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Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability of a man to get or sustain an erection, which keeps him from having or finishing sex.
This is the most commonly reported sex problem by men, which can develop at any age but is more prevalent after the age of 75 years.
It is normal for healthy men to experience occasional erectile dysfunction, but they will need treatment if it becomes a frequent occurrence or worsens progressively.
The Massachusetts Male Aging Study conducted a survey from 1987 to 1989 that included 1,709 men between the ages of 40 and 70 years. The results showed that nearly 52% of the surveyed population suffered from erectile dysfunction.
In 1995, the global incidence of erectile dysfunction was estimated to be more than 152 million men, and this is expected to rise to approximately 322 million by 2025. (1)
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction was formerly known as impotence and was thought to be the result of psychological problems. However, current research has shown that most cases of erectile dysfunction occur because the penis is not getting enough blood supply. (2)
Possible causes of erectile dysfunction:
- Low blood flow to the penis
- Damage to the nerves in the penis
- Emotional or psychological distress
- Hormonal imbalance
- Drug abuse
Erectile dysfunction can also be an early warning of some serious diseases, such as atherosclerosis (hardening or blockage of the arteries), heart disease, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar from diabetes.
Home Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction
There are effective home remedies that will bring significant improvement in erectile dysfunction.
1. Pelvic floor exercises
The muscles of the pelvic floor play a critical role in maintaining adequate blood supply to the penis, which helps facilitate proper erections. Certain exercises known as Kegel exercises work out the pelvic floor muscles to make them strong, thereby reducing erectile dysfunction problems.
A recent review study found that pelvic muscle training resulted in improvements in erectile dysfunction.
However, more research is needed in terms of strategies to improve adherence to the exercise and a clear explanation of protocols for the exercise. Research should also focus on integrating new evidence for verbal cues and biofeedback for muscles involved in erection for more confirmed and authenticated data. (3)
How to do:
- Squeeze your pelvic muscles like you would when trying to hold in urine and maintain this position for 3 seconds.
- Release the muscles and relax for the next 3 seconds.
- Do 10–15 repetitions of steps 1 and 2, three times daily.
- Keep increasing 1 second to each repetition each week until you can do it for 10 seconds at a stretch.
2. Ensure adequate L-arginine intake
L-arginine is an amino acid that is naturally present in protein-rich foods. It is known to stimulate the production of nitric oxide inside the body.
Nitric oxide is a compound that relaxes or expands blood vessels, thus facilitating increased blood supply to different parts of the body, including the penis. Improved blood flow to the penis helps sustain a proper erection. (4)(5)
How to use:
- Consume good dietary sources of L-arginine, which include meat, chicken, fish, peas, nuts and seeds. Include more of these foods in your regular diet.
- Ask your doctor about starting you on L-arginine supplements.
Note: You may experience minor gastrointestinal issues after taking L-arginine in high amounts such as cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.
3. Try ginseng
The therapeutic effects of Panax ginseng (red ginseng) have long been used in Chinese medicine to treat various ailments, including erectile dysfunction. It helps improve virility by stimulating the production of nitric oxide in the body, which dilates blood vessels and thereby increases blood flow to the penis. (6)
You can take this herb in the form of a supplement but only after consulting your doctor to rule out potential side effects, allergic reactions, and adverse interactions with other medications that you are on. Stick to the doctor-recommended dosage.
4. Drink pomegranate juice
Several articles and health blogs on the internet vouch for pomegranate juice as a safe and effective remedy for erectile dysfunction.
However, there isn’t enough scientific support to attest to these claims. The last study that cited any such beneficial claims was conducted in 2007, and even that did not produce statistically significant results. There has been no new evidence since then.
Thus, more recent and extensive research is needed to properly establish the efficacy of this remedy. (7)
How to use:
- Consume a glass of pomegranate juice every day.
- Consider taking pomegranate supplements, but only after consulting your doctor.
5. Follow a healthy diet
According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, consuming a diet that focuses on organic foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fish while limiting the intake of refined grains as well as red, processed meat can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction.
The Mediterranean diet meets all these criteria and has been found quite helpful in facilitating optimum sexual function as age increases. (8)
6. Exercise regularly
Erectile dysfunction can also be the by-product of various other health issues such as high cholesterol levels or diabetes. Regular exercise can help in the management of these conditions and thereby prevent or reduce erectile dysfunction. (9)
Aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, and swimming are especially recommended for improving male sexual function.
Risks of Natural Remedies
You can find many different natural or herbal remedies that claim to treat erectile dysfunction, but not all of them are safe or effective. They fall outside the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means their side effects, risks, and interactions have not been properly examined and documented.
People mistakenly assume that just because a remedy uses natural ingredients, it cannot harm the body. The medicinal intake of natural ingredients can also cause deleterious side effects and allergic reactions, aggravate preexisting conditions, and adversely interact with drugs you may already be taking.
Thus, it is important to exercise discretion, do your research, and preferably consult a doctor before trying any new remedy for erectile dysfunction, especially if you have other ailments and are on medication.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage and Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Making certain changes to your lifestyle may help prevent erectile dysfunction. These changes may include:
- Limit your alcohol intake to a minimum. If possible, give it up entirely.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get more sleep.
- Take mindful steps to keep stress under control such as relaxation therapies, yoga, deep breathing, pursuing your hobbies, and listening to soothing music.
- Prioritize your mental health and seek professional help from a therapist or counselor.
- Don’t take supplements without consulting your doctor first.
ALSO READ: 14 Best Men’s Health Blogs and Websites
Most-Asked Questions About Erectile Dysfunction
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
Doctors generally diagnose erectile dysfunction through the following steps:
- Clinical assessment to rule out history of drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis as well as symptoms of vascular, hormonal, neurologic, and psychological disorders
- Screening for depression and evaluating satisfaction with sexual relationships (10)
- Testosterone levels
- Imaging tests
- Additional tests such as nocturnal erection tests and injection tests
What are the medical treatment options for erectile dysfunction?
The first-line treatment for erectile dysfunction is oral medications called phosphodiesterase (PDE5) inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil, and tadalafil, which need to be taken at least an hour before sexual intercourse.
You must maintain a gap of at least 24 hours between consecutive doses of sildenafil and vardenafil and 48 hours for tadalafil.
PDE5 inhibitors help relax the smooth muscles in the pelvis and enhance blood supply to the penis during sexual stimulation. They are generally associated with negative side effects such as flushing, visual abnormalities, and headache.
Moreover, vardenafil should be administered cautiously and at lower initial dosages to patients receiving α-blockers, such as prazosin, doxazosin, and tamsulosin because of the risk of prolonged hypotension.
If you do not respond to oral drug therapy, doctors may prescribe more invasive interventions for treating erectile dysfunction such as intracavernosal or intraurethral prostaglandins, mechanical pump devices, and surgical implantation of a penile prosthesis.
If you routinely experience erectile dysfunction, the first thing you need to do is speak to a doctor. It is important to go through a proper checkup to pin the root cause of your condition and then treat it accordingly.
The above-listed remedies and tips are to be used as an adjunct to your medical treatment. They are easy and inexpensive, making them worth a try. Moreover, adopting a healthy lifestyle and implementing dietary changes will improve your overall health and will potentially enhance your sexual prowess as well.