Part 6 of an exclusive 6-part AccessRX series
If you’re a guy with Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, you have many treatment options. Millions of men have found relief with one of the several FDA-approved prescription ED drugs on the market, and some have been helped with therapy treatments for ED or even with surgery. The good news is that there may also be some “natural” treatments, including dietary and other lifestyle tweaks, that can help men with ED take back their power.
Taking care of your overall physical and emotional health is the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter what’s causing your ED. Of course you’re at an advantage if you do know the cause. Sometimes ED can be caused or aggravated by nutritional issues such as a potassium deficiency.
Your doctor or other qualified health professional can help you determine if there is some underlying nutritional factor. Even if there doesn’t seem to be any specific nutrient deficiency causing your ED, though, you are almost certainly making the problem worse if you eat a generally lousy diet that’s high in “bad” fats and refined sugars. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and have lots of unresolved stress in your life, these can compound the problem.
A medical work-up may very well be necessary to figure out the underlying cause of your ED, but meanwhile, you can make a series of small changes to your diet and lifestyle. There is no miracle cure, no silver bullet that will magically solve your erectile challenges. But you might be surprised at some of the things that can help improve the situation, with or without the medical options mentioned above.
You are what you eat
While there’s no particular “wonder food” to prevent or cure Erectile Dysfunction, a growing body of good research points to certain foods that just might help. Here are a few items to consider adding to your menu on a regular basis.
Rabbit chow (and a juice that may “beet” ED)
Turn up your nose and call leafy greens “rabbit food,” if you will, but last time we checked, rabbits were doing okay in the sex department. The big deal about leafy green veggies such as celery and spinach is that they’re high in nitrates. Same goes with beet juice, of all things. Nitrates are vasodilators: they open up the blood vessels and increase the blood flow. As we discussed in Part 2 of this series, today’s top ED prescription drugs are based upon the relaxing effects of nitrates on the blood vessels that feed the penis.
While the nitrates in a spinach salad may not be as concentrated as the active ingredient in, say, Levitra, they still might be beneficial. As for beet juice…well, okay, it may not be the most exciting drink in the world, but if you mix it with other juices or blend it into a smoothie, it’s not half bad.
Chocolate: come on over to the dark side
Consider this your reward for being a good boy and eating your veggies. Chocolate has long been considered an aphrodisiac, which may go a long way towards explaining its popularity as a Valentine’s Day or anniversary gift. Some women would say that another factor in its popularity on these special days is their men’s lack of imagination, but as for us, we’d be the last ones to knock chocolate – particularly dark chocolate. The dark stuff is rich in flavonoids, which are naturally-occurring antioxidants. In nature flavonoids assist plants in repairing cell damage, and they also protect plants from environmental toxins. Some studies have shown that flavonoids and other antioxidants may have similar effects in humans, and may also help decrease bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
More to the point (so to speak), other studies have shown that the flavonoids in dark chocolate may improve circulation as well. You already know what improved circulation can do in the wood department. In addition, chocolate might even fight sexual dysfunction (yours and hers) through mood improvement, since it contains the mood-booster phenylethylamine. And need we even mention that it’s a treat for your palate in the bargain?
The world is your oyster, you shellfish prick
Oysters have long rated up there with chocolate as a reputed aphrodisiac. (Would the ultimate love concoction be a chocolate-covered oyster? Well, maybe not.) There’s some science to support the oyster’s sexy rep, as oysters – and other shellfish too, for that matter – are rich in the mineral zinc. Zinc plays an important role in the production of testosterone; as it happens, a zinc deficiency can hamper sperm count and fertility as well as erectile abilities. So if your ED is caused by Low-T, adding oysters to your diet may be helpful. Oysters are also high in iron, which is essential for energy. Some studies have also shown that raw shellfish contain other compounds that stimulate the release of sex hormones in both men and women.
Needless to say, you want to be sure you practice safe eating. In some areas, environmental toxins or diseases make the consumption of local raw seafood a real health gamble, so always check with area health advisories. But even if you can’t eat ’em raw, there are many other ways to munch your mollusks, and you’ll still get the nutritional benefits.
A melon for melancholia
Watermelons are 92 percent water, and water’s always good for you, but it’s that other eight percent that really interests ED researchers. Some studies have shown that watermelon may have similar effects to Viagra; the phytonutrients in the flesh and rind can relax the blood vessels that supply the penis. These phytonutrients can also benefit the heart. Even better: eating watermelon may increase sexual desire in both men and women.
Although researchers caution that more research is needed to prove watermelon’s efficacy for treatment of Erectile Dysfunction, it can’t hurt to add the fruit to your diet when the season rolls around. And if you don’t like spitting out all of those seeds, try one of the seedless varieties.
Nuts for your nuts
Pistachio nuts are high in protein, particularly a protein called argenine (see below), which may help relax blood vessels and improve circulation. One study found that guys with ED who consumed pistachios every day for three weeks reported a big improvement in sexual issues – including ED, sexual desire, and overall sexual satisfaction.
You say tomato, we say lycopene
Deep red fruits such as tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a phytonutrient that not only could help fight some forms of cancer (including prostate cancer), but is also good for circulation. And as you know, what’s good for the blood flow is good for the hard-on. Lycopene and other antioxidants may also help fight male infertility.
Oily veggies such as avocado and spinach may facilitate the absorption of lycopene, as may some oil-based salad dressings. If you’re not a fan of raw tomatoes, the good news is that lycopene is also available in cooked and processed tomato products, such as juices, soups, pasta sauces, and even…yes…ketchup.
By the way, grapefruits are also high in lycopene. However, grapefruits and grapefruit juice, as well as other citrus fruits, can interact with some medications, either strengthening them to dangerous levels or weakening them so they’re ineffective. When taking any medication, even an over-the-counter med, ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions, or do your own research.
“Your cheeks are like rosy pomegranates beneath your veil…”
These days, it seems you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some food, drink, health product, or beauty elixir that contains pomegranate in some form. Pomegranates have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, but the fruit has been revered for centuries (you may have recognized the quotation above from the Song of Solomon in the Hebrew and Christian Bible). The pomegranate-flavored syrup grenadine is a popular cocktail ingredient, and pomegranate juice is sold by itself or as part of numerous (nonalcoholic) juice blends and juice cocktails. Pomegranate has also found its way into salad dressings, sauces, and numerous other beverages and food products.
Though pomegranates are rich in antioxidants and other beneficial ingredients, they’re not a miracle fruit, but that hasn’t stopped scads of overeager network marketers from seeking financial independence by peddling overpriced pom-juice potions. All hype aside, pomegranates do seem to have health benefits, and in one study, guys who drank pomegranate juice for four weeks had improved scores on an Erectile Dysfunction assessment. So it may be worth trying. If pure pom juice is a little too intense for your tastes, try some of the 100% juice blends that have pomegranate as the main ingredient. Or add whole pomegranate seeds to salads, yogurts, or any other food you enjoy.
There are numerous other foods that may be good for your circulation: peanuts, onions, apples, cranberries, tea (particularly green tea), and red wine. Taking good care of your vascular health could go a long way towards solving your ED. And eating a good diet in general can improve your overall health, which can also help ED.
Certain herbs may be helpful for men with Erectile Dysfunction. No, sorry… we’re not going to suggest you go out and smoke that illegal herb. However, there are a few legal ones that may help guys with ED. In fact, herbs and other natural remedies have long been used in African, Chinese, and other indigenous medical traditions to treat ED and many other conditions. Even so, experimenting with herbs on your own can be risky to your health, particularly since some herbs and supplements haven’t been well-studied or tested. If you’re considering adding herbs to your arsenal in the battle against ED, ask your doctor. That said, here are a few you might want to discuss with your doc.
Barking up the right tree for ED?
Yohimbe is an alkaloid that comes from the bark of the African yohimbe tree, Pausinystalia yohimbe. The active ingredient that interests many ED researchers is yohimbine, a stimulant and possible aphrodisiac, which also occurs naturally in a few other plants, such as Indian snakeroot. Yohimbe extract is available in various strengths and forms in numerous over-the-counter supplements, and a standardized form of yohimbine, yohimbine hydrochloride, is available by prescription in the US. Yohimbine has been shown to help some men with Erectile Dysfunction, particularly if the ED is caused by psychological issues.
Horny goat weed: the name says it all (maybe)
While the name alone seems to speak volumes, research is mixed on horny goat weed, aka epimedium, as an ED treatment. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat ED, as well as low libido, fatigue, pain, and other conditions. But it may eventually have a role in modern medicine as well. A lab study a few years ago found that a compound in horny goat weed is a phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor, similar to the active ingredients in some prescription ED drugs. There is currently no established dose, but some studies have used between 6 grams and 15 grams a day. But it may cause blood thinning and/or lower blood pressure, as well as other side effects such as upset stomach and dry mouth. It can also interact with other meds or supplements you may be taking. Again, exercise caution and ask your doctor.
I sing, you sing, we all sing for ginseng
Asian or Panax ginseng has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a number of conditions. Westerners are most likely to be familiar with claims that ginseng is a possible energy booster. But there have been some studies showing that ginseng may help with ED. And a multi-study review from a university suggested that using red ginseng substantially improved ED in its male subjects. Perhaps you’ve already guessed how ginseng may work its magic: by relaxing the muscles in the penis to improve the blood flow. Some study results have been pretty promising, and the research could lead to a more refined and targeted ginseng-based treatment in the future. For now, ginseng is generally considered safe, but it may lower blood sugar, so if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia, use caution when taking it. Also be careful if you’re taking certain types of antidepressants, as in rare cases ginseng has been linked to manic episodes in people taking these meds.
Ginkgo to get you going
Ginkgo has long been promoted as a memory booster, but some studies show that…um, wait. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, ginkgo as a memory booster. Some studies have shown that it’s not really all that effective for memory improvement, but no worries: other research shows that ginkgo may be a boner booster. It’s possible that it could help guys with Erectile Dysfunction by – all together now – increasing blood flow to the penis. Moreover, it might also help ease sexual side effects caused by some types of antidepressants. As with anything else, though, there’s a certain degree of risk. For instance, ginkgo may increase bleeding risk, which could be harmful if you take a blood-thinning med or you’re going to have surgery.
Vitamins, minerals, and other supplements
When you go searching on the Internet for information about treating any condition with a vitamin – especially with a specific branded supplement – you can run into a big problem: determining the objectivity of the information. More than likely, your Googling will land you on a site that just happens to be selling the very product(s) you are researching, and yes, you’ll find plenty of “information.” But it may not necessarily be trustworthy. Obviously, you must always consider the source, and do a little digging to separate the facts from the fluff.
Apropos of that, we’ll be the first to acknowledge that our own agenda on this site drives the content to a certain degree: yes, we sell prescription medications, and we are big believers in these meds and the solid science and research behind them. But we are also aware – and are very honest about – the fact that prescription drugs, even those we sell, are not for everyone. We would never suggest that any product we sell is a miracle cure for anything, nor that it is perfectly safe for every individual. We do pride ourselves on the fact that we only sell “the real thing” – the FDA-approved medications from the manufacturers who hold the patents to the drugs we sell. But we also realize that many people cannot or do not want to take these medications. That’s why we offer honest information about possible alternatives, and we strive to keep you abreast of new research as well.
Accordingly, we knew that no series on Erectile Dysfunction would be complete without mentioning some of the vitamins and other nutrients that may be helpful for guys with ED. At the same time we feel obligated to issue a caveat about some that may not be so helpful. First, the (possibly) good stuff.
L-Arginine is an amino acid that increases production of nitric oxide. It seems to be a real rock star in the fight against Erectile Dysfunction, as well as some types of female sexual dysfunction (FSD). L-Arginine is found naturally in food, and it is also in many over-the-counter supplements, either as a standalone or in combination with other ingredients, such as pine bark extract. The jury is still out on many of those combo supplements (see below). However, L-Arginine has been shown to improve ED, at least in men with low levels of nitric oxide, such as that linked to cardiovascular problems. It’s not a sure cure for all cases of ED, but it may be helpful for many men. And, as mentioned above, some researchers are looking into combining L-Arginie with yohimbine for more effective ED treatments.
Folic acid and Vitamin E
Some studies have shown that these vitamins can help men with ED who are also taking sildenafil (Viagra). Vitamin E and folic acid interest health researchers because they may be beneficial to cardiovascular health. Years ago vitamin E was hyped as “the sex vitamin,” as well as an almost miraculous antidote to wrinkles. A lot of those claims are just that – hype – but vitamin E does have some antioxidant benefits, as does folic acid. But it’s still not certain whether either E or folic acid delivers a clear benefit to guys with ED; more studies are needed. For years the consensus seemed to be that even though these vitamins may not live up to the hype, there wasn’t a big risk of side effects from taking them, except in high doses. Studies over the past few years have raised some serious questions about the safety – and therefore the wisdom – of taking large quantities of vitamin E. The American Cancer Society has warned that taking more than 800 IU of vitamin E oil daily can cause some unpleasant side effects, and is potentially dangerous.
Research indicates that zinc might possibly improve erectile function in men who have a zinc deficiency. As we mentioned above, zinc is important in testosterone production. The caveat: Don’t take zinc in high doses, because too much of the good stuff can compromise your immune system, as well as cause other health problems.
This isn’t a vitamin or mineral, but a building block for sex hormones (for both men and women). Dehydroepiandrosterone, aka DHEA, is commonly available in over-the-counter supplements for everything from body-building to weight-loss products, but it should never be taken casually. DHEA may help some guys who have low testosterone, so if your ED is caused by Low-T, DHEA could be helpful. However, it can interfere with your natural hormone balance. It can also cause acne, and may lower your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the good cholesterol that you don’t want to lower. DHEA remains of interest in ED research, as well as in studies about numerous other conditions. But there’s no conclusive evidence right now that it will work as an ED fix for most guys.
There is a lot of controversy about whether people who don’t have specific nutritional deficiencies need to take supplements at all. It’s almost always best to get your nutrients from your food, of course, but that isn’t always feasible. Our only suggestion is to do your research, ask your doctor or some other qualified professional, and don’t ever casually pop mega-doses of anything.
Men, men, men, men, manly-men supplements…
And now for the elephant in the room: all of those male libido/stamina combo supplements that are constantly being advertised on TV, online, and in print media. No doubt you’ve seen the ads, which generally depict a sleek, tan, muscular man with equally sleek and tan ladies hanging all over him. If you examine the ingredients list on any of these products, you’ll see that most of them contain a combination of several of the herbs and vitamins we’ve discussed here, and lots more. Many products are advertised as “herbal Viagra” or “natural” enhancement/performance products, and the ads generally portray them as safe, effective, and cheaper than the Rx versions of ED drugs.
In general, the FDA doesn’t recommend any “alternative” therapies to treat sexual dysfunction, and a few years ago they issued a warning about sexual-performance supplements that contained an ingredient very much like the active ingredient in Cialis or the one in Viagra. Because these ingredients can cause potentially dangerous side effects such as sudden changes in blood pressure, you may be risking your health if you experiment with them, and the risk could be compounded by some of the other ingredients that are in the typical supplement. Add in some of the recreational substances in which some users might also be indulging along with their man pills, and you could have the ingredients for disaster.
We are not the FDA and we’re not docs, but at this time we can’t recommend any of these performance/enhancement products. At best many have limited effectiveness and at worst they can be harmful. Even though they’re often advertised as “natural” and economical (as opposed to the “synthetic” and often pricey products of Big Pharma), we think it’s important to keep in mind that these supplements are also products of manufacturers who are primarily interested in making money. And even though the supplements don’t require a prescription, they can get pretty pricey too.
Moreover, nutritional supplements in the US are not subject to the same regulations and standards as prescription drugs such as those for Erectile Dysfunction. Over-the-counter supplements don’t have to stand up to the same rigorous efficacy and safety tests or even adhere to set standards for purity and consistency. The horny goat weed or L-Arginine that you think you’re getting in one brand of supplement may vary greatly from the same amount of that substance in another brand. And that’s not the worst of it. Some manufacturers are not above faking safety and efficacy data, or indulging in substandard manufacturing processes. And unfortunately, some “research labs” are complicit in the deception. Supplement manufacturers are required to list ingredients on the label, but there’s no guarantee that the labeling is particularly accurate.
This isn’t a categorical condemnation of all vitamins and supplements; there certainly are honest manufacturers and research labs out there. Nor are we advocating some “nanny state” setup whereby no one is allowed to even think of putting anything into his or her system without the government’s okay. However, if you are considering taking one of those manly-men products that claim to improve your sex life, at the very least review the ingredients list and recommended dosage with your doctor.
For that matter – and you probably already know this, but it’s worth repeating – always tell your doctor about everything you’re taking. This includes vitamins, over-the-counter meds, and even recreational substances. And be honest about your diet too. Virtually everything you put into your body has an effect of some sort and could potentially interact with other stuff you’re eating or taking.
Take care of you
As we noted at the beginning of this piece, there are many things you can do to improve your health, and possibly your Erectile Dysfunction, without the assistance of prescription drugs, other ED therapies, or surgery. Some cases of ED subside when a man begins to eat a better diet, increases his activity level, loses weight if he’s overweight, or quits smoking. Matter of fact, many researchers and doctors agree that smoking is a key cause of Erectile Dysfunction because it promotes narrowing of the arteries. So if you smoke, for gosh sakes, QUIT. (We know that’s easier said than done, but please do your best.)
In short, as we also said way up there at the top of this post, taking care of your overall physical health is one of the best things you can do to help your ED. In addition, as we mentioned in Part 4 of this series, psychological counseling can also help you deal with ED, whether your problem is caused by emotional issues or it’s caused by physical factors that have a psychological or emotional effect.
We’ll wrap up by reminding you once again that if you have Erectile Dysfunction, you’re not alone, and there are many options available to make the situation better. It’s up to you to take back your power – and reclaim your life.
- Erectile Dysfunction overview: causes and options for treatment
- FDA Approved Medications for Erectile Dysfunction currently on the marketplace: Viagra, Cialis, Cialis for daily use, Levitra, Staxyn
- Erectile Dysfunction medications currently in research phases
- Therapy treatments for Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone therapy, injection therapy, vacuum therapy
- Surgeries for Erectile Dysfunction
Note: When ordering prescription drugs online, always make sure you are ordering from a reliable source, such as AccessRX.com.