Sexual dysfunction -- it's the disorder no one wants to talk about, yet according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 43% of men and 31% of women suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction.
Sexual dysfunction is broadly defined as the inability to fully enjoy sexual intercourse. Men experience it as impotence -- it's known technically as erectile dysfunction or ED for short. Women generally experience sexual dysfunction as a loss of libido (sexual drive) and/or the inability or difficulty in achieving an orgasm.
With the escalating rises in heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence) has risen exponentially such that more than 40 million men in the United States and 257 million men worldwide are affected.
Unfortunately, because of the popularity and effectiveness of ED drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, the ED problem has gone "underground" and is being overlooked as a key indicator of impending heart disease and potential heart attacks and strokes.
In addition, most men with diabetes as well as their doctors fail to make the connection between high blood sugar and ED.
Also, what most men don't realize is that eventually the ED drugs lose their effectiveness and they're right back where they started -- with an embarrassing problem and no real solutions.
And, in some cases, they're worse off, because of the damage that these drugs cause to the circulatory system and other parts of the body, e.g. blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, paralysis.
In the case of women, sexual dysfunction is not addressed either because most women are not clinically diagnosed or they have learned to live with the problem.
Recent epidemiologic studies suggest that approximately 10% of men aged 40-70 have severe or complete erectile dysfunction, defined as the total inability to achieve or maintain erections sufficient for sexual performance.
An additional 25% of men in this age category have moderate or intermittent erectile difficulties. The disorder is highly age-dependent, as the combined prevalence of moderate to complete erectile dysfunction rises from approximately 22% at age 40 to 49% by age 70.
Although less common in younger men, erectile dysfunction still affects 5%-10% of men below the age of 40. Findings from these studies show that erectile dysfunction impacts significantly on mood state, interpersonal functioning, and overall quality of life.
It is estimated that at least 40 million American men have erectile dysfunction, and 70% of cases are a result of a potentially deadly condition like atherosclerosis, kidney disease, vascular disease, neurological disease, or diabetes.
A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that about 49% of men ages 40 to 79 with high blood pressure had erectile dysfunction.
Additionally, ED can also be caused by certain medications, surgical injury, and psychological problems.
Given the increase in health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity that cause damage to the cardiovascular system, it's not a surprise that there is an increase in health issues such as erectile dysfunction (ED) in men and sexual dysfunction in women.
These sexual health problems are primarily due to the damage to the artery walls (endothelium layer) which cause insufficient blood flow and poor arterial/venous circulation created by many years of poor eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, fatigue, and stress.
In fact, one in 10 men will suffer from ED at some point in their lives. Because of the connection to manhood, erectile dysfunction poses a serious problem to a man's self esteem.
Among the major risk factors associated with ED are Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and decreased HDL levels. Medications for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and depression may also cause erectile difficulties.
The association between cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction has been recognized and well documented. Indeed, alterations in the vascular hemodynamics (whether, arterial insufficiency or endothelial dysfunction) is believed to be the most common cause of organic erectile dysfunction.
Such vascular disease as myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass surgery, cerebral vascular accidents, peripheral vascular disease and hypertension have all been shown to have a higher incidence of impotence compared to the general population without documented vasculopathies.
Myocardial infarction (MI) and coronary artery bypass surgery have been associated with erectile difficulties in 64% and 57% respectively. Furthermore, in a group of 130 impotent men, the incidence of MI was 8 times higher in men with abnormal penile-brachial indices (PBI) than those with normal PBI (12% vs 1.5%). In men with peripheral vascular disease (PVD), the incidence of erectile dysfunction has been estimated at 80%.
In addition, there is a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction among men who have undergone radiation or surgery for prostate cancer, or who have a lower spinal cord injury or other neurological diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis).
Life style factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle are additional risk factors.
The psychological correlates of erectile dysfunction include anxiety, depression and anger. Despite its increasing prevalence among older men, erectile dysfunction is not considered a normal or inevitable part of the aging process.
As depicted in the following diagram, some of the risk factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED) and cause damage to the small blood vessels and arteries include chronic inflammation, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high homocysteine, high CRP, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure (hypertension), oxidative stress, obesity, and nutrient deficiencies.
Other risk factors associated with ED include genetics, age, diet, lifestyle and ethnicity.
As you may already know by now, there is no single cause for erectile dysfunction (ED). What we do know is that ED can be caused by various medical conditions and lifestyle choices, and it becomes more common as a man ages. As previously mentioned, some of the causes may include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, smoking, and excess alcohol consumption.
Whatever the cause, erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, disheartening, and can have a major effect on your relationship with your partner -- especially because of the multiple root causes.
High blood glucose and high blood pressure are major causes of erectile dysfunction. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that about 71% of men ages 40 to 79 with high blood glucose and/or high blood pressure had erectile dysfunction.
A more recent study of men with high blood pressure, published in the Journal of Urology in 2000, found that 68% of them had some degree of erectile dysfunction. For 45% of the men, it was considered severe.
High blood glucose causes damage to the blood vessels that feed into the eyes, kidneys, feet, heart and brain as well as the penis. This damage prevents the arteries from dilating the way they're supposed to.
Similarly, high blood pressure also keeps the same arteries from dilating. 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.
Men with high blood glucose and/or high blood pressure may also have a low testosterone level. Testosterone is the male hormone that plays a big role in sexual arousal.
High blood glucose or high blood pressure by itself can lead to erectile dysfunction especially if you are clogging your arteries with processed foods, fast foods, fried foods, other high fat foods, and excess animal meat.
In addition, some drugs that are prescribed for treating high blood glucose or high blood pressure can actually cause erectile dysfunction as well.
Diuretics -- or water pills -- and beta-blockers are the high blood pressure drugs most commonly linked to erectile dysfunction.
Diuretics may cause erectile dysfunction by decreasing the force of blood flow into the penis. They may also decrease the amount of zinc in the body. Your body needs zinc to make testosterone.
Beta-blockers dampen the response to nerve impulses that lead to an erection. They also make it more difficult for the arteries in the penis to widen and let in blood. What's more, they can make you feel sedated and depressed -- and the mind always plays some part in sexual arousal.
Sometimes, the choices that some men with high blood pressure make can add to the problem. Smoking, especially, is one of those. Smoking increases blood pressure, and damages blood vessels and reduces blood flow all around the body. Drinking too much alcohol can also be a major contributor.
The power to take control of your blood pressure and your sexual health is in your hands. By changing your diet (to plant-based) and by living a healthy lifestyle (with consistent exercise, less stress, and quality sleep), there's a chance you'll once again be able to have normal sexual function.
The good news is that since the majority of ED cases is due to cardiovascular issues, then, ED can be best addressed with dietary changes and nutritional supplements that improve the cardiovascular system and endothelial function.
Key Point: The real key to successfully treating ED is to determine what is causing the ED; and, then, treat the cause instead of the symptoms. Unfortunately, because of the multiple causes and popularity of the ED drugs, most men prefer the quick fix instead of trying to figure out what is actually causing the problem.
For example, depending on whether the cause is biochemical, hormonal, physical, or psychological will determine the best treatment strategy.
A set of effective nutritional and wellness strategies should focus on reducing the effects of biological processes such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, excess weight gain (belly fat), chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, excess glycation, etc. while reducing plaque formation and improving endothelial function.
A well-designed nutritional program should target specific nutritional deficiencies that address endothelial dysfunction, obesity, nutrient deficiencies, and address other circulatory issues without the need for drugs.
The 4 major natural remedies and treatment strategies for ED include the following:
- Nutritional Strategies
- Nutritional Supplementation Strategies
- Lifestyle Strategies
- Medical Strategies
These strategies can be used separately or you can use a combination of them, based on your specific health needs.
If you or your partner is experiencing erectile dysfunction, lifestyle changes – including diet – can improve the condition.
Avoid the "dead" foods that clog and damage the arteries. Eat foods that contain nutrients which dilate blood vessels, clear out the bloodstream, and maintain arterial health will increase blood flow -- all to combat impotence.
"Super" Foods: Start a nutritional program that nourishes the cardiovascular system, especially the arteries and the thickness of the blood, e.g. vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, plant oils, etc.
To nourish and protect the cardiovascular system, eat green and bright-colored vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, red peppers, and pumpkin for the Vitamin C, chlorophyll, folate.
Eat carotenoid-rich foods such as red peppers, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, and cantaloupe to inhibit the formation of LDL cholesterol.
Eat heart-healthy fats such as avocado, cold-water fish (wild salmon, sardines), and use extra virgin olive oil for the Omega-3s/ monounsaturated fats and to increase absorption of the fat-soluble carotenoids.
Also, eat folate-rich foods such as spinach and lima beans to reduce homocysteine and prevent arterial plaque formation.
Eat foods that help to release nitric oxide that (along with l-arginine) helps to relax the artery walls, e.g. beets, cayenne pepper, garlic, onions, spinach, and walnuts.
Also, consider taking a proteolytic enzyme such as serrapeptase to help break down fibrous proteins associated with arterial plaque and damaged endothelial lining of the artery walls.
Eat foods and nutrients that nourish and protect and the heart and the cardiovascular system, e.g. celery, tomatoes, CoQ10, cayenne, ginger, onions, and garlic.
Raw Juicing: Drink 6 to 8 oz. raw vegetable juice 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner.
"Dead" Foods: avoid the refined and processed foods, especially bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, trans fats, soda, etc.
Smoking and Alcohol: Stop smoking and drinking too much alcohol since nicotine and alcohol cause major damage to the cardiovascular system.
Raw Juicing Reverses Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction
Some foods that help to reverse erectile dysfunction (as well as Type 2 diabetes include the following.
Pomegranate is thought to be one of the most effective foods in treating ED. Studies show that pomegranate can increase blood circulation and reduce stress, improving erectile function.
One study showed that pomegranate juice may be effective on diabetic patients who are suffering from erectile dysfunction. The antioxidants in the juice reduce oxidative stress associated with diabetes, successfully treating ED.
One of the nutrients that pomegranate contains is zinc—a mineral which has been shown to increase blood flow and improve vein and artery health.
Pomegranate juice is also an effective agent in preventing prostate cancer when consumed regularly. It can lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, improving blood flow and heart health.
Garlic contains a unique compound called allicin that is only made available when the garlic is chopped finely, crushed, or juiced. Allicin has a great many benefits including lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, supporting circulatory health, and reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. In other words, allicin increases blood flow—and poor blood circulation is one of the major contributors to erectile dysfunction.
Garlic is widely recognized as a blood purifier. It cleanses the blood of toxins and harmful foreign invaders, allowing more space for oxygen and nutrients to be carried and delivered to the body from the lungs. Organs need the proper oxygen and nutrient supply in order to function at their best—including sexual organs for a healthy erection.
Spinach, kale, collard greens, and mustard greens—these are just a few of the dark leafy green vegetables that contain nitrates to improve ED. Nitrates are vasodilators—meaning, they open up the blood vessels and increase blood flow throughout the body, including to the penis.
Leafy greens are also full of many important vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants. They contain beta-carotene, chlorophyll, vitamin K, and plenty other nutrients which contribute to their cholesterol lowering, vision improving, energy enhancing, and bone strengthening powers.
Beets contain many nutrients important to sexual health. They are an excellent source of nitrates—those vasodilators which open up the blood vessels and increase blood flow. They contain vitamin C, which supports capillary health, and they also provide an energy boost.
Most importantly, beets are widely recognized as an aphrodisiac. Not only do they contain nitrates which increases blood flow to the genitals, but they also contain the important mineral boron, which may boost the production of sexual hormones leading to increased libido and improvement in sperm mobility. So, if you’re looking for a change, juice plenty of beets to reestablish your passion in the bedroom.
However, if you have diabetes (high blood glucose), be wary of beets.
Chili peppers, like cayenne pepper, contain a compound called capsaicin which has blood thinning properties.
Capsaicin increases blood flow because it prevents platelet aggregation—or mini blood clots in the vessels which slow blood flow.
Hot peppers make the body—well—hot. When consumed, they actually increase your body temperature which dilates the blood vessels. So, hot peppers are vasodilators—and vasodilation is an important physical process of a healthy erection.
Tomatoes contain lycopene and magnesium—two important nutrients for healthy blood circulation. Lycopene gives tomatoes their rich red color, but it is also a phytonutrient which increases circulation, thereby improving sexual issues.
Magnesium acts as a natural muscle relaxant and it reduces inflammation in the blood vessels, regulates blood pressure, and improves blood circulation. Magnesium is also proven to improve brain function, lift mood, and cure migraines—not to mention curing anxiety and depression, which are sometimes the culprits behind ED.
Sweet, juicy and refreshing, watermelon makes for a perfect summer snack – but its benefits go far beyond a quick cool-down.
Watermelon contains key nutrients that may help to prevent erectile dysfunction. Lycopene is the pigment that gives watermelon its red color. It also happens to have powerful antioxidant properties which prevent disease and other conditions, like prostate cancer and poor circulation (a culprit in ED).
Lycopene reduces ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, preventing buildup in the arteries and keeping the blood flowing smoothly. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains about 15-20 milligrams of lycopene.
Lycopene can lower blood pressure, decrease hypertension, and reduce inflammation throughout the whole body.
An additional benefit of watermelon is in its electrolyte and water content. Watermelon is approximately 92 percent water and full of electrolytes—essential minerals which maintain fluid balance. Staying hydrated is an important factor in erectile function—the more fluids one consumes, the more seminal fluid one’s body produces.
A sweet and juicy fruit which increases blood flow and keeps you hydrated? You’re headed in the right direction toward preventing impotence and improving your personal life.
But, be careful with sweet fruits if you're diabetic.
The following is a list of various nutrients and supplements that have been identified in various studies to help with ED.
Açai berries: are rich in oleic acid, which helps Omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane, making them more supple.
Arginine: is an amino acid that increases the production of nitric oxide to relax artery walls. Foods rich in the arginine include fish, poultry, dairy, nuts, and dark chocolate. Take with citrulline on an empty stomach for optimum absorption and effectiveness.
Astragalus: strengthens the beating and contraction of the heart, while increasing the level of energy production within heart cells.
Beet juice/powder: contains nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide, which helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering your blood pressure.
Beet juice is a good source of folate and betaine. These nutrients act together to help lower homocysteine, which can increase your risk of heart disease by causing artery-damaging inflammation.
Betaine: is a natural polysaccharide found in beets that can lower homocysteine levels.
Bilberry: is a bioflavonoid with active ingredients similar to those found in grapes and black currants including anti-inflammatory factors, anti-clotting factors, and several properties which result in a collagen-stabilizing effect. This effect strengthens the veins by restoring the surrounding connective tissue sheath, decreasing their fragility and permeability. This helps to prevent blood pooling, clotting, and swelling that can lead to varicose veins and other venous conditions.
Cayenne pepper (capsicum): acts as a circulatory stimulant that produces a speedy reaction in the circulatory system, removing the obstructions by natural evacuations and profuse perspiration; and, helps the arteries, veins and capillaries to regain their elasticity, causing blood pressure to adjust itself to normal.
Cayenne regulates the flow of blood from the head to the feet so that the pressure is equalized. It influences the heart immediately, and then gradually extends its effects to the arteries, capillaries, and nerves (the frequency of the pulse is not increased, but is given more vigor). In equalizing the blood circulation, cayenne produces natural warmth; and in stimulating the peristaltic motion of the intestines, it aids in assimilation and elimination.
Citrulline: is an amino acid that escapes presystemic metabolism and is converted to larginine, thus setting up as a donor for the l-arginine/nitric oxide pathway of penile erection.
Garlic: contains allicin, which enables red blood cells to release hydrogen sulfide to relax artery walls; inhibits red blood cells from sticking together; and, helps break down the buildup of plaque in the arterial walls. Similar to Vitamin E, onions, ginger, and Omega-3s, garlic helps to thin the blood.
Ginger: is known as the “poor man’s aspirin”. Ginger thins the blood, lowers cholesterol and increases blood circulation to help prevent strokes and hardening of the arteries, based on research done at Cornell University Medical College.
Ginger improves and stimulates circulation and relaxes the muscles surrounding blood vessels, facilitating the flow of blood throughout the body. As a circulatory stimulant (for the extremities), it works well with cayenne pepper, a circulatory stimulant (for the heart).
Note: Supplements such as Herbdoc's "Protect" contains garlic, ginger and cayenne. These three herbs provide a powerful combination for boosting the body’s blood flow and circulation.
Ginkgo biloba: contains flavonoids, including quercetin. Gingko acts as an antioxidant, anti-allergen, anti-inflammatory; and, as an oxygen-carrying agent, it increases the blood flow throughout the circulatory system as well as the brain. It may reduce plaque that builds up around artery walls. Ginkgo biloba has been used in the treatment of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and peripheral claudication.
Warning: Ginkgo can increase the risk of bleeding if used in combination with warfarin or antiplatelet agents.
Grapeseed extract: contains a concentration of the oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) found in grape seeds and skins that acts as a smooth muscle relaxant in blood vessels, to combat hypertension. It provides nutrient support to strengthen the walls of small capillaries to prevent capillary leakage in the legs, reducing fluid retention.
Hawthorn berry will increase blood flow and oxygen to the most important muscle in your body -- your heart! Hawthorn has the ability to bind, coat, and protect your heart cells. A healthy heart is less susceptible to heart attacks, but if you do have a heart attack, having healthy heart cells will reduce the amount of scarring and damage that the heart might ordinarily sustain.
Pycnogenol: is a phytonutrient extract taken from French maritime pine bark, that contains oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), a group of powerful antioxidant compounds commonly found in grape seed extract.
OPCs, also called procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial properties that stimulate your immune system, protect against atherosclerosis and prevent certain types of cancers, according to the Sloan-Kettering.
Specifically, the OPCs in pine bark extract (pycnogenol) make blood vessels more elastic and less likely to leak fluids, thus decreasing the leg swelling often associated with varicose veins.
In addition, the flavonoids called catechin and taxifolin in pycnogenol stimulate nitric oxide production in the body, which relaxes your blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure.
A study from the University of Arizona Medical School and the University of Munster, Germany, demonstrated that pycnogenol significantly reduces platelet aggregation—the clumping together of blood cells to form blood clots that cut off blood flow and precipitate heart attacks and strokes.
More recent research found that pycnogenol also helps enhance the production of nitric oxide, a molecule made by the endothelial cells lining the arteries that keeps them open and relaxed, which is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulation.
Research has also found that pycnogenol in combination with l-arginine is an effective natural treatment for erectile dysfunction; and, that taking pycnogenol before, during, and after long flights reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Other studies have shown pycnogenol to boost the effectiveness of vitamin C and other antioxidants; and, provide cardiovascular and diabetes-related benefits.
Note: Pycnogenol is similar in composition to grape seed extract as it provides a similar benefit in strengthening blood vessels.
WARNING: Because many of these supplements can interact with various heart medications, make sure that you consult with your primary care physician and/or cardiologist before adding any of these supplements to your daily nutritional regimen.
KEY POINT: However, first, make sure that you are eating the right foods first to stabilize and lower your blood glucose! If you have have high blood glucose levels, the supplements by themselves won't work!
Exercise: Perform consistent aerobic exercise, 4 to 5 times a week, for 30 to 40 minutes to support healthy heart function.
If you are a beginner, exercise for a few minutes each day and build up to 30 minutes. When starting out, you should plan a routine that is easy to follow and stick with. As the program becomes more routine, you can vary your exercise times and activities.
Use weight resistance training to build muscle and increase HGH and testosteroneproduction.
Stress: Get enough sleep; use yoga/meditation; and, talk to a friend to reduce the stress in your life.
The key to coping with stress is to identify stressors in your life and learn ways to direct and reduce stress. Learning an effective means of relaxation and using it regularly is a good first step. Allow yourself some "quiet time," even if it's just a few minutes.
Talking problems out with a friend or family member can help put things in proper perspective. Seeking professional assistance can help you gain a new perspective on how to manage some of the more difficult forms of stress.
Medical: Ensure that your doctor performs a series of stress tests to better evaluate the health of your heart and cardiovascular system.
Request additional blood tests at least once a year for inflammation markers such as homocysteine, C-reactive protein, lipoprotein (a), fibrinogen.
Check your medications: Some medications can cause ED, including diuretics, antihypertensives, antihistamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and antiepileptic drugs.
If you want to address the underlying biological causes of your erectile dysfunction, (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.) then, get one or more of the following books:
- Death to Diabetes book (Chapters 14, 15)
- Power of Raw Juicing book
- How to Prevent/Recover from a Heart Attack/Stroke ebook
- Wellness Protocols ebook
Also, refer to the Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol web pages for additional natural treatment strategies for the circulatory system; and, take a look at the Death to Diabetes Blog for more information about ED.
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