Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to produce and keep an erection. The condition can affect men of all ages, but it becomes more common with age. ED is a personal issue that men may find embarrassing, but fortunately, there are several ways to help the condition.
While many men experience it at some point in their lives, they may not know why it happens to them or what they can do about it.
Let’s look at some root causes and solutions to this condition to understand better why it may be happening to you and what you can do about it. (1)
What Are Root Causes of Erectile Dysfunction?
Although medications can be helpful in treating prescribed conditions, some can also cause issues with libido and erection.
Many medications can decrease blood flow to the penis, making achieving an erection difficult. Here are some common medications and their effects on male genitalia.
Antidepressants affect serotonin levels, meaning they are a common cause of sexual dysfunction. Serotonin decreases feelings of anxiety and depression, but too much serotonin may inhibit your sex drive and make it harder to experience sexual pleasure. As serotonin increases, dopamine levels decrease. With less dopamine in the body, a person may find it difficult to become sexually aroused. (2)
Antihistamines are vasopressors, meaning they slow blood flow. In addition to causing brain fog or tiredness, antihistamines can cause ED by reducing blood flow to the penis. (3)
Blood pressure medication can damage blood vessels over time, limiting blood flow to the penis. High blood pressure itself can reduce sexual desire and interfere with ejaculation, but medication for the condition can increase the chances of experiencing ED even more. Diuretics, which are often given to help control high blood pressure, can decrease blood flow to the penis and deplete zinc levels. Zinc is necessary to make testosterone, an important hormone for sexual desire. Diuretics and blood pressure medication force your kidneys to get rid of more water from your body. If that happens, it can decrease the amount of blood circulating, leading to ED. (4, 5)
Muscle relaxers have sedative properties that can lessen sexual excitement, interest, and sensation. They can also interfere with testosterone production. (6)
Mental health issues
Anxiety, depression, and stress affect how your brain signals your body’s physical response and can interrupt how your brain sends messages to your body. When the brain is under unhealthy stress, cortisol is released, which decreases the amount of testosterone your body makes. (7, 8)
Some mental health issues are connected to an imbalance in your gut flora. Your gut contains millions of neurons that help communicate with your brain. When bad bacteria outweighs the good, it can contribute to anxiety and depression, and in turn ED. (9)
If mental health issues lead to ED, that can cause more anxiety, depression, and stress in a vicious cycle. Mental health care is vital to reducing the occurrence of ED.
Parasites wreck havoc on the body. You may experience many symptoms, especially when eggs lodge in the genital tract. Parasites can cause abdominal and pelvic pain, blood in urine, difficulty urinating, ED, inflammation of the genital tissues, and painful erection.
Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria found in ticks that causes Lyme disease, also affects blood flow to the penis. It can also cause muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and weakness, adding to the inability to have an erection. However, more research is needed because all effects of Lyme disease aren’t yet known. (10)
Today’s environment is laced with heavy metals, radioactivity, pesticides, and toxic fumes that may contribute to ED. Radiation and excessive heat to the genitalia can damage the testicles. Individuals exposed to such chemicals have high chances of infertility and ED. (11)
Glyphosate is the major compound in pesticides and can cause irreparable damage to the tissues of the body. When tissues are damaged and there is a reduction of blood flow, ED can result. In addition, heavy metals like arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead, and nickel are also in pesticides, and exposure can contribute to tissue damage and reduced blood flow to the genitalia. (12)
ED can be an early warning sign of current or future heart problems. Likewise, if you have heart disease, getting the right treatment might help combat the vascular conditions that can cause ED. (13)
Atherosclerosis is when your arteries narrow and your blood vessels are not able to dilate properly. When cholesterol builds up in the blood vessel walls and forms plaque, the vessels narrow and slow down blood flow, leading to ED. (14)
Diabetes causes damage to nerves and blood vessels from poor long-term blood sugar control. ED can also be linked to conditions common in men with diabetes, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. ED might occur earlier in men with diabetes than in men without the disease, so treatment is vital to controlling these effects. (15)
High blood pressure is a major cause of ED. High blood pressure keeps the arteries that carry blood into the penis from dilating the way they're supposed to. It also makes the smooth muscle in the penis lose its ability to relax. As a result, not enough blood flows into the penis to make it erect. As already covered, drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and diuretics, can also trigger ED issues. (16)
What Are Natural Solutions for Erectile Dysfunction?
Acupuncture can be a helpful tool because it reduces stress, increases blood flow, and increases serotonin levels for better sleep. Plus, acupuncture treatment can increase nerve sensation, unblock energy, and restore proper blood flow to the sexual organs. (17)
Nature has provided some impressive compounds to help remove toxins that are hindering healthy body function. Carbon-based binders, which consist of select extracts of humic and fulvic acid, can help bind onto toxins like glyphosate and pull them out of your body. Plus, these natural compounds can also help nourish the gut in the process. (18, 19, 20)
No matter the reason for ED, some exercises can help. Pelvic and Kegel exercises can improve the strength of your pelvic floor and increase blood flow to the genitals. Ask your healthcare practitioner for specific exercises that are safe and effective. (21)
Ginseng has the potential benefit of improving cardiovascular risk factors that can cause ED. In addition, ginseng is a natural sexual enhancer and can increase blood flow to the genitals, making it easier to achieve and maintain an erection. (22)
Healthy whole foods
Fruits and vegetables such as berries, broccoli, carrots, kale, spinach, tomatoes, and watermelon are rich in antioxidants with numerous health benefits, including cancer prevention.
A diet rich in antioxidants also increases your body’s production of nitric oxide and prevents its breakdown. Nitric oxide is essential for erectile function — it helps to relax blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow to the penis. (23)
The risk for long-term ED is linked to heavy use of alcohol. Studies show that men dependent on alcohol have a 60 to 70 percent chance of suffering from sexual problems. The most common of these are ED, premature ejaculation, and loss of sexual desire. (24)
As already mentioned, pathogens like parasites can contribute to ED. Many herbs kill parasites naturally, and they often have several other health benefits. You can add five top parasite-killing herbs in your arsenal: clove, holarrhena, neem, triphala, and vidanga. You may also look to lower sugar intake alongside these herbs for an effective parasite cleanse. (25)
Plant sterols are found naturally in fruits, grains, nuts, vegetables, and vegetable oils. They partly block cholesterol absorption so that dietary cholesterol can be removed as waste. This lowers blood levels of LDL cholesterol without affecting HDL (or good) cholesterol.
Plus, as explained earlier, ED and high cholesterol frequently go hand in hand. Plant sterols can lower your cholesterol and increase blood flow. This reduces the chances of experiencing ED. (26)
Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants and increases blood supply. Nitrates are also a reason why pomegranate juice can help to improve sexual performance. The nutrients in the juice improve blood circulation to the genitals, which leads to a better erection. But if you are taking medication for ED, speak to your healthcare practitioner before drinking pomegranate juice, as it may interact with the medication and do more harm than good. (27)
Smoking is a leading cause of ED in the U.S. Toxic chemicals from the inhaled smoke can damage blood vessels and result in decreased blood flow to the penis.
Studies show a strong association between the intensity of cigarette smoking and the degree of ED. Smoking decreases oxygen levels and blood flow, increasing your chances of experiencing ED. (28)
Fatigue from insufficient sleep can worsen ED. In particular, research has found a direct link between ED and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea interferes with oxygen delivery, as well as lowers testosterone. Work with your healthcare practitioner to discuss treatment if you believe your sleep is interrupted due to sleep apnea symptoms. (29, 30)
An Overview of Erectile Dysfunction
When your testosterone levels decrease, your desire for sex also decreases. However, testosterone treatment has not been shown to improve erections in men if ED is their only symptom.
ED is almost always caused by low blood flow to the penis. This results from other conditions, such as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Low testosterone may affect the desire for sex, but it rarely causes ED. (31)
There are many causes of ED. But by focusing on foundational health from the inside out, you can address the condition’s root cause. Healthy eating, proper rest and exercise, and the elimination of pathogens and toxins can heal your body for full capabilities. (32)