Teerawong (Kan) Kasiolarn, ND, LAc, MSAc, is a certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist.
Erectile dysfunction – impotence – is something few men like to discuss, but it’s surprisingly common. Studies suggest about 18 percent of U.S. men over 20 experience erectile dysfunction (ED), and risk increases with age. About 40 percent of 40 year olds, and 70 percent of 70 year olds, experience the condition.
It’s normal for men to experience occasional episodes in which they fail to achieve or maintain an erection. But if the problem keeps happening and lasts more than two months, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause of the problem. ED can stem from a wide variety of issues ranging from obesity to cardiovascular disease to neurologic disorders.
The good news is that healthy lifestyle changes and natural therapeutics can often help prevent and improve the problem. Here are 6 natural strategies to help control ED:
#1: Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Changes
For some men, lifestyle changes alone are effective in relieving erectile dysfunction. Such lifestyle changes include:
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding recreational drugs
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing stress effectively
- Increasing physical activity to at least 30 minutes of daily exercise
#2: Keep Blood Sugar Levels Under Control
Poorly controlled blood sugar levels (especially if you have diabetes or prediabetes) is a strong risk factor for developing ED. To keep blood sugar in check:
- Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries and candies.
- Skip foods high in trans fats and saturated fats, such as full fat cheeses, fried foods and beef and pork fat.
- Choose foods high in fiber (including legumes and leafy green vegetables) and healthy fats (such as avocadoes, unsalted raw nuts and extra-virgin olive oil).
- Seek out lean protein sources, such as poultry and low-mercury fish.
#3: Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Obesity is a significant risk factor for developing ED and diabetes. Aim to keep your Body Mass Index (BMI) between 19 and 25. A BMI above 25 indicates you are overweight. If yours is above 30, it’s an indicator of obesity.
Find out your BMI.
#4: Explore Acupuncture
Some clinical studies have suggested that acupuncture might help men suffering from ED. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific points of the body (called acupuncture points) to help move “Chi” or “Qi” energy. The blockage of Qi is believed to cause imbalance in the body, resulting in illness or disease. Studies also suggest that acupuncture can be an effective treatment option in men with ED caused by psychological factors, including stress, anxiety and depression.
#5: Optimize Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone produced naturally in your skin in response to sun exposure. In modern society, where most of us spend the majority of our time indoors, vitamin D deficiency is common. Several studies have shown a link between ED and vitamin D deficiency. A shortage of the vitamin has also been associated with a variety of health problems, including insulin resistance, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, dementia and some cancers. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether a supplement is right for you.
#6: Consider L-Arginine
L-arginine, sometimes simply called arginine, is an amino acid that can help raise nitric oxide levels in the body, resulting in the widening of your blood vessels. Low nitric oxide levels can be one cause of ED, and some studies suggest that men with low levels might benefit from L-arginine supplements. While more research is needed to explore the benefits of L-arginine for treating ED, some of my patients have found the supplement helpful. Men should be cautious when taking this supplement, however, as it can negatively interact with medications for high blood pressure. It can also trigger herpes outbreaks in men with genital herpes. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting L-arginine.
ED is often treatable. If you struggle with this common problem, talk to your healthcare provider.