A 2011 study of 160 men with moderate or severe erectile dysfunction divided the group in two—80 men were given niacin supplements, and 80 a placebo. The group given niacin reported improved ability to “maintain an erection versus the control group.” It’s not exhaustive research, but still promising. The best part about niacin is that it’s naturally found in foods like turkey, avocado, and peanuts (yum). If you’re not a turkey sandwich fan, you can supplement with a vitamin B complex.
ED can be caused by a handful of things, but one thing’s for sure: You need a healthy supply of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO) to get and maintain an erection. NO is produced in nerve tissue and helps jolt your Johnson by relaxing the smooth muscle so blood can fill the penis. After the initial release of NO, your body releases a cascade of chemicals—including more of the neurotransmitter—to help keep you hard and happy, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The search for a cure for erectile dysfunction (ED) dates back way before the introduction of Viagra in the 1990s. Natural aphrodisiacs, from ground rhinoceros horn topa chocolate, have long been used to increase libido, potency, or sexual pleasure. These natural remedies are also popular because they’re said to have fewer side effects than prescribed medications.
If you search the Internet, you’ll find lists of specific foods that are supposed to be good for erectile dysfunction. We’ve researched this topic extensively, searching databases of clinical studies, and found no evidence that these foods provide significant benefits from men with ED. (We suspect that most of the sites on the web are simply copying lists from one another.)
Experts don't yet know whether the vitamin folic acid (also known as folate) is an effective natural treatment for erectile dysfunction. Research has shown that for some men, taking sildenafil (Viagra) together with folic acid and vitamin B6 seemed to help with erectile dysfunction more than taking medicine alone. Some experts contend that folic acid improves the function of the blood vessels involved in erections. But scientists say they need more studies to know if folic acid helps erectile dysfunction, either alone or in combination with other treatments.
A recent study found that men with erectile dysfunction who ate pistachio nuts every day for three weeks experienced significant improvement in sexual issues, including ED, sexual desire, and overall sexual satisfaction. The benefits of pistachios for erection problems may be due to a protein called arginine, which may help relax blood vessels. "This is another example of how good circulation is good for sexual health, which is good news because I eat a lot of pistachios," says Dr. Daneshgari.
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.
Penile prosthesis implant remains the most effective and permanent treatment for ED. Penile prosthesis implants can be broadly divided into malleable and inflatable prostheses (20). Malleable penile prosthesis, also known as semi-rigid prosthesis, does not allow for (physiological) flaccid state of the penis. The patient can bend the prosthesis upwards for sexual intercourse and downwards for concealment. Although the angle of prosthesis concealment has improved with recent devices, however due to the constant rigid state of the penis, they are still less comfortable compared to their inflatable counterparts, are more likely to cause social embarrassment and associated with higher risk of implant erosions (21). However, malleable prosthesis still has its place for the treatment of ED as these implants are easier to handle, easier to place and would benefit patients with impaired manual dexterity.
Yohimbine is an indole alkaloid derived from the bark of the African yohimbe tree (33). Yohimbine has been noted to treat fatigue, depression, diabetes, and sexual dysfunction. A meta-analysis of seven placebo-controlled trials (34) deemed yohimbine superior to placebo for the treatment of ED with rare adverse events. The proposed mechanism of action (35) is via the inhibition of central alpha-2-adrenergic receptors, decreasing central inhibition of arousal, and increasing penile nerve stimulation resulting in increased NO. Common side effects include headache, sweating, agitation, hypertension and insomnia. Contraindications include patients on tricyclic antidepressants, anti-hypertensives and central nervous system stimulants.
"Evidence that foods can help with ED is probably related to a vascular connection," says Firouz Daneshgari, MD, professor and chairman of the department of urology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "Erectile problems are usually due to not having a good blood supply to the penis, so foods that are good for your vascular system may also help prevent ED." Should you eat more of the foods containing these key nutrients?
Contrary to popular belief, the penis does not have a mind of its own. To make it a fine and upstanding specimen, your neurons must be co-ordinated with military precision. You need thiamine, aka vitamin B1, for a healthy nervous system, so eat pork to help fire your swimmers in the right direction. Can’t or don’t eat pig? Get your B from beans and wholemeal bread.
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Your doctor may also choose to lower your dose of certain medications. Or your provider may switch the type of drug you’re taking if it’s interfering with your sex life. Some medicines used for managing blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, depression, seizures and prostate problems increase the risk for erectile dysfunction. Beta-blockers (for high blood pressure), SSRIs (often used to treat depression) and the class of drugs called benzodiazepines (like Ativan, Xanax, Librium and Valium) are commonly tied to ED. You may want to speak to your doctor about this.
There have been some studies to suggest that a placebo effect that improves ED may work for some men. One study found that men taking an oral placebo pill showed as much improvement in ED symptoms as men who took actual medication to improve ED. Conversely, men who were given therapeutic suggestions to improve ED did not see signs of symptom improvement.