by Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Author, Eating for Energy
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is when a man can't get and keep an erection long enough to have sex on at least 50% of tries. Most men have ED every once in a while or for short periods of time. About 34% of men in Canada have ED regularly. ED is most common in men over the age of 65, though it can occur in middle-aged and younger men. It often has a cause that can be treated.
ED can occur when something prevents your body from producing an erection. Such obstacles can arise at the level of the brain and nervous system, as well as, in the blood vessels in the penis and pelvic area.
It should be noted that ED that happens every now and then may be caused by drinking too much alcohol or by feeling over-tired. However, ED that happens more often may have a physical cause – this is the case in about half of the men with ED.
The main physical causes of ED include habits and diseases that damage the blood vessels. This damage can block the flow of blood into the penis, which subsequently impairs its ability to function properly.
Physical causes include alcohol, smoking (and most drugs), cardiovascular issues such as atherosclerosis, endocrine disorders such diabetes and hypothyroidism, and neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
To boot, psychological factors also play a big role in ED. For instance, stress has a vasoconstricting effect (or narrowing effect on the arteries), which reduces the blood flow to the penis. Aside from stress, other mental/emotional causes include feeling nervous about sex (perhaps because of a past event), being troubled by problems with your partner, feeling depressed or sad, and feeling so self-conscious that you can't enjoy sex.
The key to dealing with the physical causes of ED is to understand that physically it is very much a “cardiovascular issue”. This means that dietary and lifestyle measures should be in place to support your arteries and ensure unimpeded. So with that in mind, here are a number of “natural” tips to prevent or improve ED:
• Decrease alcohol intake – alcohol is a depressant of the nervous system and will thus impair proper nerve transmission to the penis.
• Avoid smoking as it constricts the blood vessels, thus reducing blood flow to where you need it the most.
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants and bioflavonoids promote healthy blood vessels.
• Eat niacin-rich foods (ie. tuna, peanuts, asparagus, avocado) and foods rich in magnesium (ie. cacao and any of the green vegetables) for they dilate the blood vessels, promoting better blood flow.
• Eating sesame seeds and coriander may help as they enhance sexual vigor.
There are also a number of natural supplements that may prove beneficial as well. They include:
• Vitamin B complex – the B vitamins are nervous system supporters and better help your body deal with stress. Improving both of these areas greatly alleviates the pressure on erectile issues.
• Vitamins A, C, E and zinc – powerful antioxidants which minimize free radical damage to the blood vessels.
• Fish or flax seed oil for their omega-3 fatty acids – these healthy fats are “cardio-protective” and powerful anti-inflammatories that improve blood flow.
• Coenzyme Q10 and germanium as they increase the amount of oxygen reaching the body’s cells. Oxygen is the life-blood of the cells and without they cannot function properly. More oxygen also comes with better blood supply to the penile region.
• The amino acid, arginine, as it increases sperm count, sperm motility, and the production of testoterone.
With all of these suggestions it is important to remember that a healthy raw foods diet is truly the best approach to dealing with ED (and pretty much every other condition). So adding one or two supplements won’t make a big difference if your diet and lifestyle choices impose too much stress on your cardiovascular system.
Finally, in addition to eating well, regular exercise and a more empowering mental outlook can be of benefit. Try adding 2-3 days of cardiovascular exercise like running, biking, or cycling to your regime. Also, meditation and visualization are powerful de-stressors (relieving the stress on your reproductive blood vessels) and great for your overall health.
Stadler-Mitrea, L. Pathology and Nutrition: A Guide for Professionals. CSNN Publishing. 2005.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada website:
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