We live in a culture that is pulling the wool over its own eyes.

This is a world that looks for solutions in pills, potions and lotions for everything: weight loss, hair restoration and sexual prowess. A huge segment of the pharmaceutical industry sells us medicines that are intended to alleviate depression, which many people take as a shortcut to happiness.

But prior to the 20th century, many of these perceived problems had simple solutions. Actually, most of what most people did for general good health at that time was preventive — even if they didn’t know it at the time.

Nutrition and relative health can affect hair health, since people in poor health or suffering from improper or inadequate nutrition often lose their hair — because hair is unnecessary for survival, unlike the vital organs. Think about concentration camp prisoners or people who have anorexia. In times of scarcity, hair is the first to go.

But today instead of looking at root causes, we seek out solutions to the symptoms. Instead of a better diet, for example, we take high blood pressure medications. If hair starts to fall out, our first response is to rub hair restorative medications on our scalps. It’s backward.

Here are 13 common poor diet and smoking choices — why they aren’t beneficial to our health and alternative approaches to each. Try them and see what kind of a difference each can make, to your hair, your health and your overall sense of appearance and vitality.

Thirteen changes to increase total health, hair health and prevent hair loss.

  1. Stop consuming processed sugar. We’re not just talking about table sugar, the white granules you might put in your coffee. We’re talking about 10,000 products found in grocery stores. Anywhere that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in a product, you are getting an injection of fast-digesting simple carbohydrates that send your blood sugar into the stratosphere. Full-sugar colas are perhaps the worst example. Your alternative is to eat foods and drink beverages that might have been on the table 200 years ago. Tea with a little honey (and bread made with whole grains, not white flour).
  2. Drink lots of water each day. The formula of eight 8-ounce glasses is not technically required, because we get a good amount of water in fruits, vegetables, soups and coffee or tea. But millions of people still are dehydrated, which can cause kidney problems and lead to high blood pressure.
  3. Decrease consumption of sodium in processed and canned foods. Sodium is consumed in excess quantities in modern society, but where it comes from is a little surprising. Smoked and processed meats of any kind, including lunch meats, as well as almost any processed and convenience foods are high in sodium. With canned foods such as beans, pour off the packing liquids to lose a large portion of the salt. And learn how spices and herbs add much more subtle and interesting taste to food.
  4. Increase consumption of whole grains such as brown and wild rice and quinoa. Certain B vitamins and fiber come from grains. But unprocessed grains are especially useful to the digestive track, since there are multiple parts to each grain that are otherwise lost in processing (e.g., bran and germ in addition to the starchy endosperm, which is the only portion used in processed flour). Wild rice is actually the full seed of grasses, and quinoa is a high-protein grain that has become much more commercially available in recent years as its popularity has increased.
  5. Increase consumption of organic fresh vegetables and fruits. No one can quibble with the idea of eating more vegetables and fruits. They are powerhouses of antioxidants and fiber, not to mention taste. But what is debated are the labels “fresh” and “organic.” Fresh is a noble goal, but frozen fruits and vegetables are found to sometimes have a higher nutrient content than produce that has been in shipping and warehousing for a week, or more, before purchase. Organic-raised produce has the advantage of no pesticides or herbicides being present. But just about any form of produce is better than none at all.
  6. Decrease consumption of dairy products. This may be a matter of degree, where some dairy is good but too much is too much. Humans are the only species that continues consuming milk after early childhood, and the fact we take milk from other species may be considered downright weird. High saturated fats in milk as well as lactose, milk sugar, are associated with a host of diseases when consumed in large quantities. The fact that synthetic hormones (bovine growth hormone, or BGH) are used by the dairy industry to make dairy cows more productive — so much so that their udders are stressed and need antibiotics to ward off infection — is further indication that limiting dairy might be a good idea.
  7. Decrease consumption of meat products. Six times the resources in water, fertilizer and agricultural products (feed) are required to produce beef than an equivalent amount of protein derived from plant sources, such as beans. The presence of saturated fats in most cuts of beef (less so for those with the word “loin” in them) is worrisome for the regular beef eater, but so too is the presence of antibiotics and hormones in virtually all factory-farm-raised beef, pork and chicken. Exceptions are the much more expensive, and arguably tastier, organically raised animal meats. If the higher expense leads to less-frequent consumption, perhaps that is a good way to create better balance overall.
  8. Eliminate diet drinks and unnatural sweeteners. Consumption of most carbonated beverages is of questionable value because most of the ingredients in such drinks are processed and consequently devoid of natural nutrients. Full-sugar beverages are food porn, pure sugar injections into the blood stream. But diet versions are worrisome as well: Some research suggests that consumption of artificially sweetened foods tricks the digestive system and may have unintended metabolic effects.
  9. Drink green teas while decreasing consumption of coffee and caffeine drinks. The jury is out on coffee. The number of studies that show favorable health effects need to be weighed against others that suggest either the full drink or its caffeine content adversely affects those who consume it. In all likelihood, individual differences make it OK for some but not for all. Green tea, while caffeinated, is much more strongly associated with benefits. So even if you can’t give up your morning Joe, you might instead get your afternoon kick of caffeine from green tea (note that black tea has beneficial effects as well).
  10. For God’s sake, cease eating fast food. The hamburgers found at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and the other chains are just as unhealthy as some of the beef consumed in fine dining establishments. They come with fries and white buns that are loaded with sugar and salt. But the bigger problem with fast food is its frequency — it’s convenient, you know where it is and you can eat it in your car (classy). If you visit a fast-food joint more than once every two weeks, you’re doing it too much. Learn to cook.
  11. Chew your food thoroughly. If you eat in your car (see above), you’re probably also eating too fast. This is a problem because you may not be producing adequate quantities of saliva to aid the digestive process. Also, you will tend to overeat because you may eat so quickly your brain will not get the signal to stop when you’re full. If you could reduce your meals by just two mouthfuls per meal, you might end up 10 pounds lighter in a year.
  12. Think about or learn about where your food comes from. Is it food? This might be the most fundamental question of all. If you cannot identify the agricultural source of something you are eating, you probably should not be eating it. This largely addresses the significant shortcomings of processed foods. But with new questions about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 BP oil-drilling disaster (shrimp and oysters being most suspect), you would be wise to consider the specific body of water where the seafood originates. There are appreciable differences between farm-raised (bad) and wild-caught (much better) salmon.
  13. Smoking. What, you thought it was a good idea?!? We have known better since at least 1964. There is absolutely nothing good, not one good thing, about cigarettes. If you live with smokers, make them smoke outside and don’t allow their clothing to smell up the place, either.

So, how does any of this affect (male) sexual performance? Anything that affects cardiovascular health affects the deep artery of the penis. Each of the items on this list does exactly that, directly or indirectly. Kinda puts a whole new twist on things, doesn’t it?