Picture this: Draw one circle about the diameter of a Number 2 pencil and another circle that is smaller and about the diameter of a stirrer in a drink side by side. The larger circle is the approximate diameter of a good-sized coronary artery. The smaller circle is approximately the diameter of the pudendal artery, the major blood supply to the penis.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “because erectile dysfunction is caused by a complex set of psychosocial, neurologic, and vascular factors, a specific cause in a patient may remain ambiguous.” The root causes are often related to a blockage or dysfunction of blood vessels. For example, ED can be due to conditions like atherosclerosis or diabetes, hormonal imbalances or problems related to mental health. It’s been found that common causes typically include one or more of the following factors: (2)
When lifestyle changes alone don’t work, drug therapy (Viagra®, Cialis®, Levitra®, etc.) is normally the next step. Most of these medications work similarly to enhance a natural chemical in your body that relaxes the muscles in your penis. The goal of this medication is to increase your response to sexual stimulation by increasing the blood flow in your penis allowing you to get an erection.22
The Epimedium plant is a flowering perennial found throughout Asia and parts of the Mediterranean. Horny Goat Weed’s active ingredient is icariin, a falvonol glycoside and reputed to improve cardiovascular function, hormone regulation, modulation of immunological function and antitumor activity (44). Icariin has also been shown to have a PDE5i effect. Animal studies have been carried out showing improvements in penile hemodynamic parameters. There is one report of tachyarrhythmia and hypomania with the use of this herb (45).
DHEA. DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a natural hormone that the body uses to make the male hormone testosterone. DHEA and testosterone decrease with age, just as ED increases with age, so it seems that taking DHEA might protect against ED. But Harris says that "it is unlikely that taking DHEA would raise your testosterone enough to make much difference." DHEA should not be used by people with liver problems; it also has many side effects.
These drugs facilitate erection by inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme, by blocking the degradation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) in the cavernous smooth muscles. This inhibition results in the prolonged activity of cGMP, which further decreases intracellular calcium concentrations, maintains smooth muscle relaxation and, hence, results in rigid penile erections.
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a large percentage of men with ED also have low levels of vitamin D. If you’re experiencing ED, you may want to have your level of vitamin D checked. Other symptoms of a low vitamin D level may be too subtle to notice. However, if you have serious vitamin D deficiency, you may have bone pain or muscle weakness. Vitamin D levels can be checked with a simple blood test and for most people corrected with a supplement.
Yohimbine. This chemical is found in the bark of an African tree called yohimbe. It has been used as a male aphrodisiac in Africa, and under medical supervision it has been used as a prescription drug to treat ED. Supplements made from yohimbe bark are also available without a prescription, but they can be life-threatening if used at high doses, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The supplement can interact in a harmful way with certain drugs, such as blood pressure medications, and should be avoided by anyone with liver, kidney, heart, or diabetes problems or problems with anxiety or depression. Like DHEA, yohimbine should not be taken without a doctor's supervision.
Research indicates that some specific nutrients—from common vitamins to lesser-known plant extracts—have demonstrated positive effects on very specific aspects of penile performance. Eat This Not That! has rounded up the best examples of these superfoods. And make your little guy look bigger by flattening your belly! After reading this, don’t miss these best foods for sexual stamina!
The role of the practitioner providing a naturopathic treatment plan is to first identify the cause of the individual's ED. If the cause is psychogenic (i.e. performance anxiety, depression, relationship problems), referral to a psychotherapist should be considered. Organic causes like metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, or diabetes type II can be properly treated with lifestyle medicine and other numerous nutritional prescriptions beyond the scope of this article to discuss.
Just because a product claims to be natural doesn't mean it's safe. Many herbal remedies and dietary supplements can cause side effects and dangerous interactions when taken with certain medications. Talk to your doctor before you try an alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction — especially if you're taking medications or you have a chronic health problem such as heart disease or diabetes.