What’s Causing Erectile Dysfunction in Your Life?
Erectile dysfunction can be triggered by a variety of sources — a health condition, emotional or relationship problems, some medications, smoking, drugs, or alcohol. Though treatment options include medications and surgery, there are also non-invasive options that may help.
One new study found that some men can reverse erectile dysfunction with lifestyle changes. The study, from Australian researchers and published in May 2014 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, also showed that, even if medication is required, it’s likely to be more effective if you implement these lifestyle changes.
“There are many lifestyle changes that can help treat erectile dysfunction (ED), but among them, exercise is the change that can have the greatest impact,” says Zachary R. Mucher, MD, a board certified urologist in Sugar Land, Texas. “Exercise works on several fronts to combat the development of ED and help reverse it once it has become a problem.”
Exercise improves blood flow, which is vitally important to a strong erection, and improves blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide in blood vessels, which he says is exactly how Viagra works. Weight-bearing exercise can increase the natural production of testosterone, a significant factor in erectile strength and sex drive.
Eat A Balanced Diet
The foods you eat can have a direct impact on erectile dysfunction, Dr. Mucher says. A diet rich in fruit, veggies, whole grains, and fish, and with fewer servings of red meat and refined grains, decreases the risk for ED.
A healthy diet also helps to maintain a healthy body weight, which is important because men who have a 42-inch waist are 50 percent more likely to have ED than men with a 32-inch waist. Also, obesity increases the risk for vascular disease and diabetes, two factors that contribute to ED.
Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Poor sleep patterns can be a contributing factor for erectile dysfunction, Dr. Mucher says. One study, published in Brain Research in 2011, explored the impact of sleep loss on testosterone levels in men, confirming that low concentrations of sex hormones are associated with sexual dysfunction. Hormone secretion is controlled by the body’s internal clock, and sleep patterns help the body determine when to release certain hormones.
Adhering to a set sleep schedule is a natural treatment for ED in that it can help ensure that those signals are clear and consistent.
Erectile dysfunction can be the result of vascular disease, which occurs when blood supply to the penis becomes restricted because of blockage or narrowing of the arteries. Smoking and even smokeless tobacco can also cause the narrowing of important blood vessels and have the same negative impact.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting and whether prescription aids can help you.
Limit the Alcohol
“Alcohol is a depressant and can cause both temporary and long-term erectile dysfunction,” Mucher cautions.
The central nervous system is responsible for releasing nitric oxide, an essential chemical for producing and maintaining an erection, and heavy alcohol consumption depresses the central nervous system, causing it to function less efficiently. Not enough nitric oxide translates to erectile dysfunction.
Monitor Your Meds
Erectile dysfunction can occur as a side effect of medication taken for another health condition. Common culprits are high blood pressure meds, antidepressants, some diuretics, beta-blockers, heart medications, cholesterol meds, anti-psychotic drugs, hormone drugs, corticosteroids, chemotherapy, and medications for male pattern baldness, among others.
If you think your medication might be causing ED, talk to your doctor, but don’t discontinue using it on your own. Some medications must be tapered off under a doctor’s supervision.
Research is mixed on the effectiveness of acupuncture, but one study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture can be beneficial for men experiencing erectile dysfunction as a side effect of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Sexual side effects of these drugs happen to at least half of all people taking them and by some counts up to 90 percent.
“There are many herbal remedies that tout improvement in erectile function, but most have little effect and may actually have detrimental side effects,” Mucher says. Two natural treatments for ED that have shown promise are red ginseng and pomegranate juice.
“Ginseng is thought to increase nitric oxide production, leading to improved blood flow,” he says. “Pomegranate juice is a potent antioxidant and can help prevent atherosclerosis.” Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, however, as they might interfere with other medications you’re taking.