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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Dietary supplements: enabling men to become proactive about healthcare
June is Men’s Health Month. And as much as I’d like to think that men everywhere are marking their calendars to note the auspicious occasion, I’m guessing most will not. According to popular opinion-backed by government data-a large proportion of men simply are not proactive when it comes to healthcare.
“Men face unique health challenges, and one of the most dangerous is their reluctance to seek healthcare,” says the website for Federal Occupational Health (FOH), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “In fact, according to [HHS’s] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), men are 24% less likely than women to have seen a doctor in the past year.”
Even men already suffering a health malady may be loath to consult a healthcare provider. That opinion comes firsthand from a renowned naturopathic physician who specializes in men’s health.
“Men are stubborn,” says Geo Espinosa, ND, L.Ac, C.N.S. “They have to be really ill before they’ll even go to a doctor. That hasn’t changed much. In general, men are afraid of going to doctors. They’re afraid of the diagnoses and of being vulnerable.”
And you can forget about men seeking preventive care from doctors, Espinosa says. I asked him what percentage of his patients comes in for early care. (Espinosa is a naturopathic urologist and a recognized authority in natural and complementary treatments for benign and malignant prostate diseases and male sexual disorders. He is founder and director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center.)
“For every 20 patients I see, one of them comes to me for preventive care-and it’s not even real preventive care. It’s more like, ‘Something funny is kind of happening, but only kind of,’ or ‘I’m urinating a little bit more often, and I just want to make sure…’ So it’s not even fully preventive care-that’s not happening yet.”
“My plight is always to bring these men in earlier because prevention is the best medicine,” he adds.
Interestingly, though, while men may not go to a doctor for preventive care, they may turn to a dietary supplement. Espinosa, who regularly prescribes natural remedies in his own practice, explains. “Men may not be going to their doctors for a routine physical or getting blood work done to see how their health is doing. They’re not doing that. But if something sounds interesting to them, like a supplement they saw on TV, they’re going to try that, instead of going to a doctor.”
In essence, dietary supplements are a way for men to take matters into their own hands. This is how men become proactive about healthcare.
As a result, the natural products market has a lot of potential in men’s health, Espinosa says. “Absolutely. That’s a market I believe is growing. Men are definitely looking for a milder type of product that, while taking a little bit longer to show benefits from a physiological perspective, compared to drugs has fewer side effects. The answer is a resounding yes.”
It will still take work to get men on board with prevention-whether in the form of a supplement or a doctor. I know I’ve given my own husband bottles of supplements, only to find those bottles sitting in the medicine cabinet, still full, months later. (Busted!) But, hopefully, with more education and initiatives like Men’s Health Month, we can move men out of their comfort zones and into a zone that will truly be more comfortable-healthier-for them at the end of the day.
As the FOH website says: “Man up. Take control of your health…Taking care of yourself is part of being the best man you can be. There’s nothing manly-or beneficial-about ignoring your health.”