ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
International Men’s Health Week aims to increase awareness of men’s health issues, and one of the most distressing of these is erectile dysfunction. Also known as ED, it’s estimated to affect around half of all men in the UK between the ages of 40 and 70, according to the NHS, but it can affect younger men too. Because many men are reluctant to discuss the condition, it’s probably more widespread than this.
At Embracing Nutrition we believe it’s important to make sure no health issue is overlooked. Here you’ll discover what can cause this distressing condition and how it can be treated naturally.
Men suffering from erectile dysfunction have problems having or maintaining an erection, and may experience reduced sexual desire. It’s not uncommon to have issues connected with erections from time to time, but if the problem persists it’s worth looking for a cause so this can be addressed.
One of the main reasons ED occurs is because the blood vessels supplying the penis become narrowed. Cells lining these blood vessels are called endothelial cells. They regulate the diameter of blood vessels and the amount of blood flowing through them. Endothelial cells produce a substance called nitric oxide, essential for producing and maintaining an erection. If your endothelial cells aren’t healthy and don’t produce enough nitric oxide, you’re more likely to suffer from ED.
Many factors adversely affect the function of your endothelial cells, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, diabetes and alterations of blood lipids. These together are known as metabolic syndrome.
ED can be related to hormonal imbalances, too, particularly a drop in testosterone. This male hormone seems to dilate blood vessels and boost nitric oxide levels. ED is connected with elevated levels of oestrogen, too. Although more commonly connected with women, oestrogen is naturally produced in small amounts by men. But too much oestrogen can block the action of testosterone.
ED can also be caused by injury or surgery to your penis, and it may be related to anxiety, depression, stress, sleep disorders or relationship issues.
The condition is famously managed by the prescription drug Viagra. This works by helping the blood vessels in the penis sustain an erection, but it doesn’t fix the reason why the problem is there in the first place.
Your penis can’t be looked at as an isolated organ. It’s affected by the health of the rest of your body, so a whole-body approach works best when supporting ED.
Ditching sugar and processed foods, while increasing the amount of plant-based foods in your diet helps your body regulate your blood sugar more efficiently. Overcoming insulin resistance will help you lose weight, too. If you are carrying excess weight, particularly around your belly, you’re more likely to have low testosterone and elevated oestrogen.
Alcohol has a depressant effect and has been linked with ED. It reduces your liver’s ability to detox oestrogen, so levels build up, and it encourages the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen, again boosting oestrogen levels.
If you’re physically inactive, your testosterone will tend to be low. Exercise improves blood flow around the whole body, decreases blood pressure, improves mood, and weight-bearing exercises even increase testosterone.
If you’re constantly stressed and your body is busy producing stress hormones, it won’t prioritise making testosterone.
Good sleep is necessary for healthy levels of testosterone – if you’re not sleeping well, your testosterone levels will decrease, because most of your testosterone is manufactured while you’re asleep.
Studies have found diets rich in antioxidants reduce ED 1. This should come as no surprise because these compounds support the health of the endothelial cells lining your blood vessels. Colourful plant-based foods, especially berry fruits, are rich in antioxidants.
Panax Ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, has been found in research to improve cases of ED 2.
Arginine is a naturally-occurring amino acid derived from protein which can assist in the production of nitric oxide, encouraging blood vessels to dilate. Research has discovered many men with ED have low arginine levels.
Important nutrients in relation to ED include zinc, vitamin D and anti-inflammatory Omega 3 oils which help maintain healthy blood lipids.
Functional medicine believes in finding the causes of ill health, not masking them by taking a pill. Appropriate tests can examine your metabolic health and your hormone levels, and detect any nutritional deficiencies contributing to your health issues. You’ll then be recommended dietary, supplement and lifestyle strategies to support the health of your entire body and help you reach your health goals. Contact Embracing Nutrition to start your journey to overcoming erectile dysfunction.
Do you need personalised support for erectile dysfunction? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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