Helping Men Achieve Total Body Health: National Men’s Health Week

June marks the official start of summer. It’s also the month that we celebrate National Men’s Health Week, which takes place every year during the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. During this time (i.e. THIS week), our focus is (or should be) on the men in our lives and how we can support them in achieving optimal health and longevity.

The whole point of Men’s Health Week is to increase the life expectancy and quality of life for men and boys by promoting awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease. If you’re a man then the easiest way to participate is to head to your doctor’s office for a health screening and physical, then be sure to set up an annual screening for next year. If you’re a woman then you can participate by reminding and encouraging your dad, husband or brother to do this. On average, men visit the doctor only once every two years, which makes it difficult to detect health problems while they are still easy to treat, so this occasion offers the perfect opportunity to get the men in your life into an annual screening routine.

For those of you who are looking to be more active in your participation, the good people over at Howcast.com have put together a video to show you other ways you can take part in Men’s Health Week. While some of their suggestions are personal things that can (and should) be done all year long, like exercising and eating well, many of the activities they cover involve connecting with other people, like planning a health fair or organizing a “Wear Blue Day: in support of men’s health. One of the most important parts of Men’s Health Week is sharing information with others about the health risks that men face.

I like their last recommendation best: be sure to talk to the men and boys in your life about the most common health problems for men. Men tend to keep their health a private matter, which is why they don’t visit the doctor as often as they should, but by taking the initiative to talk with them about their health, you can get them to share things they normally wouldn’t and use that information to encourage timely action.

Watch for suggestions on how to participate in Men's Health Week

So what actions are you taking or encouraging in support of men’s health this week? Please share with us below.

Help Dad Put the Brakes on the Stress Express: 6 Signs He May Be Headed Down a One-Way Street

May is all about moms, and let’s face it … most moms have it good on Mother’s Day. We like to treat our moms well because we love them; we make them breakfast in bed, buy them chocolate, and pick out a card or gift that really shows how much we care.

But when June rolls around and it’s time to show dad some love, things can get a little more challenging. Men aren’t always great at making their needs known, so its hard to figure out how to really show our love and appreciation for them on their special day.

Sometimes the best gift you can give dad isn’t one that comes wrapped in a bow … As it turns out, June gives us more than one way to celebrate the dads in our lives. In addition to Father’s Day, it’s also Men’s Health Week –a time intended to help men do something they’re not often inclined to do: focus on their health.

Because men are more goal-oriented and competitive, they often view health as something that can be measured in concrete terms like how many push-ups they can do, how much they can bench press, or how low their golf scores are. By default, this narrow focus means that other critical aspects of their health tend to get neglected, underscoring the need for Men’s Health Week to increase awareness of the importance of total-body health and health issues specific to men.

If you consider that chronic stress is the biggest and most overlooked factor affecting men’s health today, then one way you can show dad some real love is by getting him to adopt a total body focus to help him keep stress in check. Anything you do in that department will go a long way to keeping him healthier and happier. I can’t think of a better gift than that!

It’s no secret that when left unchecked, stress can lead to very serious conditions like chronic depression, and even fatal illnesses like heart disease and stroke. Men tend to exacerbate the effects of stress with their lifestyle choices –overdoing it in the gym, not getting enough sleep, ignoring diet and nutrition, overconsumption, or nursing an unhealthy attachment to work. And to make matters worse, they keep things bottled up inside –further compounding the effects of stress until it becomes obvious there’s no turning back.

So how can you know if your dad may be headed down a chronic stress collision course? Here are six key warning signs to watch for:

  • Irritability. When asked to do something, big or small, he snaps or lashes out, or easily becomes angry out of proportion to the cause.
  • Forgetfulness. He seems to frequently misplace his keys, papers, or other important items.
  • Lack of Motivation. He has difficulty starting projects at work or around the home. He shows little interest in going out or socializing and becomes increasingly withdrawn.
  • Loss of Concentration. He has difficulty finishing the projects that he starts, and often seems distracted when spoken to.
  • Muscular and Skeletal Aches and Pains. He suffers from unexplained aches and pains –especially in the lower back– and his injuries take longer to heal than they should.
  • Expanding Waistline. His struggles to lose weight may be due to more than just his love of sugar. A large belly may be the result of a buildup of stress hormones like cortisol, which also increase with lack of sleep.

Not surprisingly, work is the main source of stress for most men –lack of control, increased responsibility, tight deadlines, and poor work environments –all put a heaping pile of stress on a working man’s shoulders. These stressors are made worse for working fathers because of the added stress tied to being providers and their additional responsibilities at home.

While it may not be possible to remove the sources of dad’s stress, you can help him learn to manage and eventually reduce it before it takes a serious toll. Find ways to introduce him to meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques –these are the most natural cures for stress as they can alter brain wave activity in ways that quickly lower blood pressure and heart rates. Help him create a dedicated space that’s just his to enjoy some peace and quiet, and enlist the family’s help in re-prioritizing household responsibilities to allow room for more down-time. This will make even the most hectic of days seem more bearable. When in doubt, love, laughter and music can always bring levity and relief.

If your father is showing some of the warning signs listed above, then a visit to his health care practitioner is in order. Because men often have trouble asking for help and fear being seen as weak, you can show your support and concern by offering to make the appointment and accompanying him. Let him know that agreeing to do this is not a sign of weakness but an act of love.

Taking a trip to the physician’s office may not be as much fun as being pampered and showered with gifts, but helping your dad live a longer, healthier and happier life is as sweet as any box of chocolate!

 

Copyright 2009-2012 Dropwise Essentials

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.

Blue with Flu? 5 Tips for Post-Holiday Natural Health & Wellness

We all tend to become more gluttonous during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving! This can mean more refined sugars and carbs, extra alcoholic drinks, extra hours up after bedtime, extra stress from cooking and entertaining … you know the drill. All of this, coupled with the natural tendency for our bodies to go into hibernation mode as the days get shorter and darker, can cause us to become dangerously depleted and often result in the unwelcome but all too common post-Thanksgiving cold or flu. This can seem especially daunting as we gear up for the next round of holiday fun! Here are some useful tips for staying well and taking care of yourself after all the indulging:

  1. Get lots of rest! The best remedy for the common cold or flu is to get as much rest as possible. Be sure to have plenty of Chamomile tea and use a drop of Lavender essential oil on your pillow to help you get a good night’s rest. Or try our Sleep Ease natural remedy diffuser blend. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, or make up for lost sleep by taking frequent naps and sleeping in whenever possible, especially if you are feeling under the weather.

  2. Avoid refined carbs and sugars (I know, it’s hard). This is a tough one for most people with all the delectable desserts that surround you everywhere you go. But refined carbs tend to spike, then deplete, your serotonin levels leaving you worn-out and more sensitive to colds and flu bugs, and can keep you from healing if you are already sick. You can indulge a little, but try to avoid overly sugary items and stick to healthier treats like dark chocolate or seasonal fruits. As a general rule avoid carbs and refined sugars altogether when experiencing flu-like symptoms.

  3. Boost your immune system with Vitamin D and C supplements, essential fatty acids and antioxidant-rich foods. Taking Vitamin D supplements is especially important during the winter months due to insufficient exposure to sunlight. In addition, naturally vitamin-rich green leafy foods, berries, and orange juice pack a punch to protect you from colds and flu. Essential Fatty Acids like Flaxseed or Hemp Seed can alleviate dry skin, hair, and nails; balance and regulate hormones and cholesterol; and help ease depression too.

  4. Surround yourself with uplifting and nurturing smells. Citrus essential oils like grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and lime are especially effective for improving low moods and alleviating depression. Check out our citrus essential oils collection! Simply put a few drops of any oil or blend of oils in a diffuser or potpourri burner, or in a cup of Epsom salts and add to a nice hot bath. Or try one of our Aromatic Bath Salts. Make a lovely spritzer to use as a room and body spray by adding 15 drops of any essential oil or combination of oils to one ounce of purified water, or try one of our Aromatic Mister sprays.

  5. Don’t be bamboozled by Over-The-Counter meds! Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only effective way of dealing with a common ailment is to take harsh meds. Next time you’re tempted to reach for the Nyquil, try an herbal, homeopathic, or essential oil-based natural remedy instead! These can be remarkably effective at addressing a wide range of symptoms associated with colds and flu. For a sore throat try Slippery Elm lozenges or a drop of Organic Tea Tree essential oil in a spoonful of honey added to a cup of Sage or Elderberry tea. For fast relief of congestion whether due to colds and flu or seasonal allergies, reach for an essential oil remedy like our Breathe Ease Diffuser Blend to quickly open nasal passages and improve breathing.

These tips can help you feel great and stay active throughout the holidays. Take advantage of the myriad natural remedies available to help you stay healthy this holiday season!

p.s. Our Cyber Week special starts tomorrow. Get free shipping (no minimum order) at Dropwise.com! Visit our web site and shop the Holiday Gift Buying Guide for great gift ideas for everyone on your list!

Heavy Metal Overload: The Key to Your Unexplained Symptoms?

Have you ever experienced depression, irritability, mood swings, tremors, autoimmune diseases, chronic infections, felt sluggish, or lost in a state of brain fog? Maybe you sought the opinion or help of a medical professional or health care practitioner in diagnosing or treating troublesome symptoms like temporary memory loss, fatigue, insomnia, joint pain, or headaches, only to have them tell you they can’t find anything wrong with you, or your blood work up, that points to a treatable diagnosis?

Even worse, when you get a diagnosis and are treated for it but the symptoms persist! This can often happen because symptoms like these are consistent with a variety of different health problems or conditions –including clinical depression, Lyme Disease, chronic fatigue, even cancer –which makes them hard to pin down.

If you or someone you know has had an experience like this, you may be suffering the effects of heavy metal toxicity. The most abundant and potentially deadly heavy metals in the environment are lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, which separately and collectively can damage your nervous, immune, and reproductive systems.

These metals are naturally occurring in soil, present in herbicides and pesticides, and are released into the air via wood-burning stoves, car exhaust, fuel additives like MTBE, and even cigarette smoke. What makes them heavy is their gravity relative to that of water. The scary part is that these metals enter into your body on a daily basis, through your lungs, digestive tract, and skin, and can affect just about anyone regardless of profession or economic status.

Like it or not, if you eat fish, inhale second-hand smoke, drink water, or simply breathe the air, there’s a good chance you’re getting exposed to them and probably more often than you realize.

Chronic exposure to low levels of heavy metals don’t cause health problems right away, so unless you have a an acute case of something like Mercury poisoning   –which manifests distinct symptoms like impairment of peripheral vision, tingling in the hands and feet, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, and impairment of speech, hearing, and walking– then you could be building up exposure over a long period of time which can lead to problems down the road.

When confronted with the symptoms of metal toxicity, most physicians don’t think to look at heavy metals as the underlying cause of the ailment or the disease that may have resulted from it. To confound matters, sensitivity can vary, with some people developing symptoms at lower levels of exposure than others.

The only effective way to remove metals from the body is through a process of either oral or intravenous chelation. This is the natural detoxification process whereby specific organic molecules (usually amino acids) “grab” onto the metal molecules in your body to form complex ring-like structures called chelates that move the metals out. Many amino acids like NAC (N-acetyl Cysteine) and ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid), and liver supporting herbs like Silymarin (Milk Thistle), as well as sulfur compounds, are chelating agents that help the body excrete metals.

Give Your Bathroom Cabinet a Spring Cleaning: What to Toss and Why?

By eliminating products made with ingredients that at worst, are toxic and potentially harmful to your health, and at best, irritants or allergens that do not serve you on your path to more healthful living, you will greatly reduce your risk of exposure and may even rid yourself of persistent unexplained health problems.

Still not sure what products pose the most harm? Start with the pile or bin of products you use daily. Anything that goes in your mouth or on your skin, are the biggest culprits to watch out for. Toss out toothpastes made with fluoride, mouthwashes made with alcohol, any products made with propylene glycol –as the key ingredient in anti-freeze this substance may be good for your car but not for your mouth or your skin!

Alcohol, commonly used in mouthwashes, as well as styling products and even some moisturizers, is drying, changes the pH of the mouth or skin, and strips away the protective mucous membrane in the mouth and throat. Fluorides are industrial waste products created in the production of aluminum, phosphoric acid, and phosphate fertilizers, that have been linked to bone problems, diabetes, thyroid malfunction, and mental impairment.

Avoid soaps, body wash, cleansers, and shampoos made with SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These are harsh detergents that typically strip away your skin and hair’s natural oils, leaving them dry and vulnerable to damage. You can tell when they are present because of the never-ending foamy suds or lather they are specifically designed to create!

Other ingredients to be concerned about in your liquid soap, body wash products, and shampoos: Cocamide EDTA (or similar compounds ending with DEA, TEA or MEA) along with formaldehyde-forming substances such as Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazo-lidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15. These are ingredients that have been known to react with other nitrogen-based ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines after absorption.

And a special word of caution regarding “anti-bacterial” liquid hand soaps, body washes, hand sanitizers, or any product made with Triclosan. This chemical is classified by the EPA as a toxic pesticide, measured in parts per billion, and one of its by-products is Dioxin. Its over-use has scientists seriously worried about the rise of ‘super bugs’ — harmful bacteria that are resistant to existing antiseptics and antibiotics.

One other ingredient that you should be very wary of is unidentified “fragrance” oils or compounds (sometimes referred to as Fragrance or Parfum). These are synthetic chemicals made in a lab, designed to mimic the smell of many things that exist in nature –fruits, flowers, trees, and food. The problem is that “fragrance” often contains Phthalates (industrial chemicals used as solvents and plasticizers in cosmetics) which are now known to be endocrine disruptors (wreak havoc with your hormones) and potentially damaging to the kidneys, liver, and lungs, but especially harmful to pregnant women.

Phthalates don’t appear on the ingredients lists of the vast majority of products containing them including so-called “fragrance-free” or “unscented” products that may contain fragrances designed to “cover up” the smell of other ingredients. And many so-called “natural” products often use a combination of essential oils and fragrance oils, so be vigilant about this when checking labels.

How Much & What Type of Water Should You Drink to Maintain Your Health?

There are a lot of benefits to drinking filtered water, both for your individual health and well-being as well as the health of the environment. But how much water should you consume to ensure you remain properly hydrated? And is there such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to water?

Water is vitally important for a variety of essential bodily functions including digestion, absorption, circulation, and for facilitating excretory functions, as well as assisting the lymphatic system in moving toxins out of your system. It also plays a vital role in helping you make saliva, which helps protect against tooth decay; helps cushion joints; and plays a major role in maintaining body temperature. Since our bodies use and lose large amounts of water on a daily basis, our health and vitality depend on our ability to replenish this water by staying properly hydrated.

Many factors determine how much water you need to stay hydrated. Obviously, if you’re exercising or engaging in some form of strenuous activity you need more than you would in a resting state. You also need more if you’re pregnant, breast-feeding, suffering from fever, diarrhea or have kidney or urinary tract issues. How can you tell if you’re drinking enough? The easiest way is to check the color of your urine. If it’s dark or concentrated and looks more like apple juice then that’s a pretty sure sign that you’re a little dehydrated and could use some more fluids. When you’re properly hydrated your urine should be almost clear or with a pale hint of yellow (closer to lemonade). Thirst, fatigue, headaches and general achiness can also indicate that you need to drink more water.

You can consume other fluids to hydrate yourself but drinks like coffee, caffeinated teas, soda pop and fruit juices with high sugar content can put a needless burden on your liver and kidneys so you’re far better off drinking water (or herbal teas if you can’t bring yourself to take a other gulp of water). Also, if you’re drinking alcoholic beverages be sure to drink water between drinks to mitigate the dehydrating effect of the liquor.

While it’s rare to injure yourself by drinking too much water it is possible to go overboard resulting in low blood sodium levels (a potentially fatal condition known as hyponatremia that can cause cells to become waterlogged and swell considerably). This usually occurs when physically exerting your self so try to maintain your sodium balance by drinking electrolytes like those found in sports drinks like Gatorade.

Some holistic practitioners believe that drinking warm water or water at room temperature is better for digestion and detoxification than drinking ice-cold water. And remember, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to have some water!

Germaphobia: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There’s no question that there are harmful bacteria that can make you very sick or even kill you –the SARS and Swine Flu strains being the most recent threats that come to mind. But we can’t let our fears of these viruses blind us to the potential harm that comes from trying to kill all germs and bacteria (real or imagined). Or more to the point, what’s the hidden price we pay when we use a product or take a drug that’s designed to kill “bad” bacteria but it also kills “good” bacteria in the process?

Our intestines are loaded with “good” bacteria (intestinal flora) that help break food down so the body can make use of its nutrients. Much of the “good” bacteria in your digestive tract also protects you from poisons in food and other infections like yeast infections which thrive on excess sugar in your gut. When you have an infection (like a bladder or upper respiratory infection), the antibiotics your doctor prescribes kill both good and bad bacteria. While you may rid yourself of one problem, in killing the “good” bacteria, you may be getting another problem. Women often get a yeast infection as a direct result of taking antibiotics for other infections. Then they are given a different antibiotic to address that problem and the cycle perpetuates. Or, as is often the case, the condition clears up only to return months or even years later.

This phenomenon, when played out on a big scale, can have significant consequences, as was the case in 2007, when there was a huge outbreak in drug-resistant staph infections. While this has been an ongoing problem in hospitals, it was rare to see an outbreak of this magnitude in schools and even the locker rooms of professional sports teams. Thanks to our incessant use of antibiotics, this bacterial strain has become immune to what was previously used to kill it. The result? Each year in the United States, we lose almost 18,000 people to this type of infection. Ironically, it seems the only cure is to further the cycle by creating stronger (and theoretically better) antibiotics.

Creeping In: How The Seeds of Germaphobia Were Sowed

Our national obsession with germs and bacteria may have started as far back as the Civil War but seems to have taken root in the early public health campaigns of New York City. With the advent of clean drinking water and new sewer systems, came a new level of awareness regarding the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene as well as the hidden health threats looming in filthy, unsanitary conditions.

Many of our beliefs around germs and disease may have been fueled by the work of Pierre Bechamp, and later, Louis Pasteur. Pasteur is well known as the scientist who brought us “Germ Theory” and led us to believe that germs from the outside world invade our bodies and “cause” disease, which is why we have to kill them before they kill us. In an ironic twist, it turns out that Pasteur had plagiarized some of the work of Bechamp, who demonstrated that it’s the “terrain” (meaning the environment inside your body) that matters more than the germs themselves. Pasteur distorted the work of Bechamp and made a name for him self by asserting that it was the other way around. As he lay on his deathbed, he admitted that Bechamp was right when he uttered “The microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything.”

The proliferation of Pasteur’s “germ theory” combined with the success of early public health campaigns eventually gave rise to a new generation of household cleaners, personal care products, and drugs designed to kill bacteria and germs. Juliann Sivulka’s extensive research, presented in Stronger than Dirt: A Cultural History of Advertising Personal Hygiene in America, suggests some of the “anti-microbial” advertising began as early as 1875 and continued well throughout the twentieth century.

Without any guidance on how to lead healthier lives and strengthen our immune systems to better handle the biological challenges we might encounter, we’ve increasingly come to rely on anti-bacterial (and potentially toxic) products like bleach, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol, and more recently, hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps, to assuage our fears. Many of these products now contain worrisome ingredients like Triclosan, a derivative of Agent Orange, whose over-use is creating new resistant strains of bacteria or “Super Bugs.” Ironically, these Super Bugs pose an even greater threat to our future ability to resist infection and disease, which begs the question is our fear of germs really helping us or could it be inadvertently hurting us? Knowing the genesis of our “germaphobia,” it’s not hard to see how the work of a misguided scientist coincided with larger commercial interests to bring us to this point.

Truth or Consequences: Could Your Germaphobia Come Back to Bite You?

Everywhere you go, germs and bacteria surround you and so does the fear of how they may harm you. The media is saturated with sensational stories about the hidden germs in hotel rooms, and the ever-encroaching threat of foreign and exotic, even life-threatening viruses. We have become obsessed with germs and bacteria, but bacteria are everywhere –around us and inside us. And even though we know that not all bacteria are harmful, we are constantly seeking to eliminate them … consequences be damned!

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m a real skeptic when it comes to taking prescription meds if you can use a natural solution or alternative instead. I often wonder how our almost blind acceptance of traditional western medicine (allopathic vs. holistic) may be inadvertently hurting us rather than helping us. This is especially true when it comes to antibiotics, which I believe are over-prescribed and often inappropriately doled out leading to more problems down the road (I myself have not taken any in the past 20 years!).

I’ve become increasingly fascinated with how our belief systems (both conscious and subconscious) affect the choices we make and ultimately the quality of our lives. I’m curious about how these forces impact our ability to be or stay healthy and their implications for healing and overcoming disease. And being a big picture type of person, I also wonder about the environmental implications of over-using antibiotics and anti-bacterial products.

Is the short-term gain we get from using these substances worth the price we may pay later on? The world is undeniably full of bacteria. Both modern medicine and society have long exceeded the boundaries of sensible practices in their respective approaches to dealing with it. Only by taking a step back and openly embracing natural alternatives will it be possible to successfully turn the tide of antibiotic-resistant infections that threatens us today.

The Best Essential Oils for Relieving Stress and Insomnia

Essential oils can play a valuable role in managing or relieving your stress and can help you induce a state of calm for a restful sleep. The trick is to find the right combination of oils that resonate with you, and then the best way or ways to use them for maximum benefit.

Let’s start by look at which essential oils have calming, soothing, and sedative properties that can be used alone or combined for even greater impact. Of course the first ones that immediately come to mind are Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Clary Sage, Cedarwood and Sandalwood.

Next up are citrus essential oils like Sweet Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Mandarin, and Lime. While these oils are generally stimulating and uplifting, when used in small quantities and properly combined with other essential oils, they can do wonders for your state of mind, and state of mind is really what it’s all about when it comes to relaxing and falling asleep!

Other essential oils that are also useful in this area are Marjoram (Sweet or Spanish), which is a muscle relaxant, Fir Balsam, Spruce, Peru Balsam, and Melissa, all of which calm and balance the nervous system and assist with opening your breathing passages – enabling deeper breathing. And last but not least, Frankincense & Myrrh, which are often used to assist with meditation.

That’s a lot of essential oils I just listed! The key is to find three to five oils that work together and create a blend. If you’re not that into experimenting or don’t have access to a wide selection of essential oils, then start with individual notes and see how each makes you feel. Keep a notebook handy and record which ones and how much they helped. Then after you’ve identified a handful of oils that seem to work on their own, you can try combining them. Of course you can always try our Sleep Ease Diffuser Blend, which combines Tangerine, Lavender, Pine, Marjoram, Fir Balsam and Petitgrain, as a starting point.