Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: Can Foods and Diet Help?

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: Can Foods and Diet Help?

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also called impotence, is a male’s inability to have or maintain an erection. Reaching or maintaining an erection occasionally isn’t reason for concern. But, frequent ED can cause stress, relationship conflicts, and a loss of self-esteem.

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing ED. An underlying physical or psychological issue often causes it. Your doctor can probably identify what it is and treat it.

If your doctor can’t pinpoint the cause, they can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes that may help.

Medical and Surgical Treatments for ED

Medications for ED include Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. They can effectively treat the condition for many men. However, these medications may be unsafe for some men to take, or don’t help relieve symptoms. In such cases, testosterone replacement therapy is another helpful option. It’s prescribed when ED is caused by reduced levels of testosterone.

Surgical implants or removal of blood vessel blockages may be necessary if neither of those types of medication work.

The Role of Lifestyle in ED

You may want to examine your lifestyle with the help of your doctor if a specific medical or psychological cause of ED can’t be found. Difficulty having an erection is related to blood flow to the penis. Lifestyle habits that reduce the body’s blood flow in general may contribute to ED.

Healthy lifestyle habits, like those recommended to prevent heart disease, are also useful in preventing ED. These include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining low blood pressure
  • eating a healthful diet
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • avoiding alcohol and cigarettes

Diet and ED

There are several reasons why a good diet can help to prevent and even reverse ED. Eating healthful foods reduces your risk of common vascular problems that are caused by high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, and being overweight.

ED is a problem of blood flow, so when you keep your blood vessels in good health, you reduce your risk of ED.

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study found a direct connection between diet and ED. Men in the study who consumed plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoided red meat and processed grains, were less likely to experience ED.

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

Generally, a healthful diet is a great way to combat ED. But, there are other steps you can take. Alcohol use, especially chronic and frequent drinking, as well as drug abuse, can cause or worsen ED.

ED is common among men who are dependent on alcohol. If you’re a drinker, cut back or give it up entirely to see if your sexual function improves. If you need quitting, speak to your doctor about available resources.

Consume Cocoa


Having and maintaining an erection requires good blood flow and plenty of available nitric oxide. Studies have shown that antioxidant compounds called flavonoids can help improve cardiovascular health by increasing blood flow and the concentration of nitric oxide in the blood. Chocolate, particularly the dark variety, is rich in flavonoids. Milk chocolate is lower in flavonoids and contains higher amounts of sugar and fat.

Pick Pistachios


This tasty green nut may be more than a great snack. A study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research examined how eating pistachios affected erectile dysfunction. Measurements were taken before men were put on a nut-heavy diet and after.

Consuming pistachios for several weeks showed improvement in several parameters of ED. The diet also improved cholesterol levels and blood pressure with no notable side effects. If you like snacking on pistachios, it can’t hurt to up your intake.

Reach for Watermelon


This favorite picnic fruit may actually improve your sexual function. Research from Texas A&M University found a connection between watermelon and ED. A compound found in the fruit called citrulline helps to relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, much like ED medications do.

What About Herbal Supplements?

herbal supplements

Using herbal supplements to treat any condition is controversial, as their efficacy and safety are not always rigorously investigated. There are a few herbs, however, that have shown promise in treating ED. According to the Mayo Clinic, the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been shown to improve libido in women and to help with ED in men. L-arginine, an amino acid, may help widen blood vessels to improve blood flow. But, side effects like nausea and diarrhea are associated with it. Ginseng also has been shown to help improve ED. Always speak to your doctor before trying any supplement.

Beware of Online Treatments and Cures

Online ads for ED treatments abound. It may be tempting to try these instead of seeing your doctor for an embarrassing health problem, but watch out. They can carry health risks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that many of these products actually contain prescription medications. The labels on these supplements often don’t disclose all ingredients, some of which could be harmful.

Instead of risking your health with these supplements, make an appointment with your doctor.

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