Erectile Dysfunction

Men's Health | April 21, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

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Erectile Dysfunction

An Australian survey showed that at least one in five men over the age of 40 years has difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection. As men age, the likelihood of them having erectile problems increases—making it a very common problem. Erectile dysfunction is usually a sign of an underlying condition, whether it be physical or psychological. Most men have trouble getting an erection from time to time due to factors such as stress or drinking too much alcohol. If the problem is ongoing you should seek advice from a health professional.

How does an erection happen?

The process of achieving an erection is dependant upon finely orchestrated actions within penile, tissues, nerves and blood vessels. These react to chemicals in the body—particularly nitric oxide which causes the smooth muscles of the penis to relax to promote blood flow. There are two tubes of spongy tissue that extend along the length of the penis which contain blood vessels and smooth muscles. When the penis is flaccid, blood vessels are constricted to keep the blood out of the penis.

An erection is initiated when the brain senses something arousing. This spongy tissue in the penis arranges itself in such a way that more blood can be stored in the penis. This swelling stretches the outer casing—resulting in an erection. During the swelling, veins are pressed against which prevent blood from leaving the area.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

There are many factors which can contribute to a man’s ability to get and keep an erection. Sometimes there is a combination of a few factors and in other cases a clear cause isn’t identified. Some of the most common reasons for erectile dysfunction include:

Alcohol and drug abuse

  • Alcohol and drug abuseAlcohol
  • Medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, psychiatric disorders and prostate cancer

Psychosocial

  • Anxiety (including performance anxiety)
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Sexual attitudes and upbringing

Interference with nerve function

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Pelvic surgery (prostate, bowel)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Reduced blood flow

  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Cigarette smoking

Urological problems

  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Pelvic trauma

Endocrine problems

  • Thyroid disease
  • Acromegaly (too much growth hormone)
  • Cortisone excess
  • Hypogonadism (not enough testosterone and/or sperm is produced)

How natural therapies can help

Depending on the cause of erectile dysfunction there are different treatment strategies. Here are some common lifestyle and dietary interventions as well as supplements that can be utilised.

Diet

Anything that is good for your heart is also good for maintaining healthy blood flow to the genitals.

DietEat a heart healthy diet which involves lower amounts of saturated fat usually found in animal products such as eggs, dairy and meat. It is also commonly found in processed foods and takeaway meals.

Aim to have a large serve of vegetables with every meal to get a boost of antioxidants which are important for healthy blood vessels and improved circulation.

If you are having trouble maintaining healthy blood sugars look at reducing your serves of grains and sugar.

 

An ideal diet to follow would be:

Other recommendations would be to drink alcohol in moderation and quit smoking

Exercise

Regular physical activity keeps our cardiovascular system in tip top shape. This means improved blood flow and better blood vessel function. It also reduces many factors which contribute to erectile dysfunction including atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety. Aim for 30 minutes or more each day of an activity that you enjoy. If weight loss needs to occur, then exercise is a great way to burn off those extra calories.
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Counselling

If psychosocial problems are a cause of erectile dysfunction than talking to a skilled counsellor may help in resolving issues in a relationship, worry about work or finances, substance abuse or depression. It is important to know that the longer erectile dysfunction is left untreated, the greater the effect on relationships. This is another reason why early treatment of erectile dysfunction is important.

Supplements

Pycnogenol and L-arginine

An extract from French maritime bark and L-arginine has been found to be beneficial in men with erectile dysfunction. In one study, men aged 25-45 years were administered this combination and significant benefits were seen after 2 months. 80% of men reported an ability to maintain a normal erection and this increased to 92.5% after 3 months of supplementation.

The reason why this combination is so effective is because it enhances nitric oxide function and therefore blood vessel dilation and blood flow.

Antioxidants

AntioxidantsThe main antioxidants implicated in male reproductive health include zinc, selenium and vitamins A, C and E. These nutrients are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, the production of sex hormones and to reduce oxidative stress which has been implicated in erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Panax Ginseng

Panax ginseng has been studied extensively in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and according to a 2008 systematic review there is good evidence to support it’s use in this condition. The exact mechanism in which it works is unknown, but it’s believed that it relaxes the smooth muscles present in the penis by increasing the release of nitric oxide. Panax ginseng also possess adaptogenic properties which are useful in males with chronic fatigue and stress.

Other herbs which may prove useful include tribulus, ginkgo, saw palmetto and damiana.

Things to remember

  • Erectile dysfunction is common, especially as males get older
  • There are many different causes and sometimes these occur in combination
  • Weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and eating a balanced diet can assist in erectile dysfunction
  • Supplements such as antioxidants, pycnogenol, L-arginine and panax ginseng may be helpful as natural alternatives

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References

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/erectile-dysfunction

https://andrologyaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/Factsheet_ErectileDysfunction.pdf

Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Esposito K, et al. Dietary factors, Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction. J Sex Med. 2010 Jul;7(7):2338-45

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20487239

Stanislavov R, Nikolova V. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun;29(3):207-13

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12851125

Azadzoi KM, et al. Oxidative stress in arteriogenic erectile dysfunction: prophylactic role of antioxidants. J Urol. 2005 Jul;174(1):386-93

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15947695

Jang DJ, et al. Red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction: a systematic review. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;66(4):444-50

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18754850

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