Erectile dysfunction is marked by low levels of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps the penis muscles relax in order to produce an erection. Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE-5) inhibitors like Viagra stimulate the production of nitric oxide. But not everyone wants to take prescription drugs. So, could you combat erectile dysfunction by supplementing with vitamins?
Whilst no single supplement or vitamin is known to treat erectile dysfunction as successfully as PDE-5 inhibitors, certain supplements and food sources have been shown to be beneficial for overall health and blood flow.
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Studies have demonstrated that vitamin D is important for various body functions and counteracts conditions known to contribute to erectile dysfunction such as hypertension, heart failure, metabolic syndrome and coronary artery disease. A vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction.
Not only does vitamin D regulate proper penile endothelial function, but it also maintains levels of testosterone - the male sexual hormone needed for healthy erections.
According to the Endocrine Society, adults should take up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Foods that are high in vitamin D include fatty fish, cheese and egg yolk.
Zinc is not only useful in boosting immune function, but it may also promote a hormonal balance in men and increase endothelial functioning. A zinc deficiency was also found to hamper the production of sperm. A study of 100 male patients exposed that testosterone and luteinizing hormone (which triggers the production of testosterone in the male testicles) increased with supplementation of zinc sulfate at 250mg/day over six weeks. Foods containing zinc include shellfish, legumes, nuts, dairy and eggs.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone. Levels of the hormone drop by up to 20% by the age of 70 years. The age-related decline in DHEA correlates with physiological functions and conditions such as obesity and diabetes which elevate the risk of erecile dysfunction. Supplementation with DHEA is known to increase nitric oxide levels. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that an increase in DHEA levels had a positive effect on men with erectile dysfunction.
But DHEA is not available as a food source. It can only be purchased as a supplement. However, there are serious side effects associated with DHEA supplementation including a rise in androgen levels and a heightened risk of hormone-based cancers. Consult your doctor before supplementing with DHEA.
There is some evidence to suggest that niacin (vitamin B3) can improve erectile dysfunction. When 160 men were randomized to supplementation with niacin (1,500 mg daily for 12 weeks) or a placebo, researchers noticed a significant improvement in their erectile dysfunction scores. Food sources that are high in niacin include avocado, peanuts, whole grains, green peas, and mushrooms.
Also known as folic acid, vitamin B12 is important for maintaining many bodily functions. Deficiency of folic acid is associated with immune disorders, Crohn’s disease, and gastritis. In men, the vitamin also has a positive effect on endothelial function in the penis. One study saw an improvement of erectile dysfunction in men who supplemented with folic acid over three months. Another study noted that low serum folic acid levels were associated with higher severity of erectile dysfunction. Among the foods that contain high levels of vitamin B12 are spinach, chickpeas, and lentils.
This essential amino acid has been shown to boost nitric oxide production and could promote blood flow in patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. In a paper in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, scientists determined that supplementation with L-arginine in dose ranges of 1,500 to 5,000 mg per day improved erectile dysfunction. Nuts, seeds, oats, and dairy products are known to contain l-arginine.
The evidence suggests that vitamin supplementation could be beneficial for men with weak or moderate erectile dysfunction, but it may not work for those with more severe sexual disorders.
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