With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly nowhere in sight, health and wellness continues to be a priority for many Americans.
Health experts expect many people to look to improve their mental health or relationships with food and alcohol – health aspects hit hard by the pandemic – as 2022 begins amid another coronavirus surge.
Here are seven health trends expected to take greater shape in the new year.
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1. Gut health
Google searches for “gut health” are up by 83%, according to researchers from the international health insurance company BUPA. And they predict more people will be focusing on it in 2022, according to Country Living.
Gut health is not a new term. It describes the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. When the gut is healthy, it has a strong percentage of healthy bacteria and immune cells to fight off harmful bacteria and other harmful pathogens such as viruses and fungi.
Too many harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to serious illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. Poor gut health also can impact the immune system, heart and brain. So, improved gut health means improved health overall.
Diet plays a large role in the health of the digestive system. That is why it’s important to eat a variety of whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as stay away from more processed foods, experts say. Good sleep hygiene and regular exercise also is good for gut health.
2. Tracking mental health
The mental health crisis among adults and children in the U.S. has been receiving a lot of attention during the pandemic. Fear of the unknown, stress, financial worries and grief over the loss of loved ones has exacerbated an already growing problem.
Some health experts predict that people will tracking their mental health more closely in 2022. Whether it is keeping a mood journal or practicing relaxing strategies, like spending more time in green spaces or practicing self-care to reduce stress, mental health will continue to be a priority next year.
3. Mindful drinking
The connection between drinking alcohol excessively and stress can not be denied. When people use alcohol as a crutch to deal with negative emotions, it makes them more prone to binge drinking, research shows. That is why a more mindful approach to drinking alcohol can be helpful.
The annual “Dry January” trend refers to being more intentional when drinking alcohol. The idea is each time people pour a glass of wine or beer, they ask themselves why are they are drinking. It is not about completely eliminating alcohol, but more about consuming less of it.
4. Male fertility awareness
Traditionally, when a couple has had difficulty getting pregnant, the onus has been put on the woman. In recent years, however, there has been more of a recognition, according to MindBodyGreen.
Reproductive health specialists say that there will be more attention paid to declining sperm counts and other issues that can affect a man’s ability to have children in 2022.
5. Sound healing
Can certain sounds help us heal? That is the belief behind another expected trend. Psychoacoustics is the study of how sound is perceived and how it affects the body and mind.
Dr. Ilene S. Ruhoy, founder of the Center for Healing Neurology, told MindBodyGreen that there is a strong connection between sound and healing.
The idea is that vibrations made by instruments or vocals interact with a person’s cells or brainwave frequencies to promote healing.
Whether it is the use of artificially-created personalized soundscapes or the use of sound baths, more people will be exploring how sounds can affect their health, Ruhoy and others say.
6. Plant-based diets
Plant-based eating will be an upward trend in 2022, as more people look to reduce their meat intakes, Esmee Williams, vice president of consumer and brand strategy at Dotdash Meredith, told EatingWell.
She said that interest in plant-based-eating articles and meal plans were up 31% in 2021 and it is expected to grow even more as more people choose to eat healthier and more sustainably.
7. Brain-food connection
People also will be choosing more foods that are good for their brain health, Williams said. People who are worried about their risk for dementia and Alzheimers will be looking for ways to keep their brains in shape as they age.
Fatty fish, berries and green, leafy vegetables, are among the best food choices for a boost in brain power, according to Harvard Health nutritionists. They emphasize, however, that the most important strategy is to follow an overall healthy diet which “includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.”