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

Doctors will often recommend certain medications for ED including Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. These medications can treat ED for many men. But these medications may be unsafe for some men to take, or they don’t help relieve symptoms. In such cases, testosterone replacement therapy is another helpful option. This is prescribed when ED is caused by reduced levels of testosterone.

Surgical implants or removal of blood vessel blockages may also be necessary if other treatments don’t work.

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

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

There are several reasons why a good diet can help prevent and even reverse ED. Eating healthy foods reduces your risk of common vascular problems 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 ate plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoided red meat and processed grains, were less likely to experience ED.

Eating certain foods, and avoiding others, can help reduce your risk of developing ED.

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 to see if your sexual function improves. If you need help quitting, speak to your doctor about available resources.

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.

Flavonoids increase 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.

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 ED. 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, including improved International Index of Erectile Function scores for study participants.

Pistachios 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.

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. It also improves blood flow, much like ED medications do.

Using herbal supplements to treat any condition is controversial, as their efficacy and safety are not always investigated. But there are a few herbs that have shown promise in treating ED. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following supplements may help treat ED:

  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): a hormone that has been shown to improve libido in women and to help with ED in men.
  • L-arginine: an amino acid that may help widen blood vessels to improve blood flow. Side effects like nausea and diarrhea are associated with it.
  • Ginseng: has been shown to help improve ED.

But always speak to your doctor before trying anything new.

Online ads for ED treatments are everywhere. It may be tempting to try what these ads are selling instead of seeing your doctor. 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 and try incorporating these diet tips into your everyday life.