When faced with a new health problem, many Americans almost reflexively begin searching for a prescription or over-the-counter drug that can make the problem go away. All too few consider what changes they can make in what they do and what they eat that can resolve the problem or at least make it more manageable.
For many men facing erection problems, Viagra and the other such drugs that have followed in its wake have proved a quick but temporary fix. However, for many of those men, some simple lifestyle modifications could reduce — or even fully resolve — those problems, perhaps removing the need to resort to prescription drugs.
Certain Nutrients Can Help
For many of life’s health problems, eating a healthier diet is a way to fight back without immediate resort to man-made medications. In the case of erection problems caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis, Mother Nature’s medicine chest offers a number of natural foods that can help turn things around.
One such example is the cucumber, which is loaded with nutrients that can promote vascular health and stronger blood flow. In addition to potassium, which helps control sodium levels to keep blood pressure within the normal range, and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, cucumbers contain high levels of citrulline, an amino acid that can help to improve blood flow.
A Nonessential Amino Acid
Citrulline is technically classified as a nonessential amino acid, meaning that it is synthesized in the body and thus not essential to the human diet. This overlooks the very real fact that the body produces lesser amounts of these on-board nutrients as we age. So when the male erectile function begins to falter, that may very well be a sign that some outside help is needed.
The citrulline in cucumbers is converted by the kidney into arginine, which is also an amino acid. Arginine, in turn, is converted into nitric oxide, which is a central pillar of erectile function. When the male brain detects feelings of sexual desire or physical stimuli to the penis or another male erogenous zone, it sends a flood of nitric oxide coursing toward the pelvic region.
The nitric oxide triggers secondary chemical reactions, one of which gives rise to a substance known as cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP. The cGMP signals the smooth muscle tissue that lines the arteries supplying blood to the penis to relax, thus increasing blood flow and facilitating erection.
Promotes Cardiovascular Function
Citrulline’s positive effects on vascular health are not limited to erectile function. Eating foods rich in citrulline can help to support cardiovascular function throughout the body. Early symptoms of erectile dysfunction generally are recognized as a sign that blood flow to the penis is somehow compromised. Because the arteries that supply the penis are smaller than those that carry blood to the brain and heart, erectile function is likely to suffer first as vascular function is degraded. Left untreated, this decline in vascular function may eventually spread to other parts of the body, leading to a possible heart attack or stroke.
So eating a diet rich in citrulline and other vascular-friendly nutrients not only can ease the problems of erectile function but also promote better vascular health throughout the body.
Japanese Animal Study
An animal study conducted by research scientists at Nagoya City University’s Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Japan showed that citrulline supplementation improved erectile function in rats with acute arteriogenic ED. That study, published in the October 2013 issue of “The Journal of Sexual Medicine,” suggested that its findings support the use of citrulline supplements in the treatment of vascular-related ED in humans.As previously noted, cucumbers are an excellent source of citrulline, preferred by some because they also contain a host of other heart-healthy nutrients. However, citrulline can be found in a handful of other foods as well. Among the richest alternative sources of the nutrient are watermelon, pumpkins, squash, garbanzo beans, almonds, walnuts, and dark chocolate. If none of these foods appeals to you, you might choose instead to take citrulline in dietary supplement form.
Other Health Benefits
Although the focus here has been on citrulline’s role in optimizing blood flow, the nutrient has other health benefits as well, according to an article posted at ConsumerHealthDigest.com. Citrulline can also help to rid the body of toxins, such as ammonia; help maintain a healthy body balance of acid and base (alkaline); and increase energy levels and muscle function.
Because citrulline can promote blood flow by dilating arteries, it should not be used concurrently with drugs that have the same effects because together they might cause a potentially life-threatening drop in blood pressure. Citrulline supplementation is inadvisable for men who are taking nitrate-based medications to treat angina and stubbornly high blood pressure.
If you’d like to read more about sexual health and function, as well as other topics of interest to health consumers, check out our blog.