Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability to get or keep an erection for sexual intercourse. Once thought to be a psychological problem, ED has since been shown to be much more of a physical issue. However, psychological factors can sometimes come into play as well, compounding the problem.
Diseases of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems account for almost 50 percent of all ED cases. This includes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, and high blood pressure. In fact, erectile dysfunction is often a red flag for many underlying health problems, including diabetes, neurological diseases, hormone imbalances, BPH, sleep apnea, COPD, and depression.
The Best Diet for Sexual Health
Diet is important for the prevention and treatment of ED. A review of four clinical trials of men with ED found a Mediterranean diet to be effective in preventing ED and preserving sexual function. Another study of men with erectile dysfunction and metabolic syndrome (elevated blood glucose, excess body fat around the waist, high blood pressure, and abnormal triglyceride levels) found that the Mediterranean diet improved the quality of erections.
Regular exercise also improves pelvic blood flow. A longitudinal study found that older men who are physically active have fewer erectile difficulties and enjoy sex more often.
Related: 6 Foods That Boost Libido
Supplements for Better Blood Flow
L-arginine, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as red meat, soy, and dairy products, is a precursor to the compound nitric oxide (NO), which causes smooth muscle relaxation and blood vessel dilation in the penile tissues. Some studies show that L-arginine results in beneficial effects (2,800–6,000 mg daily), although it seems to work better when combined with Pycnogenol.
Studies show that a combination of Pycnogenol and L-arginine can help improve erectile function, increase duration of erection, and decrease time to achieve an erection. In a 3-month study, 1,700 mg of L-arginine and 120 mg of Pycnogenol per day enabled 92.5 percent of participants to experience a normal erection.
L-citrulline increases L-arginine blood levels. In a small study, L-citrulline was shown to improve erectile function. Take 500 mg three times daily on an empty stomach.
Korean red ginseng was shown to improve erectile function in a study from the International Journal of Impotence Research. And a review of seven randomized controlled trials found that Korean red ginseng is effective in the treatment of ED. Ginseng has been shown to increase NO synthesis, which would explain its benefit for ED. Doses used in studies vary from 1,800 to 2,700 mg daily, or 300 mg daily of concentrated standardized extracts.