As a whole, men need to pay more attention to their health. (The National Institutes of Health agree with me on this.) According to NIH research, men are more likely to smoke and drink, engage in unhealthy or risky behavior, and avoid or postpone regular checkups or health care.
In my practice, many of the men I saw were nudged to come in for appointments by the women in their lives.
Some aspects of men's health are gender-specific; others-usually those that are within our control and attributable to lifestyle-are universally applicable.
In both men and women, the endocrine system is vitally important yet often misunderstood. Its hormones carry vital information to organs and tissues, and when they're healthy, our bodies can function optimally.
Consider the endocrine system as a totem pole. The adrenals, which control the body's natural response to stress, are on top, along with the thyroid, which handles metabolism, body temperature regulation and growth. The testes and their hormones are not as important. In the pecking order of bodily functions, reproduction is not necessary for survival.
However, if we look at men's health through the scope of reproductive health, we can identify habits and signs that the entire body is in balance. A healthy sex drive-including the ability to sustain an erection and the ability to ejaculate-is a strong sign of overall health, as is a healthy head of hair.* Since the testes are the low man on the totem pole, when they are functioning properly, they can indicate that what's higher up is also in order.
Another way to think of the hormonal hierarchy is as a game of dominos. When a domino begins to lose its balance, trace the path back to the first one to fall.
Normal levels of testosterone, the primary sex hormone in men, help support healthy energy levels, a healthy sex drive, normal levels of muscle mass and body fat, as well as a healthy mood. Most of this hormone is produced in the testes; however, small amounts are also made by the adrenals, the walnut-size glands that perch atop the kidneys.
In men and women, the adrenals produce the hormones cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) that naturally assist in maintaining functions ranging from blood pressure and cardiovascular activity to blood sugar levels and metabolism.
In addition to the normal pathway of making the essential hormone cortisol from scratch, the adrenal glands can shunt sex hormones away to produce this stress hormone. Cortisol's normal actions include an increase of blood sugars when the body faces stress and regulation of how the body converts macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) to glucose for energy.
Because cortisol is crucial for our survival, maintaining healthy levels of this hormone ensures many areas of the body can perform their vital functions. Cortisol is one of the first dominos played in the game, so to speak.
Here's a quick self-assessment of overall well-being for men:
- My heart is healthy. I have blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels within normal ranges.
- My joints and muscles are healthy and supple. I exercise regularly and stretch to support the well-being of my connective tissue and joints.
- I eat a diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, enough dietary fiber to support colorectal health and minimal amounts of processed foods and red meat.
- I consume fermented foods and probiotics to support overall gut health.* My body has a healthy balance of microflora, not just in my gut, but on my skin, too.
- My prostate is functioning normally, and I undergo regular check-ups, as recommended by my health-care professional.
- I have a healthy work-life balance. I am able to adapt to life's daily stresses.
- I get enough rest, and I regularly sleep through the night.
Let's look at some herbal support for men's health.
Think back to the domino effect, and you'll understand that Male Libido supports more than what the name suggests. A healthy libido is indicative of a healthy endocrine cascade, which is vital to an optimal quality of life. It can also be reflective of heart health, as both depend on healthy blood flow. With Maca, Tribulus, Horny Goat Weed and Saw Palmetto, this blend supports stamina and optimizes performance.*
Maca Root is an adaptogenic herb that hails from the Peruvian Andes that has been used for centuries to support energy and stamina. This caffeine-free herb is also a tonic herb that provides phytochemical and nutritional support to allow the body to produce the precursors to sex hormones.
The liver is the chief detoxifying organ in the body, and among its roles is metabolism and breakdown of hormones, ensuring the body can access them and use them efficiently. Liver Health-with Milk Thistle Seed, Chinese Skullcap and Licorice-supports a healthy inflammatory response while also nourishing the building blocks of reproductive hormones.