Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability, with normal sexual stimulation, to achieve or maintain a sufficient erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse or activity.
ED is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels, and therefore has many potential causes. As a result, there are many possible treatments, including lifestyle changes, therapy, prescription medication, and natural remedies that are used to help this disorder.
While natural remedies for ED have gained popularity, many have not been well researched and are not regulated for safety or effectiveness. This article will discuss natural treatment options, including which have been shown to work and which carry risks.
Eating a diet rich in natural, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish—with fewer red and processed meats and refined grains—has been shown to decrease the likelihood of ED.
A study of over 21,000 people found those with the greatest adherence to a Mediterranean or Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010) diet—which emphasizes the consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and fish or other sources of long-chain fats, and avoidance of red and processed meats—were least likely to develop erectile dysfunction.
In fact, people under 60 who most closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet were 40% more likely to maintain normal sexual function. Of note, eating a heart-healthy diet also lowers your cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. These health issues are known to greatly contribute to the development of ED.
Natural supplements are not FDA approved for treating ED, although preliminary studies suggest that some may be helpful. However, these products are unregulated and may contain undisclosed ingredients, inappropriate doses of prescription drugs, or different doses of ingredients than the label suggests.
This underscores the importance of discussing all medication changes and supplements you are taking with a healthcare professional.
The following dietary supplements and natural remedies are alternative—albeit scientifically unproven—treatments for erectile dysfunction and impotence:
- L-arginine: L-arginine is an amino acid that is a potent vasodilator. This means it can open up the blood vessels, helping to increase blood flow to the penis. In theory, this should facilitate erections, but studies have had mixed reviews. More research is needed to study its safety and effectiveness.
- Propionyl-L-carnitine: According to some sources, taking propionyl-L-carnitine alongside Viagra could improve erectile function better than taking Viagra alone, but more research is needed. Potential side effects include skin rash, nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn. Taking propionyl-L-carnitine is not recommended for those with vascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or liver cirrhosis, among other conditions.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): This hormone is used to produce sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Some studies suggest that DHEA supplements can help with ED, but others have found no evidence of its benefit.
- Ginkgo: Another potent vasodilator, this herb may help increase blood flow to the penis, which could improve sexual desire and counter ED. However, ginkgo should never be taken with warfarin (Coumadin), a blood thinner, or if you have a bleeding disorder.
- Ginseng: Ginseng, or Panax ginseng, is thought to promote the relaxation of the body’s smooth muscles and increase blood flow, helping produce an erection. Its primary side effect is insomnia, which increases ED risk, thus more research needs to be done to determine its overall effectiveness.
- Yohimbine: This herb is a traditional aphrodisiac for the treatment of ED. However, yohimbine may have serious side effects, including heart attack and seizures.
- Horny goat weed: Epimedium grandiflorum, also known as horny goat weed, is a traditional remedy for increasing fertility, but there is not enough evidence to support its use for ED.
Remember that these substances should not replace standard care.
Keeping up with a regular exercise routine is especially helpful for those whose ED is caused by inactivity, poor circulation, obesity, low testosterone, or cardiovascular disease.
Exercise lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, increases blood circulation throughout the body, and improves heart health. It is also one of the best natural ways to raise testosterone levels. Burning fat also decreases the risk for vascular disease and diabetes—two major causes of ED.
Curing your ED doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make drastic changes. Even small increases in activity can make a difference. In fact, one study found that patients recovering from a heart attack who were put on a progressive walking program starting at just six minutes a day reported 71% fewer incidences of ED over 30 days than those who didn’t walk.
Other research has suggested that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in obese middle-aged people with ED.
When you are tired, it is difficult to maintain your sexual desire. Sleep deprivation affects your sex life in several ways, such as:
- Reduced sex drive (libido)
- Inability to get an erection
- Inability to perform (maintain an erection)
One explanation is that testosterone is produced while we sleep. Low testosterone results in low sexual performance. Lack of sleep is also associated with obesity, depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease—independent risk factors for ED.
Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, shift work disorder, and restless legs syndrome are common conditions associated with ED and other urological disorders.
Losing weight is a health goal for many reasons, but can one of those reasons be to help cure erectile dysfunction? The short answer is, yes.
Weight loss has a two-fold advantage of directly alleviating ED and improving your physical health. Dropping a few pounds lowers blood pressure and prevents further narrowing and blockages in your arteries, which allows blood to travel more efficiently.
Studies have shown that excess belly fat can cause an inability to get or maintain an erection. The endothelium, a small sheath of tissue that forms the interior lining of all our blood vessels, can become damaged by excess belly fat.
As a result, your body may not release enough nitric oxide—a molecule that signals the surrounding muscles to relax in order for the blood vessels to dilate and create an erection.
Even more, carrying excess weight can lower testosterone levels and raise levels of the female hormone estradiol, which further compounds the problem.
Fortunately, reducing your beltline can reverse your ED. In one major study, over 30% of people minimized, if not completely cured, their ED after losing about 10% of their body weight by eating 300 fewer calories per day and exercising more over several weeks.
Weight loss typically comes from both reducing your calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
Increasing physical activity seems especially helpful in reducing rates of ED. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that people who started exercising regularly by 40 years old had a 70% reduced ED rate compared to those with sedentary lifestyles.
Weight Loss Tips for ED
Losing weight, particularly belly fat, is integral to alleviating ED. Here are some ways you can reduce your waist size:
- Eat regular nutritious meals. Avoid skipping meals, substitute cooked meals for processed foods and takeout, and eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables.
- Emphasize portion control. Keeping portion sizes in check using the MyPlate method is a great way to curtail…
Read More:How to Cure Erectile Dysfunction Naturally