce inflammation and improve circulation.

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