Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence or ED for short, is one of the most common sexual dysfunctions or problems among men. This is the consistent inability to achieve and keep an erect penis firm enough to undertake sexual intercourse. While erectile dysfunction becomes more common as men age, approximately 40% of men have experienced some form of this sexual dysfunction by the age of 40. Nonetheless, ED is considered abnormal regardless of age.
Causes of erectile dysfunction
The majority of erectile dysfunction cases are attributed to existing physical cases such as vascular diseases, which are abnormal conditions that affect the blood vessels. Since blood flow is needed for a successful erection, some vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis can block the blood supply to the penis.
Neurological disorders that inhibit body movements can also cause impotence, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetic neuropathy.
Some cases have psychological causes such as stress and performance anxiety. When a man worries about being unable to please or meet his partner’s expectations during sexual activity, he may experience erectile dysfunction and ultimately manifest his sexual worries.
Though erectile dysfunction is not a severe, life-threatening condition, this can pose a severe impact not only on men’s psychological wellbeing but on their emotional and sexual relationships, affecting the wellbeing of their sexual or life partners as well.
First-line treatments are prescription drugs, specifically PDE5 inhibitors taken orally. Examples of such are sildenafil (Viagra as the most common brand), vardenafil (sold under the trade name Levitra, among others), and tadalafil (such as the Cialis brand). Another treatment option is the use of vacuum erection devices (VEDs), also called penis pumps, which draw blood into the penis to induce erection. As it is very invasive, the last optional resort is penile surgery, wherein implant devices or rods are inserted into the penis. This is only generally recommended for the worst cases.
These treatments, however, can cause complications. Bruising can happen, especially when a constriction band is placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection induced by a vacuum erection device. However, prolonged tightening of the penis caused by the band may lead to permanent damage to the penis. As for penile surgeries, infections can occur both at the surgical site and the implanted device. It is more complicated if the infection is due to the implant itself; total removal might be necessary to disinfect it thoroughly. Repeat surgeries may also happen.
Natural ways to prevent ED
There are natural ways to prevent or treat erectile dysfunction. By living a healthier lifestyle, erectile dysfunction can be prevented or treated without having to undergo invasive treatments like vacuum pumps or penile implants. Erections are delivered by cardiovascular functions, which means a healthy heart is a prerequisite. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can naturally prevent ED.
- Increase physical activity. Lack of regular physical activity negatively impacts erectile function, and various studies demonstrated that physical exercise could improve erectile functioning and other aspects of health. In a study evaluating the link between exercise tolerance and the severity of erectile dysfunction in male test subjects with coronary heart disease and ED, the intervention group underwent physical training for six months, including endurance and resistance training. Research results demonstrated that subjects who exercised had considerably higher exercise tolerance and an increase in the quality of erections. These two parameters were, however, tested separately and are independent of each other.
- Drop excess weight. A 2-year trial studied obese Italian men experiencing erectile dysfunction who sought weight loss intervention. The test group was put on an intensive weight loss program that included exercise advice, a personal trainer, personal counseling on a diet, and routine consultations with a nutritionist. The control group only received general verbal and written guidelines on weight loss at the start of the program and only visited the program every two months. The test group that made significant lifestyle changes in physical activity levels dropped average body weight by 15%. 31% of the subjects had their erectile function restored. The control group who were more sedentary lost just 2% of body weight, and only 5% of the participants regained their erectile function.
- Consider going on a Mediterranean diet. Several studies have found a strong association between erectile dysfunction and heart disease since both conditions have common risk factors such as aging, high blood pressure, and obesity. In other words, there is a greater risk of contracting heart diseases in men with erectile dysfunction. One research study cites considerable evidence that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids, similar to that of the Mediterranean diet, notably decreased the risk of coronary heart disease most especially when done in conjunction with regular physical exercise, avoidance of smoking, and maintaining low, healthy body weight. Similarly, in another study, Mediterranean-style diets with a caloric deficit have been found to improve erectile function in men with metabolic syndrome or various risk factors that occur together, increasing the chances of contracting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Quit smoking. Various studies have shown that smoking cessation improved erectile functioning. In one research study, smoking cessation among long-term male smokers who wish to quit significantly improved the identified physiological measure (i.e., change in penis circumference) and the subjects’ assessment of their sexual health, regardless of the level of their erectile impairment. Another study supports the connection between smoking and erectile dysfunction, showing that former smokers had significantly improved erectile functioning versus current smokers.
Erectile dysfunction can negatively impact men’s sense of wellbeing and damage their sexual and emotional relationships. Medical interventions can be done to avoid these adverse effects, including medicating with PDE5 inhibitors, using vacuum erection devices (VEDs), or as a last resort, penile implants. These medical interventions may cause adverse effects, like bruising after using VED and constriction bands and infections after penile surgery.
Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, managing low, healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet like the Mediterranean-style diet, and regularly exercising the body, can naturally prevent and treat ED without medical interventions.