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Erectile Dysfunction
Lifestyle & Health Factors

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is when a man has trouble getting an erection, difficulty keeping an erection and/or reduced sexual desire. ED was formerly called impotence and affects 85% of men through purely physical based reasons while 15% are psychological (often based on stress) and only 5% are due to low testosterone levels. About one in ten men has erectile dysfunction or some degree of impotence at some point in their lives.

ED is not always considered a medical issue unless a man experiences these issues 75% of the time he attempts to achieve an erection for a minimum of 6 months. As most ED has a physical cause it is important to examine the cause as it typically is a signal that there are other physical issues that need to be addressed. Diseases such as prostate cancer, diabetes and even prostate enlargement can contribute to ED. In addition, certain drugs can also prevent the proper blood flow to the penis as well as impact the functioning of nerve endings and impulses.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

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Lifestyle Changes That Can Positively Impact ED

There are several studies that have shown that simple changes to lifestyle can drastically decrease erectile dysfunction and even completely reverse it. Remember that the body, mind and spirit connection are all going to have impact on your health and sexual functioning so address all aspects of your health not just one for optimal sexual functioning. Below are ways that you can improve your health and sexual functioning-

  • Stop Smoking

    Smoking is certainly a contributor to issues of ED as it negatively affects the nervous, vascular and endocrine systems which affect the brain, spine, nerves, blood flow and hormones. When these systems are in optimal condition they all help to provide functioning to the penile tissues through muscle control and blood engorgement. Men who quit smoking that have health issues from their unhealthy habit are often able to partially or fully restore their ability to achieve an erection.

  • Control & Reverse Diabetes

    Diabetes in most cases is reversible through changes in nutritional intake, therefore, many men with diabetes will find that simply eating healthier will help to control their diabetes as well as any ED issues that arise from complications due to this disease. Diabetes affects penile functioning by causing harm to the nerve endings and arteries that provide blood flow for erections. Men who have diabetes are two to five times more likely to experience ED and with 50% of men over the age of 70 receiving the diagnosis of diabetes it is something that will be an issue for many. Diet, exercise, and insulin therapy will be key in treating diabetes as well as ED that is caused by it. We highly recommend the book The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes by Dr. Joel Fuhrman for more information.

  • Reduce Cholesterol

    Having high cholesterol puts a man at risk for a variety of health issues and certainly can negatively impact erectile ability. High cholesterol destroys the walls of your veins by making the hardened, narrow and even blocking them. This is one of the reasons that a man should always seek medical advice when they have ongoing ED as it could be an indicator of a more pressing health crisis that needs to be addressed right away due to the life threatening complications that can arise.

    Make sure to get a CRP test if this is of concern. Unlike other heart tests, the C-reactive protein (CRP) test measures inflammation, as opposed to fats or cholesterol and may be something to have tested in addition to cholesterol testing. A CRP test can be used to evaluate the risk of the arteries of your heart becoming narrowed (coronary artery disease) which can eventually lead to a heart attack.

  • Avoid Substance Abuse

    Both prescription and illicit drugs can impact a man's ability to achieve an erection. A staggering statistic is that 80% of men who have chronic alcohol abuse issues also have ongoing issues with ED. If you struggle with substance abuse or are concerned about the contraindications of the prescriptions you are taking, make sure to meet with your physician to review what options and help is available to you. We recommend meeting with an integrative (holistic) physician that may also be able to provide resources such as acupuncture, massage and herbal remedies that will help you address these issues.

  • Lose Weight

    Another contributor to ED is excess weight as it impacts a variety of health issues. The American Urological Association found that those men who were overweight and had a 42 inch waist had twice as much chance as having ED as a man who had a 32 inch waist. If you want to lose weight, eat healthy and not diet or count calories, we recommend the books Eat For Health and The End of Dieting by Dr. Joel Fuhrman for more information.

  • Exercise

    Exercise can dramatically improve issues with ED by allowing for improved muscle control, blood flow and physical ability. Simply doing more activity during a day is a great place to start with walks and even yoga which helps to improve flexibility and cardiovascular functioning.

  • Reduce Stress & Anxiety

    Stress and anxiety are two of the leading psychological causes of temporary ED and finding ways to reduce stress are important. Also, do not overlook the body and mind connection and realize that nutritional deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. Supplements like magnesium, amino acids such as L-Serine and L-Theanine can be beneficial. One way to determine if you are nutritionally deficient is to have a micronutrient panel done where your blood work is examined for what you may not be getting enough of in your diet. Also find ways to de-stress through meditation, get adequate sleep, decrease caffeine consumption and even spend time outdoors in nature away from emails, cell phones, etc. Another great way to reduce stress is to have physical contact without sex. Human contact provides an oxytocin release in the body so simple hugs and stroking another person can be highly advantageous to stress reduction and your health.


The best way you can tackle any health issue is to start with nutrition. Most people are nutritionally starving and ailments are likely to follow, including psychological distress. A great book to start with is Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Super Immunity for more information on nutrition. Here are some basic tips below-

  • Garlic, ginseng and parsley can help those with erectile dysfunction.

  • When testosterone is low, the sex drive is also generally low and can result in disorders like inhibited ejaculation (or anorgasmia). Too many toxins can also lead to imbalanced thyroxine and prolactin levels, which can also lead to inhibited ejaculation. This is why a clean diet is so important.

  • Watch your caffeine intake as stimulants such as caffeine can cause the constriction of the smooth muscle that must dilate before an erection can occur making it more difficult to achieve an erection.

  • Taking supplements such as zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, flaxseed, arginine, and bioflavonoids can help address ED.

  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may promote increases in low testosterone.

Alternative Medicine

  • For erectile dysfunction men are recommended energy tonics when using Ayurvedic medicine which include Kapikacchu (Macuna pruriens) as well as ashwaganda, shatavari bala, cuscuta and licorice.

  • A Chinese herb for that aids with erectile dysfunction, increases sex drive, prevents premature ejaculation and builds sperm is called Kan Wei Ling (a.k.a.: Excessively Limp Efficacious Remedy). It contains 30% of tang kuei, paeonia and licorice and 10% dried centipede.

  • Acupuncture is also helpful, make sure to check out are article on sexuality and acupuncture for more information.
Improve Penile Health

There are products that you can use to improve blood flow to your penis.
See more about Erectile Dysfunction Products here


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