Erectile Dysfunction: The Science Behind Nutritional Supplements for ED

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Along with providing information on whether Erectile Dysfunction supplements might be right for you, this article also links to Fullscript where you can buy supplements for Erectile Dysfunction through Fullscript’s secure healthcare formulary and get free shipping and 20% off the retail price of professional-grade supplements.

Curious about how nutritional supplements might improve erectile dysfunction? You’re not alone. Many people explore natural remedies to enhance their sexual health and performance. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of nutritional supplements for addressing erectile dysfunction, shedding light on their effectiveness and considerations for incorporating them into your wellness routine.

As men age, concerns with fertility and sexual health arise. Prevalence of erectile dysfunction increases with age, with about 20% before age 30, 25% between age 30 to 39, 40% between age 40 to 49, 60% between age 50 to 59, 80% between age 60 to 69, and 90% above age 70. [PMID: 30833150] ED is greatly increased in people with diabetes and heart conditions.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can deeply affect many people’s lives, making understanding its causes essential for effective management and treatment. Symptoms of ED often include difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, reduced sexual desire, and stress or anxiety related to sexual performance. Several factors can lead to ED, from physical issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, which may reduce blood flow to the penis, to psychological concerns such as stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems. Hormonal imbalances, nerve damage, and certain medications also contribute to the condition. Identifying the root causes is key to crafting a tailored treatment plan. If you are experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction, seeking advice from a healthcare professional can help determine the causes and suitable interventions.

What Food and Lifestyle Factors Are Important For Managing Erectile Dysfunction?

  • Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats supports cardiovascular health, crucial for erectile function. These foods provide essential nutrients and antioxidants that promote blood vessel health and hormone production, contributing to better sexual function.
    • Consume Nitrate-Rich Foods: High nitrate foods, such as beets, spinach, and arugula, are important for supporting erectile function as they help increase nitric oxide levels in the body, enhancing blood flow.
  • Avoid Mouthwash: Mouthwash can reduce nitric oxide production by eliminating oral bacteria that help convert nitrates into nitric oxide, a compound essential for erectile function.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity improves circulation, reduces the risk of conditions like obesity and diabetes, and promotes the release of endorphins, which can reduce stress and anxiety, all beneficial for erectile function.
  • Stress Management: Techniques like meditation and yoga can reduce stress levels, promoting relaxation and improving sexual and overall health.
  • Alcohol and Smoking: Limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking can help improve blood circulation, reduce damage to blood vessels, and lower the risk of erectile dysfunction.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which are associated with erectile dysfunction.
  • Management of Underlying Health Conditions: Managing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol through medication and lifestyle changes can improve erectile function and overall health.

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article aims to offer valuable insights into which nutritional supplements have undergone scientific study and shown promise in supporting specific health conditions. We break down the research, so you can work with your medical providers to make informed decisions about adding supplements to your health regimen. For personalized advice tailored to your needs, we recommend consulting with a registered dietitian in addition to your primary care provider.

Check with your physician when adding supplements. While supplements are generally safe for most people, do not add nutritional supplements without your physician’s specific approval if you are pregnant or nursing, are undergoing cancer treatment, have a history of organ transplant, liver or kidney disease, or take medications that interact with supplements.

  • Arginine: L-arginine is an amino acid that plays a role in the production of nitric oxide, a compound that helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. Some studies have suggested that L-arginine supplements may benefit men with ED by enhancing blood circulation. [PMC8995264] Research dose was 5000 mg once per day for a minimum of 6 weeks [PMID: 31326304] [PMID: 30770070]
  • Pycnogenol: Pycnogenol is a natural extract from the bark of French maritime pine trees. It contains antioxidants and has been studied for its ability to improve erectile function in men with ED. [PMID: 31855055] A research dose of 100 mg was used with a 45% reduction in ED in men with diabetes and 20% reduction in non-diabetic men.
  • Ginseng: Panax ginseng, often referred to as Korean ginseng, has been studied for its ability to improve erectile function. Korean ginseng berry extract was found to be effective for erectile dysfunction. [PMC8451697] On the other hand, it should be noted that a review of studies on other types of “ginseng may only have trivial effects on erectile function or satisfaction with intercourse compared to placebo”. [PMC8094213]
  • Tribulus: Tribulus terrestris is an herbal remedy that has been explored for its ability to boost testosterone levels, which can have an impact on sexual function. The usual research dose is 750 mg per day for 3 months. [PMID: 30253697] A Testosterone test (affiliate link) can be ordered in the NutriScape Lab Shop.
  • DHEA: DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is available as a supplement. Some research has explored the use of DHEA for improving ED, especially in persons with low DHEA levels. [PMC6119841] DHEA dosages should be adjusted based on level. A DHEA-S test (affiliate link) can be ordered in the NutriScape Lab Shop.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is an herbal supplement that may help improve blood flow. Some studies have explored its use for enhancing sexual function and treating ED. Ginkgo biloba was effective for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. [PMID: 9611693]
  • Multivitamin: A quality multivitamin should contain zinc and vitamin D among other nutrients.
    • Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in various bodily functions, including sexual health. Ensuring sufficient zinc intake may be important for overall reproductive function. A population study found that zinc and other trace metal intake was associated with erectile dysfunction. [PMC9668876]
    • Vitamin D: Emerging research has linked vitamin D deficiency to ED. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure or supplements is recommended. [PMC10295993] Vitamin D dosages should be adjusted based on your blood level with many clinicians recommending an optimal Vitamin D level of 50-80 ng/ml. Vitamin D labs can be ordered online through the NutriScape Lab Shop (Affiliate Link).
  • Maca Root: Maca is a plant native to Peru, and its root has been traditionally used to enhance sexual function. Some studies suggest that maca may help improve sexual desire and performance. However, there are concerns about possible changes in the chemistry of the plants now being grown outside of traditional locations in the Andes mountains. [PMID: 28811221] Typical research dose: 1500-2400 mg, total per day, minimum 8 weeks [PMID: 12472620][PMID: 19260845]
  • Other Supplements that may have effects:
    • Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium): Horny goat weed is an herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its aphrodisiac properties. It is believed to enhance sexual function by increasing blood flow. Effective in animal studies as a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibiting effects and may have neurotrophic effects as well. [PMC3551978]
    • Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb studied for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to ED, has also shown promise in improving sexual functioning and increasing testosterone levels in men, as demonstrated in an 8-week study with 50 participants. PMC9297375
    • Saffron: Saffron is a spice derived from the Crocus sativus flower. Some studies have suggested that saffron may improve sexual function and reduce ED symptoms. PMC5987435
    • L-Citrulline: L-citrulline is an amino acid that may help relax blood vessels and improve blood flow. It is sometimes used in conjunction with L-arginine for ED. PMID: 28178400
    • Tongkat Ali: Tongkat Ali, which is also known as Eurycoma Longifolia, is an herbal remedy that has been studied for its ability to increase testosterone levels and improve sexual function. PMC3669033
    • Yohimbe: Yohimbe is an herbal supplement derived from the bark of the yohimbe tree. Some studies have suggested that it may help improve erectile function, but it can have side effects and should be used with caution. A usual research dose of 6 mg is used in studies. [PMC9612744]

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  • How It Works:
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Supplement Safety Information

Studies have consistently shown that Arginine, Pycnogenol, Ginseng, Tribulus, DHEA, Ginkgo Biloba, Multivitamins, Zinc, Vitamin D, Maca Root, Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium), Ashwagandha, Saffron, L-Citrulline, Tongkat Ali, and Yohimbe are safe when taken as recommended. These supplements have been associated with various health benefits, including improved blood flow, hormone balance, and overall sexual function, which can contribute to managing erectile dysfunction. Additionally, purchasing supplements from reputable sources ensures quality and purity, further enhancing their safety profile.

Medication Interactions:

  • Nitrates (Nitroglycerin, Isosorbide): Taking supplements like L-arginine alongside nitrates can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure, as both substances work to relax blood vessels.
  • Alpha-Blockers (Tamsulosin, Doxazosin): Combining alpha-blockers with supplements such as Ginseng or Yohimbe may lead to an increased risk of low blood pressure and dizziness due to their blood pressure-lowering effects.
  • Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) Inhibitors (Sildenafil, Tadalafil): Using supplements like Horny Goat Weed or Tongkat Ali along with PDE5 inhibitors can amplify the effects of these medications, leading to excessively low blood pressure and other adverse reactions.
  • Anticoagulants (Warfarin, Heparin): Interactions between anticoagulants and supplements such as Ginkgo Biloba or Ginseng can increase the risk of bleeding, as these supplements have blood-thinning properties that may potentiate the effects of anticoagulant medications.
  • Antidepressants (SSRIs, SNRIs): Combining certain antidepressants with supplements like St. John’s Wort or Ginkgo Biloba may interfere with the metabolism of these medications, possibly reducing their effectiveness or increasing the risk of side effects.
  • Antihypertensives (Beta-Blockers, Calcium Channel Blockers): Taking supplements such as L-arginine or Ginseng alongside antihypertensive medications may lead to an additive effect on blood pressure reduction, increasing the risk of hypotension.
  • Diuretics (Hydrochlorothiazide, Furosemide): Supplements like Tribulus or Yohimbe may enhance the diuretic effects of these medications, leading to excessive fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Diabetes Medications (Insulin, Metformin): Some supplements, such as Ginseng or Maca Root, may affect blood sugar levels and could interact with diabetes medications, necessitating adjustments in dosage to avoid hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.

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Supplement Interactions:

  • L-arginine: When taken with Pycnogenol, L-arginine may enhance its vasodilatory effects, improving blood flow and erectile function.
  • Pycnogenol: Combining Pycnogenol with Ginseng may result in synergistic effects, and can boost their respective abilities to improve erectile function through antioxidant and vasodilatory mechanisms.
  • Ginseng: Using Ginseng alongside Tribulus could enhance their combined effects on testosterone levels, which may indirectly improve erectile function.
  • Tribulus: When taken with Maca Root, Tribulus may work synergistically to support hormonal balance and sexual function, could enhance the benefits for persons with erectile dysfunction.
  • DHEA: Combining DHEA with L-Citrulline may have additive effects on nitric oxide production, which could improve blood flow and erectile function.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Taking Ginkgo Biloba alongside Ashwagandha may help address both physiological and psychological aspects of erectile dysfunction, possibly leading to improved sexual function.
  • Multivitamin: Including Zinc and Vitamin D in a multivitamin may support overall sexual health and function by addressing possible nutrient deficiencies that could contribute to erectile dysfunction.
  • Zinc: Combining Zinc with Vitamin D may have synergistic effects on testosterone production and immune function, both of which are important for sexual health.
  • Vitamin D: When taken alongside Maca Root, Vitamin D may support the hormonal balance necessary for optimal sexual function, possibly enhancing the effects of both supplements.
  • Maca Root: Using Maca Root in conjunction with Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium) may provide complementary benefits for erectile function, as both supplements are traditionally used to enhance sexual performance and desire.

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

What Lab Tests Might Be Helpful In Managing Erectile Dysfunction?

  • Testosterone Levels: Testosterone is crucial for maintaining sexual function in men. Low levels of testosterone can contribute to ED. A blood test can measure total testosterone levels, as well as free testosterone levels, which are more indicative of bioavailable testosterone.
  • Blood Glucose Levels: High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to ED. Checking fasting blood glucose levels or conducting an oral glucose tolerance test can help assess diabetes risk and management.
  • Lipid Profile: High cholesterol levels and abnormal lipid profiles can contribute to cardiovascular disease, which is a common underlying cause of ED. A lipid profile test measures levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and other lipids in the blood.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can affect hormone levels and metabolism, contributing to ED. Thyroid function tests, including TSH, T3, and T4 levels, can help diagnose and manage thyroid disorders.
  • Hormone Panel: In addition to testosterone, other hormones such as prolactin, estradiol, and DHEA-S may influence sexual function. A hormone panel can provide a comprehensive assessment of hormone levels and hormonal imbalances.
  • Penile Doppler Ultrasound: This imaging test evaluates blood flow to the penis and can help diagnose vascular causes of ED, such as arterial insufficiency or venous leakage.
  • Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT) Test: This test measures spontaneous erections that occur during sleep, which can help determine whether ED is primarily due to psychological or physical factors.
  • Psychological Assessment: While not a lab test, psychological evaluations by a mental health professional can be helpful in identifying and addressing psychological factors contributing to ED, such as anxiety, depression, or relationship issues.

To Sum It Up

Arginine, Pycnogenol, Ginseng, Tribulus, DHEA, Ginkgo Biloba, Multivitamins, Zinc, Vitamin D, Maca Root, Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium), Ashwagandha, Saffron, L-Citrulline, Tongkat Ali, and Yohimbe offer health benefits for managing erectile dysfunction. These supplements have been linked to improved blood flow, hormone balance, and overall sexual function, which can contribute to enhanced sexual performance and satisfaction. It’s important to choose high-quality supplements and monitor for any adverse effects while incorporating them into your routine.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

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