Erectile dysfunction affects an estimated 30 million American men. Failure to obtain or maintain an erection may be chronic or occur as an isolated incident.
An erection is a combination of nerve function, proper circulation, brain stimuli and hormonal actions. When looking for the source of dysfunction, each of these processes needs to be examined to uncover the root problem. This can include:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Certain medications
- Alcohol (alcohol decreases the body’s ability to produce testosterone)
- Cigarettes (can clog the arteries that serve the penis)
- Diabetes (very common with men who have diabetes)
- High blood pressure
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor thyroid function
- Diet high in vegetable oils
Diet and Lifestyle
Erectile Drugs and Natural Solutions
Erectile drugs work by increasing nitric oxide (NO) production which enhances blood flow and maintains normal blood pressure. Nitric oxide is a critical factor in erectile function because it stimulates the smooth muscles in the penis, specifically the penile corpus cavernosum. The problem is that these drugs can have side effects like heart disease, stroke, sterility, memory problems, loss of hearing, even the ability to see the colors green and blue! You can increase nitric oxide naturally in the body by increasing foods rich in the amino acid L-arginine, which is the precursor for nitrous oxide production. One study from 2002 treated ED with L-arginine and pycnogenol, and after 3 months 92.5% of the men experienced a normal erection.
To better understand, look at this excellent diagram and explanation on nitric oxide from Nutrition Genome.
Weight Loss and Exercise
It is crucial to maintain a healthy weight and to exercise regularly to increase nitric oxide availability, blood flow and stronger arteries. A randomized controlled trial involving 110 obese men with ED were assigned to two groups: the intervention group entered an intense weight loss program with custom dietary advice, and the control group which were given general and written information about healthy food choices and exercise, but without specific individualized programs. After 2 years, the intervention group had lost significantly more weight, increased physical activity, and experienced a significant improvement in obtaining erections. This study provided evidence that sustained lifestyle changes can partially ameliorate erectile function in obese men.
It is very important to cut out sugar, sodas, refined carbohydrates, very limited amounts of alcohol, coffee, hydrogenated oils, and other foods or drinks that impact your health. A Mediterranean type of diet will be the best approach to bring your body back into balance.
L-Arginine rich foods: Eggs, coconut, whey, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and seaweed like spirulina.
Proteins: Wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, pastured chickens and eggs, grass-fed beef (small amounts), lamb and wild game.
Fats: Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
Dairy: Cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir and raw cheese.
Grains, fruits and vegetables: Organic whole grain products properly treated for the removal of phytates, such as sourdough rye and sprouted grain bread and soaked or sprouted cereal grains; soaked and fermented legumes including lentils, beans, and chickpeas; sprouted or soaked seeds and nuts; fresh fruits and vegetables both raw and cooked; fermented vegetables like non-pasteurized sauerkraut and pickles.
Beverages: Filtered, high-mineral water.
Condiments: Unrefined sea salt; raw vinegar; spices in moderation; fresh herbs.
Recommended Program for Erectile Dysfunction
From the previous link to the nitric oxide diagram, you will see that L-arginine, folate, B2, vitamin C, magnesium and DHA are all needed for healthy nitric oxide levels.
1. L-Arginine Rich Foods: Erectile drugs work by increasing nitric oxide production, which enhances blood flow and maintains normal blood pressure. Nitric oxide is a critical factor in erectile function because it stimulates the smooth muscles in the penis. L-arginine is the precursor to nitric oxide and the only known substrate to the vessel lining available to endothelial cells for nitric oxide production.
The 1998 Nobel Prize in medicine was given for the identification of nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. It helps promote healthy blood vessel flexibility and dilation and has been supported by many studies.You can increase nitric oxide naturally in the body by increasing foods rich in acid L-arginine or using a supplement.
One study from 2002 treated ED with L-arginine and pycnogenol, and after 3 months 92.5% of the men experienced a normal erection.
The earliest record is a Tibetan medical text authored by Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorje in the 15th Century outlining the tonic propensities of cordyceps, especially as an aphrodisiac. It has traditionally been used to treat male sexual dysfunction in vitro and in vivo studies have shown it to increase the level of male hormones. Cordyceps are very effective at increasing oxygen transport and are often recommend for energy, stamina and virility.
Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at erectile dysfunction due to kidney dysfunction caused by excessive fear, as well as heart and spleen deficiency caused by excessive thinking and worry. Cordyceps have been used for ED for an estimated 2000 years. It has been shown to act as a kidney tonic, thus improving erectile function and replenish sperm count. In 1995, one impressive study found that 66% of subjects given Cordyceps showed improvement for impotence vs. 23% given a placebo, 67% showed improvement for seminal emission vs. 0% given a placebo, and 67% showed improvement in libido vs. 0% given a placebo.
For women, Cordyceps improved 86% of the subjects vs. 0% of the placebo group. Cordyceps also showed 100% improvement for women with other sexual dysfunction vs 0% in the placebo group.
B2, folate in particular play a major role in healthy nitric oxide levels. Most men are deficient in folate since it comes mainly from dark leafy greens like romaine lettuce, collard greens, parsley and liver.
There is evidence that magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including testosterone. A zinc-magnesium nutritional formulation was able to improve T levels of athletes engaging in intense physical activity compared to placebo. The highest levels of T were found in those athletes both exercising and receiving magnesium supplementation. In young men participating at 7-week strength training program, supplemental magnesium was capable of significantly improving muscle strength and power. The gain in muscle strength occurred at dietary magnesium intake higher than 250 mg and was even more evident at 500 mg. Another study found that those with the highest magnesium levels had the highest testosterone. See the studies linked here.
Vitamin C plays a major role in every process in the body. For nitric oxide, it works with folate to maintain healthy levels for optimal blood flow.
Maca is a root vegetable that grows in the high altitude mountains of Peru, Andes and Brazil. It is extremely nutrient dense, rich in calcium, magnesium, selenium, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, zinc, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid and 19 amino acids. Maca is well know for it’s ability to correct sexual dysfunction and aphrodisiac properties, possibly due to a compound called p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate as well as other nutrients. Over 160 studies have been performed on Maca, with some showing an increase in energy, better mood, decreased anxiety, improved sexual desire, higher sperm production, motility and volume.3
1. Esposito K, Giugliano F, Di Palo C, Giugliano G, Marfella R, D’Andrea F, et al. Effect of lifestyle changes on erectile dysfunction in obese men: a randomized trial. JAMA 2004; 291: 2978–84.
2. Stanislavov, R and Nikolova V. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun;29(3):207-13